The Machiavellian among us insist everything has its price, and when it comes to Formula 1’s race-concluding checkered flag, it’s affirmative. Starting with Independence Day weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, F1 will sell off spaces on the race’s checkered flag to fans, who will be able to put their own names on the thing, and later receive their squares to display as mementos.
Of the 80 squares on the 8×10 flag, 56 will be available to the public two to three weeks prior to each Grand Prix weekend, and the 24 remaining squares will be doled out by the race promoter itself. As the flag waves, one of F1’s official photographers will snap a shot of it, and 80 copies of their photo will be printed and framed along with the cut-up flag squares, whose authenticity will be ratified by a plaque and a hologram. F1 has already made spaces on the season-opening Austrian GP’s checkered flag available through its F1 Authentics store, where they cost $270.11.
Sale of 56 squares at that price could raise over $15,000 per race, which F1 says it will dedicate toward its We Race As One program. The initiative’s stated goal is “tackling the biggest issues facing the sport and global communities – the fight against COVID-19 and the condemnation of racism and inequality,” though F1 has yet to specify what it will do beyond slapping symbolic stickers on teams’ cars, and polling paddock insiders on how to improve diversity within the sport.
One can’t help anticipating, however, that this program could crudely backfire, as at least one past fan involvement scheme did. Back in 2015, Scuderia Ferrari’s sponsor UPS organized to have a mosaic of community-submitted images stitched into a special sticker, which team mechanics applied to the sides of both red cars. But before the stickers went on for practice day, eagle-eyed netizens noticed that someone had snuck a tile of the “Dick Butt” internet meme into the design, and UPS replaced the sticker before the anthropomorphic phallus could make its Grand Prix debut.
So, if your name is Richard Butt, Hugh Janus, or Dick Johnson, start a GoFundMe to get your name on one of F1’s checkered flag.
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