United States Formula 1 Grand Prix Debrief

I can describe the feeling after the USGP F1 event as simply “Meh!”

Why?

This was a trip where my presence there felt more like a job and less like the hobby I specifically came there to enjoy. So instead of getting my thrills trackside working the light panel or waving flags, I was looking forward to going out on the town and enjoying Halloween in Austin night after night. This is the most I’ve ever drank during an F1 weekend, so imagine how shitty things must have been that I tried to drown them with alcohol.

I have to say that it is not my intention to give a scathing review to a top level pro event on the US calendar. There are plenty of assholes out there that bitch and moan and joining their choir in complaining won’t result in anything constructive happening. But I will speculate why I got the shit assignment I received and why I don’t agree with it, in hopes that in the future people reading this may reconsider. Or maybe I, referring to this post in the future see how petty I was.

But let me start the post with the positive. The Porsche Supercup marshal demo was a brilliant idea and I’m glad that after two years of no effort at training something was done. Sure, none of the people that could actually use this training in practice were actually there as the demo was shown to corner captains and light panel operators and not recovery or track marshals. It was a start. The food in Austin was fantastic as always!

usgp austin mexican food

I overdozed on Mexican and Tex-Mex on the very first day. By the first night margaritas seemed to be the theme of the trip. I had many… many drinks. Weird saying that for a guy that doesn’t drink. But in good company the drinks flowed freely.

usgp austin margaritas

Maybe that’s the reason most other marshals look forward to the beer parties post race. I was always the one to vocally criticize such a concept considering getting shitfaced and working “safety” on a side of the track are polar opposites. But maybe that’s a perfect mechanism to deal with the bullshit in Motorsport volunteering.

I kept on saying “that’s bullshit!” time and again working post 11C on the back straight. I could only see a sliver of the turn in front of me at 11 before the cars disappeared in a dip by 11B, and then quickly reappeared a few seconds later (for F1, longer for Ferrari and Porsche support races) leaving me with little time to make the correct decision when to blue flag. And the rule of thumb with flagging when uncertain is not to flag at all. So I was standing there initially guessing, especially during practice sessions. And got to push the Blue button a whole of four times on the closing laps of the race (and didn’t do anything at all for the support races). That was bullshit! The station ahead of me, which I got a sneak peak at simply because we had no porter john anywhere near us, and the closest one was either across a hot track or by walking a mile to 11B. The views they had were splendid. Plenty of opportunity to see the traffic coming at you and blue flag the shit out of the cars in a perfect passing zone. But they didn’t. And that was bullshit! The few times I saw a blue flag during practice gave me a heads up at 11C to get ready and flag or do nothing if the pass was completed before me. But basically I was frustrated. I wanted to do my best but I couldn’t do magic.

usgp cota 3

I don’t quite understand what was the reasoning for me being there. I asked to switch stations. Not because I wanted a better turn on track, I would have been perfectly happy settling for a crap assignment on a different part of the track because over my last three visits to the Circuit of the Americas I worked Turns 12, 13 and now 11. There are like twenty (20) other options out there. But I also don’t agree with 11C as my assignment, why not 11B? Obviously whomever was at 11B wasn’t any good. Why not put that person at 11C and let him either guess or not do anything (remember when uncertain it’s better not to flag than display the wrong flag). I would have had a perfect time at 11B even though it’s still a straight but a straight with a view, much like post Alpha at Road Atlanta that I was thrilled with during Petit Le Mans. I don’t get it…  And I know complaining about it makes me look like a douchebag. But not saying anything may get me another shit assignment next time, so I lose again. And if I decide not to volunteer for F1 next year in protest, I’m pretty much a loser because I miss out on an otherwise awesome pro event altogether.

So I was not happy with the visibility issue operating the light panel at my turn. I also wasn’t very happy with the corner captain who seemed more concerned enforcing the “no pictures!” rule and “wearing the official hats” than actually something useful, like having a plan of attack should something actually happen. I am sick and tired of people focusing so much on the “photo” rules which are trivial. I never wanted to take pictures of cars on track more than I wanted this weekend simply because it was constantly repeated. No pictures, no pictures… fuck! Now I want to take a picture just because I’m constantly reminded about it. The official hats was another fucking joke. I like to save my official hat, and really like to wear my lucky orange hat that I’ve done for the past fourteen (14) GP’s I was a part of. Looking on this site proves it. But no… since I didn’t bring my official hat with me to the station I was told to stand there wearing nothing at all. So I wore my bandana. This idiot would rather have me get sunburn(ed) than be a little reasonable and let me come back wearing the official hat the next day. I have little respect for that kind of micro-management! What got me the most was the last official statement made before the race: “Hope nothing happens here!” Why NOT? Well then, stay the fuck home. Watch the race on TV! There’s nothing more counterproductive volunteering at an event than the “captain” telling you he hopes nothing happens in your corner instead of telling you something useful like: “here’s the plan of attack in response to an incident.” The official mantra that we are all professional we know what we’re doing is bullshit! If we don’t respond to an incident by ourselves, hands-on… we’ve learned nothing! Showing up to GP’s year after year teaches us nothing until we see something happen that we learned from. The anti-training, anti-learning attitude is pathetic! Ugh…. It is so frustrating talking about how there’s no training and not even a slight desire to learn new things – I will just Shut Up… enjoy the pics from the race instead:

usgp austin red bull demo

ferrari pit walk

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Only 212 marshals registered to volunteer in 2014, down from 218 the previous year… that’s a serious skeleton crew if I ever saw one, Sepang in Malaysia uses a minimum of 300+ marshals and they have 10 less turns to cover. Shame, damn shame for lack of workers! It is simply unsafe and dangerous…

usgp cota 212 marshals

One more word for the highlight of the event. It really wasn’t booze even when margaritas were the theme of the trip. It was the actual Road Trip itself. I had such an adventure getting to and from the event I must share it with the world because it was exciting and exhausting at the same time. I booked the $1 Megabus from New York to Boston to fly to Austin for $54 on JetBlue. Camped at the track until taking the $1 Megabus to Houston to fly back to Boston for $54. But alas the Megabus in Austin broke down as we were boarding. The puddle of coolant on the ground meant we weren’t going anywhere quick, and worrying how I will kill the four or five hours of nothing to do in Houston before my flight quickly changed to worrying how the hell am I going to actually make my damn flight. Luckily, when I heard there was another bus two hours later I wanted to be sure I was one of the first passengers from my bus to get onto it. I was lucky despite there being a great deal of people that didn’t make it. Now instead of having a whole row of seats to myself I was crammed next to a Hungarian tourist visiting US for five weeks. So the three hour trip went by really quickly as we talked about everything from surfing in Hawaii to volunteering at Hungaroring. Made my flight with minutes to spare after having a quick bite at Pappas BBQ. And then spend the night roaming Boston Logan Airport. This time instead of taking the $1 Megabus back to NYC like I had booked, I decided to use 4,000 British Airways Avios points for point/cash redemption with US Airways back to LaGuardia on a quick 45 minute hop. It’s amazing to me how JetBlue and USAir Embraer 190’s though the same plane, are configured differently resulting in serious lack of space and comfort on the USAir flight. But I made it home and quickly collapsed in bed for some much needed sleep.

usgp austin megabus breakdown

Next post will have #MarshalCam videos from USGP at COTA, another positive to come out from this weirdly disappointing weekend.