The thrill of being the only Indian to officiate at the first modern-day Russian F1 Grand Prix
MARSHALLING OR race officiating may come across as an easy job; however that couldn’t be further from the truth, in terms of the level of precision required and the risk involved. Marshals are indispensable at any motorsport event, regardless of the scale, which perhaps explains why they are called the unsung heroes of motorsport. Thankless as the job may be, the marshals are required to work in unison and in perfect accord like a well-oiled machine. Every marshal has his/her set of operations to perform. Marshals perform an array of jobs, ranging from pit and grid, paddock, scrutinising, recovery, fire, flag, medical and track and they must be prepared for any eventuality their job may throw at them during the course of the race.
Having officiated at 11 Formula 1 Grands Prix – spanning five countries and two continents – I was invited to be a part of the First Russian GP. Getting here though hadn’t been easy, it involved a year’s planning (that’s right, officials have to plan these things a year in advance). First order of business; getting in touch with the right people. This is generally the toughest nut to crack and involves a lot of shots in the dark. Eventually, however, I came across a person who was from the “Russian Automobile Federation”. After a few months of correspondence (which involved sharing my credentials and experience details), I received an email requesting a final confirmation as to whether I was still interested or not. Naturally the answer was a resounding “yes”.
Once everything was in order, my bags were packed and I was on the first flight out from Delhi to Sochi, to be a part of the first ever Russian GP. The only Indian official in the Russian GP and the only foreign race official in the scrutineering department, the sheer magnitude of the responsibility awarded to me was starting to set in. Landing in Sochi, I realised that it’s more of a resort state with beautiful weather and icy mountains in the background (having previously hosted the Winter Olympics).
The fresh smell of a virgin track still lingered in the air on Wednesday, a nice feeling for someone like me. The track is carved around the existing stadiums of the Olympic Games, making for a pristine backdrop. The start-finish straight along with turn 2 is the longest integrated straight at Sochi with speeds in excess of 300kmph. Turns 3, 4 and 5 run along the main Olympic stadium followed by a very tight corner with nearly 3-5 lateral G-forces, this integrated corner had a resemblance to the BIC’s turns 10, 11 and 12. The rest of the track is a free flowing mix of technical sections. Rumours in the paddock hinted at a possible twilight race in future. The BIC and the Sochi Autodrom are almost incomparable as both are technically unique. Where the BIC is more technical with its elevation changes; Sochi Autodrom is more about hard cornering.
One of the biggest hurdles was the language barrier; English speakers are few and far in between. To counter the deficit, I had brushed up on some beginner level Russian. Thursday