The chequered flag is displayed at the start/finish line to indicate that the race is officially finished. At some circuits, the first flag point will display a repeat chequered flag (usually on the opposite side of the circuit). The flag is commonly associated with the winner of a race, as they are the first driver to "take" (in other words, drive past) the chequered flag.
Upon seeing the chequered flag and crossing the finish line, drivers are required to slow to a safe speed, and return to their garage, parc ferme, or the paddock, depending on the applicable regulations of the series.
There is no standard design for the chequered flag. Although it nearly always consists of alternating black and white squares or rectangles arranged in a chequerboard pattern, the number, size, and length-width proportions of the rectangles vary from one flag to another. Also, the chequered flag typically has a black rectangle at the corner of the flag closest to the top of the flagpole.
The exact origins of the use of a chequered flag to end races are unclear, although there are many theories. A possible though unlikely theory is that horse races during the early days of the settlement of the American Midwest were followed by large public meals and that to signal that the meals were ready and racing should come to an end, a chequered tablecloth was waved.
Source: Racing flags from Wikipedia
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