Being a F1 fanatic since the year 2008, I always wanted to contribute something to the sport to the extent of my expertise i.e., a Scrutineering engineer or Marshal. When the opportunity came in the form of Indian F1 GP, my wait finally ended.
Airtel F1, the title sponsors of Indian Grand Prix gave Motorsport enthusiast like me an opportunity to become an F1 Marshal. The event was supported by IMMC- Indian Motorsport Marshals club. The contest was held in the format of a quiz, where 5 questions had to be answered in shortest time possible. I made the best use of the contest and emerged as a winner of the contest.
Next round of selection involved 3-days of practical and theoretical course at Buddh international circuit. Being a resident of Bangalore, it was a major challenge to travel a long distance to face the task.
Majority of the volunteers who were present at BIC had enrolled for Marshal through IMMC online portal, belonged to the local city- Noida/Delhi.
Day - 1
On the first day of selection course, we were debriefed about the track. The chief Marshall explained to us on the number of zones throughout the circuit, number of marshals deployed, safety precautions, do's & don'ts of being a Marshal and showed us a short clip on the most horrifying accidents in F1. Thus, highlighting the level of danger and commitment required from an individual.
A zone basically comprises of fixed number of Marshals, individually having their own role to play on track. For sake of simplicity, the 5.14km circuit was divided into 4 zones. After the debrief, a shirt interview session was conducted with our respective zone chief, allowing them to know more about us.
The next challenge on the very first day of selection was the on-track practical course. Each zone was allotted a different part of the track. We were trained near the techpro barriers at turn-1. Considering the extreme hot & humid weather conditions, it was not an easy task. Instructions were to run over the gravel trap(which sucked our foot the moment we stepped it), and pick up debris placed close to the racing line. Four volunteers were sent out in a single go, wherein we had to coordinate among ourselves & work as a Team and run back to the barriers as quickly as possible. This completed our day 1 programme.
The activities on the second day happened at the media center.
A crash incident was projected on the big screen where we had to closely observe the role played by Marshals on that part of the track. This was followed by answering a set of questions based on our observation of the incident. The day concluded with final briefing about all the flags and communication means required for a Marshal while on duty at his post.
The final day of training involved on-track experience. My zone chief, upon examining my skill level, allotted a grade to me which was as an Intervention officer at post no. 6.1 located at entrance of DRS zone-2 along back straight.
My role was to report to the race control via radio transmission for any incidents within the boundaries of my post. Followed by which I had to send intervention marshals to recover the vehicle or clear debris depending on the sort of incident. The Marshals which included fire, flag, recovery marshals and boundary riders having been deployed at their respective posts all over the circuit were instructed that the session would go on for a span of 5 hours with break in between for lunch.
Over the course, our communication skills and presence of mind were tested. We had commercial vehicles being driven on track by zone chiefs & other Marshal administrators, where several on-track incidents were deliberately staged such as dropping debris and stalling the car's engine. I suffice my duty based on whatever that happened at my post.
It was a fun filled day & great experience during the course of training. Had to bid farewell to Buddh international Circuit, after being told by my zone chief that final short list will be notified soon.
The main purpose of calling us in Track Marshals for NRC was to get hands on experience with Racing at the circuit and practice for the next biggest event: F1
NRC event was conducted for four days: practice sessions on Thursdays, Qualifying on Friday with Saturday and Sunday being race days..
Every Marshal had to carry the time table provided by IMMC/FMSCI which had minute by minute schedule of events for all four days. After arriving at the circuit on Thursday, Marshals had to sign up and report to their zone chief. With couple of hours left to spare for the start of practice session, I walked across the paddock to see all the racing cars and bikes parked in the pits. I also got to talk with technicians & engineers, majority of them including the drivers hailing from Southern part of the country such as Bangalore and Chennai.
It was time to report at my post, as the practice session was about to start. As always the safety car came out to inspect every sector of the circuit, followed by which the pit lane opened to begin the session. The Race control constantly kept me updated in a race like scenario with incidents occurring in parts of the track, condition of pit-lane(closed or opened) etc. At the end of every category of NRC event, we were informed to inspect the track i.e., section of the track which belongs to our post and clear any debris that would have intervened the racing. There were no major incidents on the first abd my work was concluded by 5 P.M in the evening.
On the next day when Qualifying session was scheduled to happen, it appeared more intense. During ITC + IJTC, mid-way, one of the car's left rear door got clipped. The driver nursed his damaged car all the way from turn 1 before stopping his car with ignition ON right in front of my post. After reporting to the race control, I had to send the Intervention Marshals to check the status of the car. The damaged door was removed by them and the driver hand signalled to push the car to resume driving. Having recovered a part of the car, the recovery marshals came across our post, carried the part to the pits and was handed it over to the Team. The day was concluded with a short debrief by Chief Marshal, which included extra precautions & instructions, as we approached the remaining two days, where Main Race was going to commence.
Large crowd had gathered at BIC, on Saturday & Sunday, overwhelmed to watch the Race. Y2F R15 did not start well as one would expect. While watching the Race from my post, three Bikes collided against one another at turn 3 and that particular section where the incident occurred was yellow flagged. As the incident happened at my neighbours post, they were solely responsible for it and they quickly ran across the gravel trap and moved on the track to help the two riders get out of the misery. The bikes were moved behind the barriers, track was swept clean to clear any oil spill. The Marshals did a great job in such a short span of time. Soon the section across turn-3 was green flagged & normal racing resumed. The remaining category of Races proceeded without any major trouble and delay. At the end of both the days, we got an opportunity to stand at parc ferme to watch podium celebrations.
I finally kissed good bye to the BIC after getting a word of appreciation from my zone chief. I've always wanted to represent myself for an International Motorsport event. Finally it did happen. Looking forward to the Indian Grand Prix.
by Pavan Kumar, marshal, 2013 Indian Grand Prix