FIA must look to full time F1 marshals

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This may sound like a broken record, however the FIA’s relationship with Formula One has one function and one function alone, to regulate the sport.

Part of this regulation includes matters of safety, which includes proper oversight over the host circuit operatives.

At the 2013 Canadian GP a marshal was killed and the subsequent Canadian Worker’s Health and Safety Board (CSST) criticised heavily the organisers of the Canadian GP.

As the race was coming to an end, the recovery crew hoisted the stricken Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez on a crane, and began to move the car as fans began to stream onto the track.

The car was about 2 metres from the ground and Robinson was running beside the crane, helping to keep the race car balanced. He dropped his radio and bent down to pick it up. The crane operator didn’t see him and ran over him, inflicting injuries that led to his death.

Failures noted by the CSST included,

1)    The crane was moving at 11 km/h while carrying the car, which was much too fast.

2)    The race car was held nearly 2 m off the ground, when it should have been just 30 cm off the track

3)    The crew and volunteers were not trained to move cars.

The CSST then regulated bans on the use of fork-lift cranes and other hoists from transporting vehicles at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit.

Octane, the race organisers were fined around $50,000 CD, as this was the limit of the CSST powers.

However, the FIA appeared to be completely passive on the matter. Despite having a safety delegate and a host of safety regulations that should have ensured this accident was less likely to happen.

The circuit organisers were not punished or publically rebuked, yet a volunteer marshal was killed due to reckless operational procedures.

In Singapore a fan was seen to enter the circuit via a marshalling gate, walk along the track for some time and then climb out at another track gate entrance.

How is this possible?

Well the likely options are limited, a marshalling post was left unattended, or a marshal was overcome as the man forced his way onto the track.

This is the second track incursion by fans this year following another running across the pit straight in practice at the Chinese GP.

How many times do the FIA need warnings before they will act.

The clerk of the Marina Bay Circuit will now produce a report for the FIA and presumably we will hear little about the matter for some time.

Double waved yellow flag cautions as intended by the WMC were being ignored at the German GP in 2014. A failure to enforce these cautions properly may well have been a significant contribution to the circumstances which saw Jules Bianchi killed a few races later.

Volunteer marshals are on the whole dedicated and committed to their responsibilities, however a lax hierarchical structure and poor training will consistently lead to marshalling difficulties and for that the buck stops with the FIA.

TJ13 has since our inception called for a body of professional full time marshals who travel with the Formula One circus. These people are boots on the ground lieutenants who can properly marshal and organise a small area of the circuit and the local once a year helpers.

Of course this would cost the FIA/FOM money and a dispute over who should pay.

Yet professionals dedicated to their roles week in week out will have a much greater chance of eliminating operational weaknesses from track to track and nation to nation.

9 responses to “FIA must look to full time F1 marshals

  1. The man snuck in via an access road (according to AMuS). That means he most likely scaled a fence somewhere, he only left the track through a marshaling post.

    By the way. The guy was a 27 year old Brit, described as ‘quite intoxicated’ by the police.

    • Poor Bernie less money for him. FIA should determine the minimum amount of paid marshals to supervise at each track the volunteers. This paid marshals should get days before the race and have 1 days of training.

  2. The FIA won’t do anything until after an accident has taken place. The negative impact of a fan gaining access to the track and then being seriously injured or killed or a driver taking action to avoid a collision and then having a fatal accident would far outweigh the costs of having a core of full time Marshals ensuring races are run safely for everyone involved.

    I remain uneasy about the FIA’s seemingly relaxed attitude to a number of safety issues. Watching Grand Prix: The Killer Years is essential viewing. Safety has improved greatly since the 60’s and 70’s but the inertia to change things for safety reasons still remains it seems.

  3. As a volunteer marshal at local, State, national and international levels – with 16 Grands Prix under my belt – I confidently trust my safety and welfare to my fellow Australian marshals. As a marshal and a club level competitor, I take seriously those words splashed on every piece of paperwork we are required to read, absorb and sometimes sign – “Motorsport is dangerous”.

    Our obligations are, in this order, to ourselves, each other, the spectators, the drivers and the event.

    I understand that some regions are not as particular as ours when it comes to training, regulation and oversight of their marshals – but I also understand that those people around the track who put themselves in various degrees of danger to ensure racing activities at all levels are run safely and fairly, are generally dedicated to the task – and are professional whether they are paid or not.

    What you need to understand is that they are people, and people in every realm are label to make mistakes. And to condemn (which is what is being done here) the thousands of volunteer marshals around the world for a few mistakes a year .. and especially before it is found out who made that mistake… is a little rash.

    Race drivers make mistakes that put people in danger, too (I know I have). I bet even “paid, professional marshals” will make mistakes, too – because they will be human.

    All that can be done is identify shortcomings and address them so they are not repeated.

  4. According to a tweeter open and unattended access gates to the track were common all weekend. He posted a picture if you want to look for it.
    There is also CCTV footage available of the guy entering the track.

    • …for which the local circuit recruits volunteers and temporary employees to protect. However, the on track safety for the drivers firmly sits with the FIA

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