Marshals - Formula 1's unsung heroes
We love watching our favourite drivers do battle on track, but it’s important to remember the other heroes who put themselves on the line to ensure their safety.
Volunteer marshals line the circuit at each grand prix weekend, making up a crucial part of the operation. Numbering about 1,200 in total, they also work in pit and paddock areas, assembly areas and race control, doing everything to see the event runs efficiently.
Typically marshals will arrive at a circuit at 7am and sign on with the race organisers at 7.30am. At this point they’ll be allocated their duties for the weekend, told what kind of races are on or whether there will be any special rules in place, before heading to their posts 15 minutes before any of the action starts.
Chris Hobson, who chairs the British Motorsport Marshals Club, has been a marshal for 43 years. He first became involved when he walked into a motor show and saw a stand which was recruiting marshals. He joined up there and then.
“I’ve always been a petrolhead,” says Chris. “I’ve loved cars and motorbikes since I was a kid. Becoming a marshal allowed me to become a part of the sport at zero cost and I just love working at a race weekend.
“The main challenge marshals face is the long hours – it could be 6pm before their work is done, sometimes without stopping for a bite to eat. Another major challenge is reacting as quickly as possible to an incident as a team.
“The British Motorsports Marshals Club invented the training and grading scheme now in use by the Motorsports Association for all marshals, and it’s very gratifying when that training has been put to good use and an incident dealt with effectively.”
Training to become a marshal is extensive and hierarchical – you have to reach a certain level of skill before going on to the next. For instance, a trainee marshal with no experience starts out by going to a “taster” day, where they’re escorted round an event and shown all the different aspects of marshalling, such as putting out fires and flag usage.
After completing a set number of race meetings, usually ten, a trainee can take an exam to become a track marshal. The training starts all over again and after a further 15 meetings, a track marshal can become an experienced track marshal. Its goes on like that until reaching the rank of post chief, who is assigned responsibility for a particular sector of the circuit.
“Marshalling gets you as close to the racing as can be without actually racing, so if you’re passionate about motorsport you should get involved,” adds Chris.
There will be 20 marshals coming to the McLaren Technology Centre this month – they had entered a competition during National Motorsport Week, held between 30th June and 8th July, and will receive a full tour of the MTC and its facilities. We look forward to welcoming them.
If you’d like to get involved with marshalling yourself, take a look at the British Motorsport Marshals Club website, www.marshals.co.uk, to find out more.