Albeit it with a sombre tone to the weekend, which you can read about here, the Belgian Grand Prix weekend was another brilliant time for marshalling. With the sun shining, engines roaring, crowd buzzing and all of us in orange laughing, it’s hard to find a part of the weekend that won’t stick with me.
I’m going to fast forward to the Sunday evening after the race, a strange place to start but as they say ‘part of the journey is the end’ and as myself and the 15 other marshals I’d travelled with were sat around the BBQ, with music playing, all chatting about the great time we’d had it seems the most appropriate place to start.
I couldn’t help but smile that the 16 of us that had travelled to there just three days before barely knowing each other were chatting like friends that had known each other for years. You may be wondering why so here it is?
Teamwork makes the dreamwork
It’s said that the better the post, the better the weekend and whilst that is wholly true having the right people around you is always good. Last year I was on Eau Rouge and had a good team but because it was my first Spa F1 I didn’t interact as much as I could, perhaps because of nervousness due to being out my comfort zone or because I was in front of thousands of spectators, I knew I wasn’t as chatty as usual.
A lot more settled this year I interacted with the team I was on post with and got to know them a lot better. From making songs for the post chief, taking pictures every day, creating a Spa bobsleigh team and waving to the crowd there was a lot to keep us entertained and that wasn’t even on the track.
With a lot of downtime, you get the chance to talk to your team, find out what events they’ve done in the year and how long they’ve been marshalling. For me and them it helps us all understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This means that if there is to be an incident you would all have the utmost trust in each other and are less likely to be in harm’s way.
Dividing is the best way to multiply
As strange as that sub-heading may sound there is a reason behind it. As I have mentioned there were 16 of us who travelled to Belgium from the UK. Now imagine if we were all on the same post? There wouldn’t really be much to speak about in the evenings.
Thankfully we were spread out all across the circuit from the Kemmel Straight to Les Combes, to Stavelot right down to the Bus Stop chicane where I was posted. This multiplies the number of stories that we get flowing across the dinner table in the evening.
It’s this great variety that brings more happiness to you because not only have you got your great stories you’re listening to others talking who went to Robert Kubica’s fire and about the time Sergio Perez ground to a halt you can’t help but realise that is because of the circuit you’re at.
Put it in the post
I said earlier that it’s about the team, not the post you have and I truly believe there isn’t a bad post at Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Last year I was privileged to be on Eau Rouge watching the cars coming barrelling towards me before showing an amazing change of direction through Radillon and then disappear over the hill.
This year I was fortunate enough to be at the Bus stop chicane, the final corner on the 4.4-mile circuit. Not only is this a great place to watch the racing, especially when Sergio Perez and Alexander Albon were flying through the field pulling off some fabulous overtakes. It’s also the entry to the pitlane which I have to tell you is a lot tighter than the cameras make it out.
That tight pitlane entrance, however, was my home for the F1 race on Sunday. Yes, we missed the start of the race but, what we got was a near 360 degree of the beginning of the lap. Being able to watch the cars jockey for position going through Eau Rouge/Radillon behind us, seeing the cars come back into the chicane and watching the tactics of the race unfold first hand with our view of the pit lane, I believe we had the most complete view of the race without the aid of a TV.
It’s the little things
This is not a reference to meeting Johnny Herbert in the pitlane after the race and having a good ten minute chat with him (pictured top right). A genuine bloke who is in awe of you as much as you are of him. It’s a reference to the small detail of the weekend.
On the Saturday night meal with the 15 friends, meeting David Croft and Simon Lazenby of Sky Sports F1 in the same restaurant in Stavelot, the access of the pitlane after the race and meeting friends from previous races in the year, such as marshals who I met at Le Mans. Spa really is a magical place.
If you’ve been inspired to go to the Belgian GP and Spa-Francorchamps I look forward to seeing you there because it should certainly be in your top five…. Ney top five races you have to marshal.