In the last few weeks two terrible and, unfortunately, fatal accidents, shocked the world of motorsport: Dan Wheldon died after a devastating crash which involved 15 cars, while last Sunday morning, in MotoGP race, Marco Simoncelli, a young and talented Italian rider, lost his life after a horrific crash. Obviously, everyone is very worried about the upcoming Indian GP, that will be lead in a new track. But F1, in the last years, got a impressive improvement in the car security; moreover, there are some prepared people who help the pilots when they drive around the circuit: the marshals.
The name “marshals” identifies the whole number of volunteers who control the security of the tracks and helps the competitors, even the ones who race in minor events, being protected in case of incidents and problems with their cars or motorbikes. There are different sorts of marshals: the first is the one of the “commissioners of the track”, they control if each driver respect the rules, they wave flags, secure the track and give instant aid. Talking about this topic, I have a special experience to tell: I asked on Twitter if there was anyone who did the marshal able to explain me what it consist of, and maybe if there was an exceptional event worth a read. Keith answered this request: he marshaled from 1994 to 2004, and held different grades during that time. At his first British GP in 1995, he finished on the front pages of many internetional newspapers, as he was the first marshal to arrive at Damon Hill’s car after the driver collided with Michael Schumacher ( click here to see him at 0.34 seconds ).
Keith started his experience as a Fire Marshal, and after some years he became an Incident Officer, who helps the Fire Marshals. One of the most famous organizations which deals with fire in motorsport racing is CEA, the agency of Fire Extinguishers Construction (adapted in English). It was born after Second World War thanks to Ermete Amadesi, an Italian man who participated to the war and hurted himself because of a mine. So he wanted to make something not to revive the same bad moments to the other people. CEA started his work producing fire extinguishers, but, after some years, it joined the world of F1, controlling at first some corners of the Imola and Monza tracks and then the entire circuits. The members of this organization are called the “Lions of CEA”, that’s because in the Italian Gp of 1978, due to a terrible incident which caused a huge fire that costed Ronnie Peterson’s life, they saved many other drivers, like Riccardo Patrese, James Hunt, Clay Regazzoni and Vittoria Brambilla. After that day the media began to give them heroic names, and among those there were two specials: “the Angels of Fire” and “the Lions of CEA”; they decided to keep the second one and so now they are known around the world with this nickname, which contains the whole passion, strenght and courage they have in all the competitions they overlook.
As Peiyi, another kind person who partecipated to my research, said, to become a marshal you have to attend many courses: she registered as a volunteer in SingaporeGP. She started learning the basics of each role (flaggie, track and observer) and then everyone was segmented to his own specific one. Peiyi was an observer, which consist of wear an headset and tell the Race Control if anything happens on the track; so besides classroom trainings, she also had a trial run in Malaysia: she and the others, indeed, travelled with SGP to this Malaysian circuit and they practiced what they learned.
So, if you want to become a marshal, you’ll have to work hard to reach your target, but after that you’ll get an active role in F1 security, and that seems to be a very satisfing experience, reading what Keith did in the past. Also you’ll have to attend annual courses, but if you have passion in what you do, it’ll be a fantastic experience, that you’ll never forget in your entire life. I’m actually thinking about try to become a volunteer in the future 🙂