Marshals rule the track in ’12 Indian GP

Handling their own race for the first time, the 2012 Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix saw Indian marshals in action

Marshals rule the track in ’12 Indian GP
BRAVING THE FAST LANE: The marshals had to go through a selection process and many of last year’s marshals did not make it to the Buddh International Circuit
The 2012 Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix saw Indian marshals handling their own race for the first time. At the first edition last year, a large contingent of marshals from Bahrain had flown down to train us and to take charge of the marshal posts during the F1 race (most of them had seven years’ experience as F1 marshals, acquired at their home race since 2004). Each post had a Bahraini marshal as chief, and an Indian understudy who was in charge during the support races in order to learn.

Post-race, as the marshals ran riot in the pit lane, the trio that had trained me — Hussain Khalil Ebrahim, Saleh Moosa and Jamal Al Kooheji — said warmly, “Next year, you will do it on your own. We will be watching on the TV in Bahrain and we will be proud of you and for you.” This year, a small number of Bahraini marshals came to provide support if needed, and the posts had Indian marshals in charge with some of them also having a Bahraini marshal by way of backup.

Owing to the benefit of last year’s experience, many processes were smoother and there was a clearer understanding of marshalling systems and rules. However, there were a large number of first-time marshals as well. Unlike last year, the marshals had to go through a selection process and many of last year’s marshals, despite their enthusiasm and nostalgia, did not make it to the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) this time.

Some of the 2011 marshals had spent the intervening year ma­rshalling at other F1 races, namely, Bahrain and Singapore. I had marshalled at another cha­mp­ionship, also run by the FIA — the World Endurance Cham­pionship. Marshalling at the “6 Hours of Silverstone” race in the UK was not as tough as I had feared it would be, and I was able to stand without a break — partly owing to my mountaineering background! There was much to learn, observe and ask and I was able to bring home one innovation from Silverstone to BIC.

In 2011, deployment of the SC board (the white board with “SC” on it in black that tells drivers that the Safety Car is on the track due to an incident and racing is temporarily suspended) was clumsy. It had to be put out through a window in the safety fence and held up. It was difficult to put it out quickly and holding it up was tiring. There was the added danger of dropping it. At Silverstone, the boards are fixed with bungee cords onto swing flaps and marshals simply swing them outwards when the Safety Car comes out, and back inwards when racing resumes. Charmed by the swing flap design, I suggested it to the chief marshal at BIC, Sudev Barar. A rudimentary sample was made and shown to the race director, Charlie Whiting. He approved it and the innovation was up at all the marshal posts by Thursday of Race Week. Though nowhere near the permanent installations at Silverstone, it was a decent upgrade from last year.

But the best upgrade was in the marshals’ understanding of the race. This year, we were a world ahead of the rookies we had been last year and that, perhaps, is the best tribute to the Bahrainis’ teaching.

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