Should flares be allowed at all Formula 1 events?

Debates and Polls

Posted on

| Written by

Formula 1 grands prix are routinely among the biggest live sporting events in the world by the sheer volume of fans who attend.

At the bigger venues like Silverstone or Circuit of the Americas, race day attendance easily reaches over 100,000 fans, with those numbers growing in recent years as F1’s popularity continues to pick up.

With so many people watching races, the passionate and vibrant fan culture witnessed at some of the more popular grands prix has always been one of the best qualities of the sport. And flares have become a major means for fans to express their love for their heroes.

Charles Leclerc will never forget the scene in front of him on the podium at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix after delivering victory for the Tifosi with red flares being set off by fans watching from the track below. The sight of Max Verstappen rounding the Hans Ernst Bocht for the final time in 2021 to take a home victory at the Dutch Grand Prix while bathed in a thick orange haze will always be one of the most iconic images of his championship winning season.

Circuit atmosphere, Red Bull Ring, 2022
The Red Bull Ring was bathed in orange smoke
However, this smokey symbol of celebration is not without its problems. For as common as flares have become in the grandstands of grand prix events, they technically are not even allowed to be brought into venues to start with.

Flares are explicitly banned by name from the Australian Grand Prix as well as from Imola, host of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. But many other circuits – such as Silverstone and Circuit of the Americas – prohibit ticket holders from bringing “smoke canisters” and “incendiary devices” to their events. Even at many tracks where flares are most common, they often are not explicitly allowed by terms and conditions of entry. Imola, as mentioned, forbids flares, yet many Tifosi were pictured setting off scarlet red smoke in spectator areas, while Spa-Francorchamps only lists “firearms, bladed weapons and any other type of dangerous item” as a category of forbidden items that flares may arguably fall under.

The use of flares by fans reached a flashpoint in last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix with plumes of orange smoke drifting over the track during the start of Sunday’s race, with some drivers later commenting that it had very slightly affected their visibility into turn seven on the opening lap. So thick was the smoke, one fan captured video of how the view of the track was completely obstructed at the start of the race from the centre grandstands between turns six and seven.

@f1meike

Didn’t even see the start 😭😭 #fyp #formula1 #austriangp #maxverstappen #redbull #checo #foryoupage #orangearmy #smoke #charlesleclerc #ferrari #f1 #austria #grandprix #fypシ

♬ original sound – Ranvision Official

But despite being technically prohibited from grand prix venues, should fans with flares be clamped down on, or should Formula 1 embrace this colourful form of expression and encourage circuits to allow them at their venues?

For

As already mentioned, flare smoke has become a key element of the fan culture at some European races – especially those that attract strong support for Ferrari or for world champion Max Verstappen. With Formula 1 having raced at so many circuits over the years with visibly empty grandstands, it should be a joy to see fans rich in both number and spirit expressing their love of the sport, their favourite driver or team during races.

The orange flares often seen at Zandvoort, the Red Bull Ring and even Spa-Francorchamps are becoming just as much an icon of modern F1 fan culture as the red flares used by the Tifosi at Imola and Monza are. Formula 1 certainly does not seem to mind sharing lingering wide shots of orange smoke covering grandstands on its world feed coverage.

There’s also the argument that even if bringing flares to circuits is discouraged or outright forbidden, the rules could be opened up to allow fans who want to show their support in this colourful way can do so, but with very strict rules about what is permitted – maybe even only allowing approved devices to be purchased at the circuit itself.

Against

The main reason flares are prohibited from racing circuits is easy to figure out: safety. Not only is anything that combusts a potential fire risk, there’s also the health impact that smoke can have on other spectators around them who likely have not consented to their being filled by coloured smoke.

Inhaling potentially toxic fumes and chemicals from flare smoke is enough of a reason to argue flares have no place in grandstands and spectator areas. There’s also the environmental concern, as releasing those into the atmosphere is not ideal for the local ecosystem and potentially human residents who happen to live close to the confines of the circuit.

Finally, as demonstrated so visually in the Austrian Grand Prix, there’s the matter of flares impeding visibility during races. Not just for the drivers who have every expectation for their visibility not to be impeded by artificial factors, but for the other spectators who also should expect to be able to at least see the race that they have paid considerable money to watch.

I say

As Formula 1 enjoys a boom period, attracting legions of new fans across the world, the last thing the sport wants to do is to risk alienating some of those who pay good money to watch their heroes racing live and in person. The scenes of proud Dutch fans honouring their first grand prix winner and world champion by lighting the grandstands in orange is a spectacle in itself, while the Tifosi have long been rightly celebrated for being the most vivid, impassioned and devoted fanbase of any team or driver in motorsport.

Such visual support isn’t only impressive to witness, it also adds a true sense of home support to Formula 1 that is commonplace in most other sports like soccer, American football, hockey or basketball. The Dutch Grand Prix truly feels like Verstappen’s home race, while the Italian Grand Prix is unambiguously Ferrari territory due to the sea of red seen in the stands. The colour that flares can add to the atmosphere can very much help to make each round feel like its own event, rather than races held at soulless circuits with empty seats and little energy.

However, flares are prohibited from F1 races for good reasons. But while the frequency in which we see flares at races might cause some concerns about security at grand prix events, it would seem a shame if they were to disappear completely from the grandstands.

What fans should exercise – and what the sport should expect from its fans – is common sense. When the level of smoke at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix becomes a talking point for drivers after the race and some fans miss the on track action as a result, it’s clear that is going too far. But if fans can show some reasonable constraint, flares can hopefully continue to add to the fan atmosphere during Formula 1 races into the future.



You say

Do you agree that circuits should change their rules and allow flares at Formula 1 races?

  • Strongly agree (5%)
  • Slightly agree (4%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (2%)
  • Slightly disagree (11%)
  • Strongly disagree (78%)
  • No opinion (0%)

Total Voters: 212

Loading ... Loading ...

A RaceFans account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed instead of the voting form.

Debates and polls

Browse all debates and polls

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories Debates and PollsTags

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 67 comments on “Should flares be allowed at all Formula 1 events?”

    1. If your enjoyment is predicated on making other ticket holders miserable, you shouldn’t be invited back.

      And if we’ve learned anything from decades of select football fans acting as if they owned the stadiums and rules don’t apply to them, it’s that it’s them or everyone else.

    2. The flares are “fun” for one fan but annoying and potentially harmful to 100s of other fans. Can’t see how they are allowed at all. But I also don’t see how anyone with a measurable IQ finds the flares to be part of the fun and excitement of an sporting event.

      1. Especially so when at the same time the Netherlands is banning even buying fireworks for the general public (it gets quite messy with them every year for the new years celebrations)! @jimfromus.

        If we really want something like it, the promoter can always do something like fireworks, having a laser show, flying balloons or something if they want.

    3. Neil (@neilosjames)
      17th July 2022, 15:12

      No matter what the sporting event, I can’t stand them. They don’t add anything positive to the atmosphere of the event, nor do they indicate any special level of commitment on the part of the ‘tribe’ that brings them. They serve no practical purpose other than identifying the person holding them as an unoriginal, unimaginative first-class doughnut who deserves to be instantly ejected and covered in week old, warm fish guts.

      They should be banned everywhere, and stay banned.

    4. I guess the Author must be suffering from heat exhaustion, because clearly anyone caught miss-using a flare should receive a lifetime ban from F1 races. They are banned for a reason

    5. I would be pretty p’d off if I spent hundreds going to a Grand Prix only to have my view of the action completely obscured by this nonsense. It’s not fair on the hundreds of fans in a grandstand to have that happen. Might as well have a poll if you think someone should be allowed to go round and punch fans in the eye socket.

      1. +1 @davidhunter13

        Let’s have a poll on flares at races.

      2. In defense of the flare-ers, they only obscure the warm up lap, the first lap, and the final lap so it’s not like it is the whole race and how much usually happens during the first lap anyway.

        1. You’re kidding? Right?

          He’s kidding.

    6. Im all for having passionate fans in attendance but I’d rather see a grand stand filled with fans in Orange Max shirts or red Charles shirts than to see a cloud of orange obscuring everything.

    7. Why is this even a question?
      Flares should not be anywhere near a car racing circuit.

    8. “Silverstone and Circuit of the Americas – prohibit ticket holders from bringing “smoke canisters” and “incendiary devices” to their events.”

      Silverstone prints that prohibition as a courtesy reminder. It is against the law in the UK to take those devices into any public event unless you have all the right paperwork. Events and sporting bodies cannot exempt their fans from the UK law. If you try taking a smoke bomb into a sporting event, you are liable to be arrested, miss the event, and pay a hefty fine, regardless of what the venue says its rules are. The UK’s football association also ban those offenders from all of their grounds.

      “anything that combusts a potential fire risk”

      Not just a “potential” risk. There is a picture somewhere on Reddit from the Austrian GP of one of those orange flares on the staircase of the stand, fully aflame. Imagine if the person who had been holding that had been in the middle of the stand? With all the smoke going off, other people would not have known someone had one which was actually burning. What if he’d dropped it and it rolled down under the seating? What if he’d tried throwing it, hoping it would miraculously land somewhere safe?

      I saw long discussions of the flare issues on Reddit etc during the event and not one of those posts spoke favourably of them. Overwhelmingly people who were there complained about the soke and how the stewards at the event did nothing to stop it. I am surprised you think there is even any debate on this. Smoke bombs have no place in the hands of spectators at public sporting events, and should never be in the hands of someone who has been drinking.

    9. I would say after the race in celebration is less of an issue but on the formation lap and beginning of the race I can see potential issues for the drivers in terms of safety and it’s not fair on fans have paid a lot of money for these tickets to not see the start which is probably the biggest spectacle in F1

    10. I think it’s fine and obviously makes for a great atmosphere but some common sense should be used and don’t let them off during the race. Also F1 should probably list a few stands where they are banned and enforced for those with health problems.

      1. Great atmosphere where nobody can see a thing.

      2. Cheese monkey
        17th July 2022, 21:53

        “Obviously”? How?, what’s ‘obvious’?

    11. Down with the flares. Bring the vuvuzelas to the stands…:))))

      1. @svianna “brrpppppppppp bruuurrpppppppp, bruuuupppbbbbbb, brmmmmppphhhbrrappp”.

        *Yes, I agree.

        Though culturally insensitive, I think it would be cool if everyone at Melbourne brought a Didgeridoo, massively unpleasant for viewers at home, a bit obnoxious and engineers would have to warn of head winds or tails winds into certain corners, but it would be fun for a couple of laps – and at least everyone can still see.

        1. @svianna That’s what I was thinking. Bring on SA GP and fill the grandstands with the sound that everyone wants to but no one will forget

    12. I can’t say I’m a fan of them as even on TV they hinder visibility and make it harder to pick out whats going on, Especially with cars further back in the shot.

      And I’ve seen a few fan videos showing that many in the stands couldn’t see the track at all through the smoke.

    13. Can we please have a poll about umbrellas and flags on poles as well.
      I guess those items can ruin the view of the spectators behind just as much and can be used over and over again.

      1. Smoke can cause health problems and reduces visibility for entire stands, doesn’t happen with flags. And unlike umbrellas, smoke isn’t necessary.

        Next time you make an argument think it through instead of pressing send.

          1. Next time you make an argument think it through instead of pressing send.

            I’ve got the same suggestion for people who don’t get the sarcasm in my posts; I’ll just try to be a bit gentler in the tone I choose.

        1. @wsrgo Perhaps only sarcasm.

    14. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      17th July 2022, 16:59

      There is no reason to have them that outweighs the major disadvantages to them.

      They will make the views from the grandstands horrendous for any serious fans. How can any fans even want to made the sport they come to watch invisible? There is no reasoning other than showing the team you support, which can be down with clothing, flags or other things.

      This haze even makes the tv footage poor. Round the first few corners at the start last race was basically impossible to see all of the grid.

    15. No Flares should not be allowed at the races, Sadly a few fans have shown they do not know to use them responsibly or respect the other fans around them.

      These few selfish fans have ruined it.

    16. If they let the flares in, they agree that any spectator can intervene with the race result by throwing it on a race track and cause a red flag.

      1. @sinewave in the Austrian GP, Verstappen was reporting that at least one person did throw a flare over the safety fencing towards the track. Fortunately, in that case, the flare fell short of the track and burned itself out by the side – but it shows that there are people who are stupid enough to think that it’s a good idea to throw a lit flare onto the track.

    17. Perhaps an easy way to solve this is to ban fans bringing them to a ground, yet actually have pre-placed pre-planned smoke flares, positioned by the venue and set off at specific times. For example: A Light haze before the race starts (grid lap) and perhaps during the race at certain intervals when the field is spread out. They could be positioned so they were less likely to cause track issues and taking into account general wind direction.

      Colours could be selected based on traditional home country support. Red in Monza, Orange in Spa/Austria. Blue in the USA and UK.

    18. Miss the days of rich people only. They seem to be letting football scum into these things now. Can’t wait for the riots. That will improve the show.

    19. How can anyone see up skirts with all the smoke? Ban them, or allow only ones fitted with an approved FIA flare-flow meter.

    20. The first time I voted for ‘no opinion’ essentially because I don’t really have a strong stance either for or against flares.

      Flares are unnecessary per se, but neither are they necessarily harmful, as they’re less risky in outdoor events than indoor ones anyway.
      If flares indeed are banned in Imola, surprising some still used them as the top image shows.
      In the end, perhaps only using them once a race has finished would be a decent compromise.

      1. See what metals they have to burn to get the colour smoke. Probably not as harmless as you think

      2. @jerejj firstly, as noted by other posters, the material used in those flares is quite toxic and the ones which were being used in Austria had explicit warnings on them stating that the users should avoid inhaling the smoke due to it being extremely toxic and warning that it can cause serious respiratory problems or even cause a complete failure of the respiratory system for people with particular health conditions.

        In other sports where flares are let off, such as football, there have been cases of people who have had to be hospitalised due to inhaling the smoke – that is why most of those flares come with a warning that the user shouldn’t be within 4 metres of the flare and explicitly stated that they should not be let off in a crowd (which was quite clearly being ignored).

        Secondly, people were reporting a number of cases where people could have been seriously burned – there was at least one instance of a flare bursting into flames in Austria, as noted below, and they were lucky that it did not cause a larger fire. Again, sports such as football have seen occasional fires break out due to flares igniting litter and other debris which happened to be lying around.

        There were also individuals at the Austrian GP who reported that their clothing was burned because people around them were setting off flares and drunkenly waiving them around – although they were fortunate that they did not suffer a serious injury, it is potentially only a matter of time before that does happen.

    21. They should remain banned. F1 should and was about different fans and families sitting together and watching the race. Flares encourage pack mentality and also obscure the view for other people spending hundreds of Euros per ticket

    22. I voted strongly disagree. I can perhaps see to a certain extent that keen fans want to display their support for their local team or driver and celebrate. However, I think the downsides completely outweigh the case for allowing them.

      There is one option I think to allowing them. How about all circuits have a strict rule that they can only be let off at the end of races? Strictly enforced of course. It might mean of course, that on occasions where the fans team or driver did badly they may not want to bother. But that’s the risk they take by bringing them in with them.

    23. the last thing the sport wants to do is to risk alienating some of those who pay good money to watch their heroes racing live and in person.

      Exactly. I pay a lot of money and I want to see something, not just orange smoke.

    24. Flares are always +1 at the start of football matches imo.

      But the start of a GP is usually one of the best parts so not seeing the action must be annoying.

      So I’d say keep it for the end of the GP

    25. It’s interesting that comparing the use of flares to the fan base of other sports is used as an argument for their use. To me, F1 crowds resembling football crowds, for example, is the last thing I’d like to see. One of the great appeals of F1 for me has always been the fanatical neutrals with whom you can have lengthy conversations about the entire grid and history of the sport without fanatical allegiances clouding their opinions. F1 seems unique in that fans are often fans of the sport before any one driver or team.

    26. The most interesting part not being addressed is that track organizers and management are not doing anything about enforce this rule. Obviously the Austrian track owner was not keen to enforce it; if not the opposite.

      All three days at the Red Bull race track in the last two seasons has had a crazy amount of them, so no surprise there would be more this year but zero attempts to stop it. I really don’t like the recent flares at races but I can you blame the fans thinking its was totally ok to to use them when watching all this? The Tifosi were well known for this and starters of it but were more civil about it than what we’ve been witnessing lately from the orange army.

      There’s a very good reasons why children are not given matches to play with.

    27. You have not addressed the elephant in the room. How toxic is the smoke made by these flares and how hot do they burn.

      1. Or if there is a fire how can you find the exit.
        If someone needs immediate assistance how can they get it if no one can see them

      2. OB1, there are different types of smoke bombs and none of them are safe. Some are marketed as “cool burning” even the cool burning ones get hot, and continue to get hotter after they’ve stopped spewing smoke. Some types burn at 1600C. Here is a photo of one which caught fire after use from last weekend’s GP. It is lucky that somehow that cannister ended up on the metal stairwell, and not rolling down under the seating.

        https://www.reddit.com/r/formula1/comments/vwizan/small_fire_at_the_t3_grandstand_from_an_orange/

        On March 19th of this year, at Bradford City Football Ground, someone attempted to throw a smoke bomb onto the pitch but instead it landed on someone in the front row and caused burns to their arm. In January, at Chester FC, someone threw smoke bombs resulting in a woman being treated by paramedics for breathing difficulties and a nine year old boy taken to hospital for treatment.

        Remember, if you are in the UK or attending the British GP, just trying to take a smoke bomb, flare or firework into a sports venue is a criminal offence here and can result in a sentence of up to 3 months in prison. A man who set off a smoke bomb at a Rangers match in February was fined £940 plus costs.

    28. Good to see the Papaya army out in force!

      But in all seriousness, kids, asthmatics , copd … etc cant be nice

    29. Simple.
      No.
      They are not allowed in soccer stadiums, so why in Formula 1 tracks?

    30. All of this flare stuff got me thinking. Should teams be penalized if their cars burst into flames during normal racing conditions (i.e. without being in a collision)? Isn’t that not building a safe car?

      1. Jim (@jimfromus), it isn’t that they built an unsafe car, but rather that the car became unsafe during the race. The cars go through stringent safety checks on wings, floors, etc, but nevertheless, parts can fail due to unusual loads, contact with kerbs, etc. When a car becomes unsafe, e.g. wing hanging off, they are flagged and penalized in that the car is required to return to the pits and be fixed or withdrawn. Same with an engine fire. It will have passed all known safety checks prior to leaving the pit, and it is penalised in the sense that it becomes an automatic DNF without needing any intervention from the race stewards.

    31. I can’t see anything positive about flares at F1 venues. The authors weak point about “atmosphere” is almost laughable as there is no sporting event I’ve ever attended that has more of that in abundance than an F1 event.
      The downsides are many and have been amply described here. From my own perspective, I have very sensitive lungs and any toxic smoke kicks off real discomfort and flares will discourage me from attending.
      F1 shouldn’t be moving towards a tribal football stadium environment but try to maintain that brilliant comradeship and friendly atmosphere that has always been there at F1 – a genuine “we’re all in this together” feeling.

    32. Overall negative for me. I find the argument of fumes a bit amusing coming from petrolheads, but the bottom line it only looks good on television. There is no reason why you would light them up when you’re in the stands yourself.

    33. They are banned at most circuits so why, when we appear to be rigidly applying some rules is this one being ignored. Perhaps Liberty Media should step in and force the rule on all circuits or face penalties.

    34. Ban them. Awful things. Bad for safety, and I can’t imagine how annoyed I’d be if I was sat in a grandstand seat I’d paid good money for only to have a flare go off in the seat next to me, inhale its fumes, and have my view obstructed. No thanks.

    35. Wasn’t it the Dutch that tried to stop the GP last year on the basis of “air pollution and CO2 emissions?”
      Where do flares fit into this philosophy.?

    36. Electroball76
      18th July 2022, 21:13

      If you want WWE pyro at your sports entertainment, at least leave it to the professionals.
      It’s the thin end of the wedge. Allow drones? Running on the track? throwing fireworks at cars? Don’t alienate the true fans

    37. I am confused the title is about flares, but the picture shows smoke out of smokepots even though they might be shaped like flare. At least what I know as a flare is insanely bright and gets dangerous hot, but doesn’t smoke a lot as they are used in emergency situations on sea.

      1. Zink, I think it is just a question of terminology. The word flare just means to flow out from a point. The military use the term smoke flares to designate coloured smoke used to lay down markers for pick up, targetting etc, and smoke grenades to designate the devices used to disorient opposing forces. However, the general public has mostly only seen the bright-burning type of airshot signal flare used at sea, so tend to think of flare means something which burns brightly. Smoke flares do burn though, just smokily instead of brightly. Coloured smoke flares shouldn’t be confused with smoke pots or smoke bombs used by fumigators which usually produce an aerosol by a chemical process, not by burning.

    38. The far bigger question is whether fanboy “journalists” should be allowed to earn a living off F1 whilst very obviously prioritizing certain drivers agenda’s in their media drivel.

      Remind us again which driver complained about the flares after Austria that this is now suddenly a newsworthy agenda to be pushed by “journo’s”?

    39. Lewis whines, his acolytes spring into action …

    40. My wife is asthmatic and had to leave when a fan lit a flare just along the row. Why do these idiots feel entitled to ruin the health and enjoyment of other fans?

    Comments are closed.