Marshal who ran across track “reacted on instinct” – Masi

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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A fire marshal who ran across the circuit during the Bahrain Grand Prix did so without the permission of race control, F1 race director Michael Masi has confirmed.

Lando Norris spotted the marshal, who was carrying a fire extinguisher, crossing the circuit at the exit of turn 10. He was heading to Sergio Perez’s Racing Point, which had stopped with an engine fire.

“There’s a guy fucking running across the track,” exclaimed Norris on his radio.

“It was the last thing I was expecting,” Norris told media after the race. “The guy didn’t look left and right both ways before he crossed the road.

“It was a double yellow [flag] and I was going slow enough because there was no point in risking anything at all. It wasn’t the most visible guy, because at that point, I’m looking to the sky, he’s wearing like pretty much black or dark blue and it wasn’t that easy to see. All I kind of saw was a bouncing extinguisher.

“So it wasn’t lucky, but it was just a bit of a crazy moment. The guy had some balls on him so fair play.”

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Track workers are forbidden from crossing the circuit. Masi suggested the marshal may have done so partly as a response to seeing the serious fire which occured earlier in the race when Romain Grosjean crashed.

“There was obviously another fire with Sergio Perez’s car and a fire marshal reacted on his own instinct without any instruction and just saw fire,” Masi explained. “And I would have said, particularly under the circumstances of what happened earlier, the priority was to put the fire out.”

However he stressed all marshals will be reminded of the requirement not to cross the circuit.

“The marshals have a very clear instruction,” he said. “We’ve already debriefed about it immediately and will remind everyone you shouldn’t cross the track.”

“We’ll reiterate that again for next week and get through,” he added. “I think in the circumstances, is it great? No, it’s not. But he sees a fire and he goes to put it out. So I don’t think we can castrate anyone, so to speak, for wanting to go and put a fire out, particularly after what we saw earlier and the enormity of the fire.”

A similar, notorious incident caused two deaths during the 1977 South African Grand Prix. Driver Tom Pryce was killed along with marshal Frikkie Jansen van Vuuren, who was struck by Pryce’s car when he ran across the Kyalami circuit during the race.

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60 comments on “Marshal who ran across track “reacted on instinct” – Masi”

  1. It seems to be every week lately Masi is having to make a statement after a race of why there are people or veichles on the circuit when cars are going past. I know Lando was going slower than normal due to the yellows but it is still very dangerous

    1. It’s somehow becoming a norm sadly. I really hope they will do everything they can to prevent this, I don’t want to see people being hurt or even dying….

      1. Il pretty sure Racefans is making a compilation of Masi statements and excuses !

    2. Masi’s tenure has been a disaster. Absolute disaster couldn’t have gone much worse. Race direction should have restructured Whiting’s jobs. Slew of massive mistakes.

    3. In this case, it wast his fault since the marshall was ignoring protocol and did what he wanted.

      Though to be fair, after the Grosjean heavy fire, he probably was on edge.

  2. Presumably they really ought to beef up the requirement for marshals to wear some sort of visible luminous bib, particularly in a night race.

    What’s probably more concerning is that at the moment it feels like we are starting to rack up a series of near misses over a few different race weekends and the fear is one of them will turn out not to be a near miss.

    1. 20 years ago marshals got some new garb every year, with budget cuts I suspect new outfits are supplied less often than they should.

  3. “And I would have said, particularly under the circumstances of what happened earlier, the priority was to put the fire out.”

    I’m sorry but for this guy to make this statement is utterly ludicrous. He seems like he has really no conception of the safety required in this sport to make a statement like that. He really needs replaced before someone dies.

    1. Agreed. Why is he defending this guy????

      That’s another 2 points on Massi’s license. He’s not far from a ban now!

    2. Someone has died. Hubert.
      That said of the many mistakes he is responsible for, the f3 launching ramp should have fired him, not to mention hastly shoving a driver with a broken neck into the medical car. That former fia doctor on youtube has come from sounding bitter to being absolutely the truth.

      1. @peartree What’s the thing about shoving a driver with a broken neck into the medical car? Must be from a support category because I don’t recall something that fits this description happening in F1.

        1. @jerejj Alex Peroni f3 monza, race direction is the same for f2 f3 support races. The guy that flew off of an launch ramp installed by yours trully Masi.

          1. Man, what are you talking about?
            F1 is directed by Masi with Colin Haywood as Deputy and a group of FIA F1 Stewards (including some ex F1 guys) along with local stewards, clerk of the course, etc
            F2/F3 is directed by spaniard Silvia Bellot (first FIA woman race director) with a parallel structure to F1.
            Having said this, circuits are granted a license with months/years in advanced and is reviewed on wednesday’s (normally) by the directing FIA team together with circuit managers.
            Regarding the banana kerb in the outside of T11 from Monza, it was installed in 2017 following Charlie Whiting recommendations (true that no one on the FIA ruled against it).

    3. Agreed. And two more words: Tom Pryce.

      Gave me something of a shiver when I read the marshal was carrying a fire extinguisher.

  4. I mean as the article makes reference to, a very similar incident in 1977 led to a driver and Marshalls death, and both in the most gruesome way, so I don’t think this can be excused. When do we need to learn another lesson

    1. Exactly. First thing that came in to my head when I saw that too.

    2. I mean, if the marshall does something stupid and ignore protocol/orders, not sure what else Masi is supposed to so. This isn’t like the last few times when Masi released the session early or Ma shall got in danger zone while following protocol.

      1. @yaru I’m not sure either but with the number of near misses we’ve had recently it certainly seems like they need a full review of Marshall protocols and to perhaps increase the training requirements for them at every race weekend.

  5. Well, eh, yeah. One thing more to check/fix before next week’s race then.

  6. It has to be difficult to deal with a different team of Marshals every GP. Often a lot of them without much experience

    1. So you give them very simple rules, like “Never cross the track without authorisation”. There would have been another marshal responsible for the area where Perez stopped.

      Did the same happen with the Grosjean incident though? TV footage showed the F1 medical delegate helping a marshal with a fire extinguisher while Grosjean was still in the burning car. From the clip I saw it appeared that the marshal was approaching from the far side of the track. That marshal has received a deserved praise for the assistance in extracting Grosjean from the fire. Maybe it was a misleading clip, or the marshal had authorisation. If not, then it would be very hard to criticise the Perez marshal but not the Grosjean marshal.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        30th November 2020, 10:14

        It was the first lap. All cars had gone by. The medical car was in the area. Even without a red flag or Masi authorisation, it’s obvious you’d have at least 90 seconds to cross the track. More than enough.

        You can’t compare with a mid-race situation where the field is spread and a car will come by every 5 or 10 seconds.

        1. The point of a black and white rule is that it is clear and consistent – there are no “what if” questions.

          Even though it was obvious the bulk of the pack had passed, there could still be a car that had had a problem on the grid, or was still having an engine cover screwed on in the pit lane as the lights went out, or was delayed for some other reason.

          Would it still have been the right thing to do if Grosjean’s accident had happened on the second lap? Most of the pack will still be together, so there should be a large gap after the last car, right?

          1. The medical car is the last car under all circumstances, so no additional F1 could pass. So the steward crossed in perfect safety

      2. Yes, I think that will be an interesting issue inquiry wise. He seemed the most effective marshal on site, but given the time line of events I would guess he took it upon himself to cross the track. Brave man.

  7. This is unfortunately just another case in point with Masi, it is not the litany of mistakes that annoys me the most (although very bad), it is the fact that he always takes the view that he always did his job right and doesn’t seem to be able to do any introspection about what he should have done better.

    There maybe some truth in the fact that at that specific moment people were more sensitive to fire, however it didn’t need to be offered up as an excuse as thus just misses the point.

    In any other company, Masi would have an end-of-year performance review at the end if the season and would need to reapply for his job.

    1. Everyone would be saying he’s throwing the marshals under a bus if he flat-out blamed that one for his reaction. It’s called playing devil’s advocate to the very leading question asked by the press.

      It’s clear there are a huge number of people clambering to blame Masi for anything and everything, it’s pretty pathetic really. He clearly references introspection about stressing the requirement for that not to happen and is a clear instruction to them not to cross the track. I can understand genuine comments questioning things or stressing general alarm at that happening (and the references to ’77 – an accident I wish I’d never seen), but so many are just ‘Masi is terrible, blah blah blah’ with very little objective analysis, I really don’t get it.

  8. Do fire marshals not also wear orange overalls? I guess not.
    However wearing a dark colour at a night race is the dumbest thing. Even kids are taught better than that!

    1. In the UK the vast majority of marshals wear orange overalls; usually certified to a flameproof standard. The marshals buy these overalls with their own money.
      I have marshalled for over 50years and the only ‘safety clothing’ I have received from event organisers has been limited to hi viz vests.
      Not a complaint by the way happy to support the sport.

    2. Some countries use firemen as fire marshals. They use their normal clothing which is usually black. The UK use race trained volunteers who wear their own orange or black and orange overalls., each country is different, there is no consistency when it comes to FIA worldwide championships

  9. Masi is completely wrong. There were two safety violations by this marshal.
    1. The marshal put themselves in danger by crossing the track.
    2. The marshal left a gap in the safety of the track by leaving their position on the track. We just saw RUS crash under yellow into a wall on the left. The marshal abandoned their spot which could have resulted in an issue if another crash happened.

  10. I think the immediate aftermath of the accident showed Masi in a good light and why he’s in the job. He orchestrated a complex clean up and race restart with all safety measures reset in 90 minutes. That being said, every week he comes out with some complete hog wash suggesting he believes nothing has been done wrong. I suspect he is being overly defensive towards the FIA and his team at the race. Its clear he is not the man to ensure lessons are learned but clearly has some organisational qualities. I’ve said it before and its still relevant now, split up his job because its too much for one person.

    1. @slowmo I think it is an issue of FIA culture rather than Masi himself necessarily. Remember after Bianchi’s crash the FIA were at pains to absolve themselves of all responsibility, though they did have to row back on some of that after legal action from Bianchi’s family.

  11. I unfortunately disagree with all the criticism of Masi’s statement. The marshall reachted out of concern for the driver’s safety because of what he saw earlier. There was genuine concern, even if it was completely wrong for the Marshall to cross the track, I can understand why he did it. Masi is just explaining that.

    1. Correct still a note for him would be that is going to talked over and maybe better viewable protection.

      1. These marshals have other peoples lives and their own in their hands. First rule of a job like that is to make sure you are safe before attending to an incident. That is the first minute of any health and safety talk. How is this hard to put in practice?

        Heads need to roll before actual heads roll. Not wanting to be gruesome about it but that is the reality when a car hits a human with a fire extinguisher.

        If F1 needs to pay marshals so they are responsible for their actions and performance then so be it and frankly about time to, I bet the doctors and fireman are paid.

        1. I’ve never understood ‘F1 should pay Marshals’. Speaking from a British perspective, there is a selection process for the Grand Prix. You won’t get picked without years of experience and at least 20+ days marshalling in the role you are applying for during the previous season. You don’t rack up those numbers without being dedicated, professional and passionate about the sport. The idea of being paid a nominal amount just for the Grand Prix would be a pointless irrelevance.

  12. ‘Castigate’ or “castrate”? The latter does seem a little harsh, but perhaps the former would have been appropriate?

  13. It is clear to me that Whiting did the job of several men fantastically well, and Masi cannot even pretend to fill those shoes. Split his responsibilities up. Masi can inspect circuits pre-race, let someone else call the Safety Car/flags/VSCs during the event itself, and yet another be in charge of marshal posts, and yet another of cameras and whatnot.

    1. To clarify: The cleanup work, and getting the race restarted, was handled well. Masi clearly knows how to ensure a race can go ahead. Let him focus on that responsibility, and let someone else work with the marshal teams.

      1. Brendon Burgess
        30th November 2020, 10:36

        Masi probably does have people looking after the marshalls. And they will probably have words with the guy who crossed the track, before next weekend. Hell, they could possibly stand home down yet!

  14. I understand the reaction, but things like this should not be allowed to happen. We have the safety protocols and procedures exactly to stop people behaving purely on instinct, and to minimise further damage or casualties.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      30th November 2020, 10:15

      It’s a no go, and Masi shouldn’t have excused it.

  15. Jose Lopes da Silva
    30th November 2020, 10:14

    Mansell should have been penalised for crossing the track after being hit by Senna in Adelaide/92.

  16. Um… why no hi vis? I thought all marshals were always in bright orange…

    1. In the UK yes they do (see my previous reply) in some other countries not so much.
      I have marshalled in Europe and sometimes we had serving fire men in their standard issue clothing acting as fire marshals.
      Their uniform was in some cases dark blue with reflective strips.

  17. There have been so many near misses in the last year, more near misses than I can remember in the last 10 years combined. Its only a substantial amount of luck which has meant no one has been hurt or killed. I just hope the FIA doesn’t wait until something does happen before making change and does something now to prevent it. F1 and motorsport will always be dangerous, but incidents like a marshall running across a track in front of a car are 100% avoidable.

    I also think Racing Point have a lot to answer for in this situation. The engine had clearly gone half a lap before, they should have been on the radio telling Perez to park it. Instead he proceeds to go flat out around the circuit with large amounts of smoke coming out the back of his car, causing limited visibility for drivers behind. The engine then obviously blows and creates a dangerous situation with fire which causes the panic because of the lap 1 incident.

  18. Disagree with Masi because it was very dangerous.

  19. Geez, I get he’s not supposed to run across the track but castrating him seems a little harsh!

    I think he may have meant castigate? Or has the quote been mis-transcribed?

    1. Well, it’s in Bahrain..

  20. I’ve always thought that self-preservation was the basic human instinct, not the other way around.

  21. It does feel like Masi doesn’t have full control of safety at every race.

  22. We are seeing a huge amount of problems this year with Marshalls and bad decisions.
    I feel that as far as the Marshalls issue goes, that it might be as a result of the COVID pandemic.
    In the past we had a huge amount of Volunteers with plenty of experience at races that came in from other countries. Now, many countries are not allowing foreigners in right now. I feel like that there is a shortage of true qualified Marshalls.
    You can try and train them as much as you want but sometimes they are just not good enough and just wanted to be there to watch the cars.
    Often we see individuals that have had some type of experience and know how to follow instructions.
    When they released the cars in Turkey, I wonder if that was due to poor communication where the Marshall post responded with clear before the tractor was actually off the track.
    There is a lot of communication going on and sometimes the lack thereof or insufficient English can be an issue.
    Not sure what the process is to be able to become a Marshall but this year it might have been just a bad crop and not enough quality.

  23. Masi should force that Marshall to watch a replay of the Tom Pryce accident on YouTube. I promise he will never try to dodge a race car again.

    1. During marshal training days at Pembrey, with most of us being Welsh the Tom Pryce accident was always talked about. One of our colleagues was there at Kyalami on that day and hearing him speak about what happened would make you shudder. It really did cross your mind every time you stepped onto a live circuit.

  24. Why is it that such questionable incidents are happening post Charlie Whiting era? Aren’t FIA suppose to introspect to find where the problem lies? Is it communication or is it training or is it something else?

  25. We have rules because our instincts often lead us astray. He should not have crossed the track and Masi should reinforce the importance of that rule not just sort of waive it off.

    But also, drivers need to be told to stop the car immediately if there is a fire or face a penalty. By the time he stopped, the onboard from Albon behind Perez just showed a giant fireball with flames coming out of every vent on the car. Letting a car drive around engulfed in flame is a danger to the driver, obviously, but also to the marshals who have to put it out only with portable extinguishers where there might be an explosion or toxic materials being ejected.

  26. I have to agree that Masi really looks incredibly poorly in control yet again.

    The track marshals that were around the Grosjean accident didn’t look trained at all. One guy was running away from the accident site still, even long after the everything had come to a stop. The guys who did show up near the scene just seemed to stand there and sprayed about a bit without actually hitting the fire. Only Alan van der Merwe acted correctly and had an extinguisher that seemed to do the job.

    Could be that Corona thinned out the present part of regular trained group of Marshals, but do you really need a training program that long to understand in which way to run when an accident happens or what to do with a fire extinguisher when something is burning?

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