FIA Formula 1

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What are the marshal roles?

While other American series may see F&C marshals rotate through position/roles in a course of an event or a race, with F1 each marshal has a designated role. If you are a designated Blue Flag marshal that will be your role for all F1 sessions including race. If you are a Yellow Flag marshal, that’s all you should do. If you are a TSP Light Panel operator you will do that for all F1 sessions. As a Blue Flag marshal you may help out as a safety marshal if your help is required. Blue flaggers are often very experienced marshals qualified to respond as a safety marshal.

When volunteering a Formula 1 event you use FIA rules. All flags are waved in FIA rules except for the Lack of Adhesion or Surface, sometimes referred to as Debris flag (yellow and red horizontal stripes) that flag is held stationary.

What are the FIA flag rules?

yellow - waving - singleSingle Yellow flag is waved for an incident that takes place between the start of your station and the next station or for a vehicle that is going slower than what typically warrants a White flag. If the vehicle is stopped on track or if an impact has been made that isn’t too serious. Watch for and report any passing under Yellow.

yellow - waved - doubleDouble Yellow flags are waved if the incident is of serious nature, in an event an “Alert” would be called. Or when there are marshals responding track side. If a vehicle is stopped on racing line double Yellow is waved, if the vehicle is stopped off racing line or off in the gravel trap or in the run off a single Yellow would suffice. Watch and report any passing under double Yellow.

green - wavingGreen flag is used at the start of the practice sessions, restarts and after an incident where the previous station is waving yellow or double yellow. For TSP light panel the green flag after an incident using yellow automatically comes on. For the start of the session you need to push the green button. Race control can illuminate any light overriding you.

blue - wavingBlue flag is only waved during the race when the leaders are about to pass a back marker placing that car a lap or multiple laps down. For practice and qualifying sessions blue flags should be used generously to make sure slower cars don’t impede the speed of cars on a fast lap. Keep in mind that the fastest car could be going slow impeding a hot lap of a slower car, and should be blue flagged just the same.

white - wavingWhite flag is waved when a car is proceeding slowly, or significantly off pace, through your station. Typically white flag is waved until the following station starts waving. White flag is also waved for any service vehicles travelling through your station. White flag is changed to Yellow flag when the service vehicle stops in your corner and double Yellows are waved when marshals enter the track. There’s no need to wave both the White and Yellows under those circumstances as Yellow supercedes the White flag.

surface - flag - debrisSurface or Lack of Adhesion, also sometimes referred to as Debris flag is used when oil or small debris is present on the racing line of the track in your area of coverage. Surface flag is the only flag not waved in the FIA rules. If the debris is larger and cannot be driven over without causing damage to the vehicles a Yellow flag should be used instead. You may display both waved Yellow, White and a Surface flag simultaneously to warn drivers of oil or debris while also covering a particular incident in addition to the track condition. Surface flag is shown in a sudden downpour to show that the track is wet, especially at tracks where part of the circuit could be completely dry and another part completely wet. Driver’s should be notified to prevent any surprises.

red - wavingRed flag is waved to stop or end a session. The command to wave the Red flag must come from Race Control and all cars should proceed to the Pit Lane. Passing under Red flag is of no major concern. Report any passing that isn’t safe in nature but keep in mind that tying up the network with a minor call interferes with a far more important call that actually caused the Red flag.

SC - boardyellow - waving - singleSafety Car Board is used in conjunction with a single waved Yellow during the Safety Car period. This could be displayed for many laps until the incident is dealt with. Remember that if the incident is in your corner, you should continue waving the incident which may include double Yellow flags if marshals are present on course. SC boards and Yellow flags are replaced with a waving Green once the Safety Car pits and Green flag is displayed at Start. Remember to keep displaying the SC board and Yellow flag until the command is given even if the Safety Car yellow flashing lights go out.

How do you operate the Light Panel?

Formula 1 uses a very effective flagging tool: the light panel. This is a crucial role because a single flag marshal controls both the blue and yellow flags and any other flags that may be required. And while a traditional flagger only waves the flags while another person, the communicator or corner captain calls in the incident, the light panel marshal at a push of the button electronically notifies race control, the stewards, all the teams and even TV operators of an incident. It is crucial to for light panel operators to be experienced, more experienced than traditional flag marshals.

To operate the light panel you push the color coordinated button to activate a particular light/flag. And bush the black button to cancel the light/turn off the panel.

Yellow flag button can override any other flag condition you may have been under when a Yellow flag is warranted. So instead of pushing the black button to cancel a White flag or a Blue flag, you can push the Yellow flag button directly. Remember that the station directly after you will go Green automatically. Similarly if the station before you is displaying Yellow, your panel will display Green. And if the incident creeps into your corner or another one occurs in your area of coverage, you must quickly change the automatic Green to a Yellow flag, by pushing the Yellow flag button.

The flags are displayed in the order of priority. So if you have oil or other debris in your corner and an incident, a Yellow flag is takes priority over the Surface flag. There is no need to display multiple flags, only the most important flag is required, and typically that is the Yellow light.

There are two buttons on the panel that the light panel operator is unable to activate: the SC button and Red Flag buttons. Both of those are activated directly by Race Control. Similarly, Race Control can illuminate any light they choose on your station, or turn off any light you have illuminated. They can override you.

light panel

Understanding the light panel. Besides the obvious color coded buttons, you also have some indicators that are important to operating your light panel. At the top you see a number of LED screens which illuminate depending on what the station directly before and directly after yours is doing. Therefore you can see when they display Green, Blue or Yellow Flags. When they display a Yellow your station will display Green and that will be reflected on your handheld panel, similarly when you display Yellow the next station will go Green and it will be reflected on the LED windows on the handheld panel.

Light panel operator is also issued with a headset and radio. The TSP operators at Circuit of the Americas are on their own channel and can be asked or told to illuminate a particular light by Race Control.

What are the Full Course Yellow & Restart procedures?

FIA full course yellow involves Safety Car board and single waved Yellow flag to be displayed until the Safety Car reaches Pit Lane and Race Control gives command Green, Green Green. Until the Safety Car reaches pit lane, SC boards and single waved Yellow flags must be displayed even if the yellow flashing lights on the Safety Car go off.

What are the response procedures?

Unlike many other American series that limit Safety marshal’s response to an incident  trackside, you are expected to respond to a Formula 1 incident. However you must do so with permission from Race Control. The communicator or corner captain should give a signal when the response is authorized and the marshal is expected to deal with an incident in a quick but controlled manner. Remember to have a plan of attack before the incident happens and execute this plan in a quick and safe manner. While most accidents are unpredictable in F1, there are a number of scenarios that are likely to happen.

For example, cars may be more likely to crash into another car or when in a vicinity of another car than by themselves. This could happen under breaking or while passing. Both cars may continue leaving debris behind or one or both cars may be stopped on or off the track unable to continue.

In the event of a debris run, be on stand-by near the closest available point of entry to the track with a clear route in mind to recover the debris and continue to safety. Remember to fetch the debris quickly but not at full speed to avoid tripping and falling on the race track. Be sure to empty your pockets or remove any loose hanging articles so you don’t drop them on the race track causing more debris. Also keep in mind that often it is easier to kick off the debris off the track, which may be flat and hard to pick up while wearing gloves. So long as the debris is off the racing line your job is done. It can be removed after the event concludes.

When responding to a stricken vehicle or vehicles, place the vehicle between yourself and the oncoming traffic. This way if someone else were to crash, the vehicle would shield you. Push the stricken vehicle to the nearest point of safety which could be behind a safety barrier or far enough along the safety barrier that is considered a safer spot.

When responding to a stricken vehicle and a Wrecker is used. Be sure to use the Wrecker (Manitou, JCB or Gehl) to shield yourself form the oncoming traffic. Keep in mind that the Wrecker driver may not see you so your most important job is to look out for your own safety. Don’t rely on the driver to look out for you as he may be focused on the vehicle and other aspects of the recovery. Don’t make his job more difficult, stay well away from wheels, boom, or the stricken vehicle once it is up in the air.

The ideal recovery using a wrecker involves two people. 1). The hooker and a safety marshal. The hooker directs the Wrecker driver to the stricken car, directing the crane operator how far and where to lower the boom, and how high to raise the car. The hooker can easily balance the car, which should only be raised to waist level and then direct the Wrecker driver to go back behind the safety barrier. 2). The safety marshal should respond with a fire bottle in case a fire sparks up, and at the same time keep an eye out on the oncoming traffic, warning the hooker of any incoming vehicle that that person may not see. It is important that the safety person has a whistle, as track activity is often too loud to hear shouting.

If there is debris during a wrecker recovery, a team of safety marshals may be required to either clear up the debris by picking it up, kicking it off the racing line or using kitty litter to soak up any fluids and oil off the racing surface. The less marshals that are present track side, especially under a local Yellow condition, the better. It is important to cover any marshals on track with a waved double Yellow flags at all times.

When track safety vehicles are used in a response to an incident, they take priority over a safety marshal, so it is important to remember to stay out of their way and not interfere. They are far better equipped to deal with whatever the incident may involve than a track marshal.

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