The collision between Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly was still investigated despite it occurring after the Japanese Grand Prix officially ended due to a checkered flag error, but both drivers escaped punishment.
Valtteri Bottas was starting his final lap when the checkered flag message appeared on timing screens, but racing continued at normal speed to the full distance. At Turn 2 on the final lap, Gasly and Perez made contact, with the Racing Point spinning into the barrier having just overtaken the Toro Rosso. The collision was placed under investigation but the race classification was then taken from the end of lap 52, something FIA race director Michael Masi says was due to the checkered flag board being shown.
“From what we’ve seen it’s a system error,” Masi said. “It’s something that we’ve got to investigate. I’m not going to pre-empt what it is, was or wasn’t. Valtteri got the checkered flag first. The change to this year’s regulations is that the big board on the start gantry is the official signal and so Valtteri got the checkered flag on that and everyone thereafter received it.
“Until we could confirm that Valtteri had actually received it a couple of teams came on the radio and they were advised to continue racing to the scheduled distance. So it was a system error — what the exact part of it was I can’t tell you here and now, it’s something that we’ll look at and obviously rectify.”
Masi admits there is an automated system as well as a human factor to take into account to work out how the error occurred.
“There’s an element of both in there, which is why we’ve got to just look at exactly what happened, reconstruct it and go from there. It’s very unfortunate — I’ll be the first one to say that. We pride ourselves on doing things perfectly, but it’s one of those that hasn’t happened before with the checkered flag board and we’ve got to investigate why.”
Despite the race having officially ended when Gasly and Perez collided, the incident was investigated fully before no further action was taken due to the stewards deciding no driver was wholly at fault.