The FIA will investigate why the Japanese Grand Prix ended a lap early after a system glitch led to the chequered flag light display panel being shown too soon.

Sunday’s race was meant to last 53 laps but the chequered flag light appeared one lap early, on Lap 52.

As per the regulations, the race classification was officially called when the chequered flag was shown, meaning that Racing Point driver Sergio Perez retained ninth place despite crashing out of the race following a last-lap tangle with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

F1 race director Michael Masi said he would “hate to speculate” on the exact cause of the problem but revealed the FIA is launching an enquiry into what went wrong.

“From what we’ve seen it’s a system error,” Masi explained.

“It’s something that we’ve got to investigate. I’m not going to pre-empt what it is or wasn’t. 

“The change for this year’s regulation was that the big board on the start gantry is the official signal. Valtteri got the chequered 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 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.”

Asked if he believed the issue was down to human error or a systems fault, Masi replied: “There’s actually an element of both in there.

“That’s why we’ve just got to look at exactly what happened, reconstruct it and go from there.

“We’ll have a look at what it is and 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 chequered flag board and we’ve got to investigate why.”

 

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