Supermodel Winnie Harlow caused chaos by waving the chequered flag a lap too early at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix.
Plenty of famous celebrities have been given the honour of waving the chequered flag at the end of a race. David Beckham did the honours at Bahrain in 2019, while tennis star Serena Williams brought the Monaco Grand Prix to a conclusion in 2021.
But neither of those had quite the same impact as Jamaica-Canadian stunner Harlow, who wrote her name into the F1 history books with her appearance at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix. Harlow, who is a pal of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, was given the prestigious role of bringing the 70-lap race to an end.
Unfortunately for the 27-year-old Victoria's Secret model, crossed lines of communication meant she was told to wave the chequered flag on lap 69 – one lap earlier than the scheduled finish.
Harlow duly peered out onto the circuit and enthusiastically waved the black and white checkered flag as race leader Sebastian Vettel crossed the finish line to embark on his final lap.
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It led to huge confusion from Ferrari ace Vettel, who told his bosses to request the flag be put down as he went about his business on his final trip around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Thankfully, Harlow just about remembered to produce the flag when Vettel came down the pit straight for the final time at the end of the following lap, confirming his victory.
However, F1 chiefs were then left sweating after it was remembered that Sporting Regulation 43.2 says an early chequered flag means the final race classification has to be taken from when it was flown. Luckily for everyone, especially Harlow, drama was in short supply on the final lap, with no overtakes on the final trip around the circuit.
"Some of the marshals were already celebrating," Vettel said afterwards of the bizarre incident. "I was just worried that people don’t jump on the track and start celebrating. We’re still going at full pace."
In a subsequent post on Instagram, Harlow revealed that someone had told her to wave the chequered flag at the end of lap 69, not lap 70, absolving her of the blame.
"WHEN THEY TELL YOU TO WAVE THE FLAG A LAP TOO EARLY! You had one job sir!!! Hahaha but so grateful everyone was safe today and no one got hurt from this," she wrote.
Late FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed Harlow's claim, saying: "She was given the order too early. So it's not her fault." He [a local Montreal official] asked the race director if the race was on the last lap.
"But they understood it not as a question but as a statement and answered ok. Wherever there are people, there will be mistakes. We have different communication systems and different languages at every track.
F1 managing director Ross Brawn also defending Harlow and hit out at the social media trolls who criticised the stunning model in the aftermath of the Canadian Grand Prix.
"Supermodel Winnie Harlow was an innocent victim at the end of the race. She was asked to wave the chequered flag, but was told to do so after 69 of the 70 laps had been completed," Brawn said.
"I was sad to see her so heavily criticised when, as race director Charlie Whiting explained, it was all down to a misunderstanding between two officials," added Brawn.
"Winnie simply followed the instructions she was given and I want to apologise for the grief she received and thank her for supporting Formula 1."
F1 organisers will be hoping for a quieter conclusion to the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend.
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