Formula 1 is seen by many as the pinnacle of motorsport, so when I first started Marshalling and had conversations with other marshals, F1 became a personal goal. To get to Marshal at the British Grand Prix isn’t easy, to even apply, yes apply, you need to be a minimum grade of Green Badge (Track Marshal), and have done a minimum number of days (usually 12) in a specific duty as well. The journey starts the year before when you have to get all your signatures and this is before you are invited to apply. Thankfully by October, when volunteering opens, I had exceeded the minimum requirements and met the criteria.
After applying in October, I had to wait until December to find out if my nomination/application had been received by the MSA. After this there was a long wait until February 2017 to find out if I was successful from the thousands of applicants.
With all the chatter from the marshals who have done previous Grand Prix’s and the fact that it was my first time applying, the tension was building and building, and the wait for a positive response felt like a lifetime.
I finally received confirmation that I had been accepted for the event that I had been building for over the last three years. I was over the moon, telling friends, family and colleagues. Most probably didn’t know the significance in the achievement.
Once you have been selected you will receive updates and notifications in the months prior to the race about; camping, the schedule, marshal requirements, your Post allocation and where you will sign on each day. This is a chance to see if you know anyone on your post and where your marshal friends are too. Like all events there is the essential prep before the event; camping supplies, ensure marshalling kit is clean, and ready for action.
Over previous months it became increasingly obvious that this event is not just about the racing, the social aspect is very strong at the F1. Prior to this as a marshal you may not get much time with most of your friends as you are on post with other marshals for just a few hours, so this is a chance to spend several days in the same camp site as them; socialise, have a drink, watch a concert or just chill.
Sign on is on the Thursday, conveniently located in the Marshal’s Campsite. Once signed on you receive a bag containing; pin badge, wristband, programme and cap, along with the essential tabard to be worn at all times on duty as it gives you access to the circuit and some restricted areas; advisable not to lose it.
On Post – Post 1
First day on post you get to meet the team and see what facilities and stalls are close by. Some people don’t like the amount of down time on post at F1, but I found this time allows you to get to know the team or even venture into the public areas and see the attractions and merchandise stalls at F1.
My post came with the added responsibility of startline cover; pushing cars off the grid meant extra training was needed on the Friday evening. The training made us realise how clearing cars varies depending on the grid positions and turning circle of the cars in relation to the pit wall gap. This was very useful to practise as we had to do it for real at the F2 race start, clearing three stalled cars at once through the same gap! Thankfully the training and teamwork made it easier than it could have been.
Once the racing starts the days goes quickly. Our Incident Officer warned us that may happen and told us to enjoy ourselves.
Sunday is F1 raceday; a very early start. With on post time of 7.00 am, racing starts earlier with the Grand Prix being the grand finale. The drivers parade is a highlight, as marshals are permitted to stand trackside for a better view and to take pictures.
You can tell there is a British driver in good form and at his home race when the red lights go out, and the grand stands roar into life to cheer every time Lewis Hamilton flies past, setting fastest laps and putting more time and points into his rivals.
With the race over so quickly, it made me realise that not only does the racing go quickly but, also the entire four days! It was time to just head back to the campsite, pack up and say goodbye to new and old friends. The Formula 1 is an incredible experience as a Marshal, as memories will stay with me for a long time and definitely something I will always look back on and be proud of, and hopefully something I can do again next year!