2013 F1 season
F1 Fanatic reader Becca Cann (@BeshoreBlue) had her first taste of marshalling earlier this year. Here’s how you can get involved – and even become a marshal at an F1 race.
As a Formula One fan, I was initially only aware of marshals as those orange-clad people who waved the yellow flags when a driver screwed up.
It never occurred to me that they might be volunteers. And even when I discovered otherwise, I was a little slow to get onboard. I didn’t think I had enough time and thought becoming a marshal would be a difficult and time-consuming process.
But after graduating from university and finding I had some spare time on my hands, I decided it was worth a look.
A taster day, a dodgy license photo and a training signature later, and I was ready for my first proper marshalling experience.
“Are we allowed to support people?”
It was a frozen weekend at Brands Hatch for the first round of the British Touring Car Championship. A friendly marshal pointed me towards my post.
“Paddock Hill?” he said, “I’m going to Paddock, come with me.”
As I was guided around the catch fencing towards my post, I was aware of curious and sometimes envious looks from members of the crowd.
“You can go anywhere when you’re wearing orange,” my guide said nonchalantly, “Go have a look round the pits later, if you like”.
Ten minutes before the track action started we were gathered together for our briefing with the post chief, and I was introduced to the crowd of twelve or so marshals I’d be working with. They make a point of spreading the trainees around, and I was by far the least experienced there.
On top of this, it was quickly apparent that everyone else already knew each other, and I was concerned about how well I’d fit in. I needn’t have worried.
I quickly discovered one of the main reasons people keep going back to marshalling is the sense of camaraderie. When you walk onto a post you know you already have something in common with every person there. As long as you’re willing to learn, work hard and share a joke, you’ll get along just fine, and meet some great people while you’re at it.
For the first part of the day I was assigned to keep the flag marshals and the post chief company while I got a sense for the track. I also had the honour of holding the safety car board.
Over the course of the morning I chatted with the post chief, learning all the important safety procedures, how to wave a flag in windy conditions (which is harder than you might think), and the art of blue-flagging.
Perhaps the most important advice I received was what to pack for lunch. “Don’t ever bring pork pies,” my post chief said with a serious look, “They cause crashes.”
I blinked in incomprehension as the flag marshals chuckled. “The cars try to jump the barriers when they see them,” he explained, suppressing a grin, “They’ll eat them out of your hands”.
In the afternoon I worked as an incident marshal. This involved keeping an eye on the traffic and walking our section of track after each race, checking for debris and oil spills and clearing some of the rubber that had accumulated.
Had a car beached itself or had an accident, it would have been our responsibility to look after the driver, get the car to a safe place and report what we had seen, but we weren’t needed that afternoon, save for a certain driver who sprayed us with gravel dust but managed to carry on.
As the day continued and I got chatting with more people, I began to realise the scope of what I could get involved in as a marshal.
For starters, marshalling isn’t necessarily all about working trackside. Who who work in the paddock, the pit lane and on the start line are marshals too, and even the scrutineers, timekeepers and medical staff are volunteers. There’s such a wide variety of things you can do.
The same goes for the events you can marshal at. In the short time I’ve been volunteering, my eyes have been opened to scale of club racing in the UK. Grassroots club events in particular have a whole different down-to-earth feel and a real sense of community spirit. They are always in need of marshals, so you can be sure you’ll feel appreciated by everyone involved.
Marshalling F1 races
If the big international events are your goal you’ll need to put in effort to gain the required experience. In Britain these include the British Grand Prix plus trips over to France to help with the mammoth operation of marshalling the Le Mans 24 Hours.
To apply for Formula One you must have upgraded from trainee grade (completed at least 15 days marshalling and one training day), and have done at least 12 days in the year you. If you’re into bikes, Moto GP has similar restrictions: you must have at least a year’s experience and be a member of Racesafe (see below).
Sometimes British marshals are invited to work further afield; the Canadian Grand Prix is popular with them, and I’ve already met several people who enjoyed all-expenses-paid trips to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in exchange for a bit of flag-waving.
With all these opportunities spinning in my head, I left the track exhausted but happy. When I got home, I immediately volunteered for 15 more days.
For the motorsport enthusiast, the positives of marshalling are obvious: you get to watch the racing for free with a close-quarters view even VIP guests can’t pay for. On top of this, most clubs have other little benefits, like an extra free ticket so you can bring a friend along, free weekend camping and raffles.
I won’t lie; it’s hard work. A lunch break is never guaranteed, you have the British weather to contend with and quality of the racing varies enormously..
But it’s a chance to become a part of racing beyond just watching it on TV and going to the occasional race. It allows you to experience motorsport in a whole different way, from pure grassroots club events to touring cars and the huge international meetings of Formula One. It’s such a rush the first time you step out onto a live circuit, and to feel like you’re a bigger part in it all. After all, they can’t run the meetings without us.
My top piece of advice if you choose to join the world of orange is to talk to everyone. You’ll pick up loads of great tips and some interesting stories while you’re at it.
I’m also reliably informed a few donuts never go amiss, but stay away from the pork pies. Those things cause crashes.
How to get involved in marshalling
If you’re still convinced, your next step will be to contact your local marshalling organisation for more information, and to arrange a taster day. For those based in the UK, these sites will get you started:
British Motorsport Marshals Club – Biggest marshals club in Britain. Can arrange taster days and organise licenses for you.
Silverstone Marshals Team – I’d recommend their taster day if you’re fairly local. They can also pass you on to other circuits if you’re not.)
Motorsports Association UK – Licensing organisation for all British marshals.
British Motorcycle Racing Club – For motorcycle marshalling
Racesafe – You must be a member of Racesafe to marshal any bike event from British Superbikes upwards.
Motorsport Marshalling Services – Information on marshalling in Canada.
More on marshalling:
Images © Singapore GP/Sutton, BTCC.net