Devastating and tragic news from the Canadian F1 Grand Prix

Very sad news from the Canadian F1 Grand Prix this afternoon. A track marshal was run over by a wrecker after recovering a Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez (Montreal Gazette link) and subsequently died from the injuries sustained.

This was a devastating and tragic news when I read a message from a friend after having finally crossed the US border on my drive home from Canada. Suddenly my anger at the customs and immigration agents that once again detained me and searched my vehicle for the second time on this trip just because my driver side window broke in the Jeep, went away and I was overcome by deep sadness. Volunteer fatalities are rare in F1, but even one is one too many. My condolences go out to the guy’s family.

I’ve been reading various news on the incident and can’t help but feel angry at what is being quoted. From drivers that say the genetic line that racing wouldn’t go on without us, where in reality many attempts are made to cut down on the number of marshals participating at events. Or a smart-ass comment from a fan about marshals tripping over in Canada, referring to another incident where a marshal came close to being struck by a speeding F1 car after falling on track during a debris run. It’s all in poor taste. So much effort is spent around the world scolding us volunteers not to take photos on track where that energy should be redirected on redundantly reminding and facilitating people to focus on safety. You can never be too safe on a race track. This could easily happen to any of us marshalling an event.

I hope in the future more events take a lesson from the Singapore or Australian GP’s where tremendous focus is placed on reinforcing the safety rules. Each marshal is provided with a single marshalling handbook; senior marshals run mock training exercises with their teams prior to practice and race sessions to ensure everyone is on the same page, etc. The guy that died today was a ten year veteran at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve yet it says nothing about what level of experience or training he would have received to work that position. Sure more will be learned from an investigation but it won’t bring the poor guy back. This comment is in no way a criticism of the Grand Prix du Canada or ACIND, its just something I’d like to see done more at North American motorsport events in general.