The 56 new marshals for the ePrix and the Grand Prix were inducted last week, after a large safety meeting.
“The group of marshals at Monaco’s Grand Prix is recognized and reputed to be the best in the whole world,” declared Patrice Cellario, advisor to the Government-Minister of the Interior. Here, we aim for excellence from any point of view. To achieve this, the volunteers train before each edition. The experienced ones receive a refresher course, newcomers complete training for the first time. “We are the only Grand Prix to do these internships each year. We do not have the right to do things half-heartedly,” warned Jean-Michel Matas, deputy commissioner-general in charge of the marshals. In this spectacle of performance and power that is the Grand Prix of Monaco (this year, cars are longer, more than 22 kg heavier and close to 1000 horse-power) the slightest error can become a tragedy.
“From the bottom of my heart, be careful”
Jean-Michel Matas reminds us that “nothing should be placed against the guardrails”. It sounds trivial but the shock waves generated by the movement of the cars, even without a collision, can violently throw any object several meters away.
Particular attention is paid to the ePrix. “The biggest danger is the silence of the cars, you will not hear them coming,” warned Michel Boeri, president of the Automobile Club of Monaco.
“From the bottom of my heart, be careful. The Grand Prix is a time of joy; it’s not a time to get hurt.
Speaking of his own time as a race marshal “without a helmet, but with a cap, at a time when the hay bales had not yet been replaced by barriers.” He recalls the important words: prudence, method and discipline. If his tone is quasi-military, it is only because the rigorous respect of these three elements guarantees the safety of everyone.
Discipline involving every moment, even small gestures, posture and appearance. With hundreds of photographers present and 425 million viewers riveted to their screens around the world, the slightest misstep can harm the image of the event.
“You represent not only the Grand Prix, but also the Principality,” said Jean-Michel Matas, “we are the only Grand Prix where the marshals can still go see the cars. We cannot spoil that.” At the end of the impressive, military-like checklist, the newcomers were called on stage and applauded. A true ritual of incorporation. One way to show them that they now belong to the big family of motorsport.
“Here, we’re sure that there is no mistake in the flags”
The presence of 650 marshals has a direct impact on the stars of the track. For they are the ones who race. They are the players. They still feel the urgency and stress that can cause the slightest error, which can be fatal. Johnny Cecotto drove around the circuit several times in Formula 2. He said: “The presence of the marshals is very important for the drivers, but above all, it is the quality of their work that counts. They use the right flags, for example, unlike other circuits. Above all, in Monaco, the interventions are very fast. We talk about it between ourselves and we think that this is the place with the most safety cars. They are fast enough that in just one lap, the obstacles are cleared, which makes us very reassured, especially since the Grand Prix of Monaco is particularly difficult. We don’t have any margin for error.”
She puts the pedal to the metal
In recent years, women are also marshals in the Grand Prix. Through the initiative of Sophie Bensa, the first woman responsible for the marshals, the Grand Prix is open to women. The passion of the engine knows no gender. Caroline was bit by the bug in her teens. So, when the opportunity came to join the marshal’s team this year, she didn’t hesitate: “A colleague told me about it, I did the two days of training, it was sensational; the reception is incredible. I was raised like men. Women are just as capable. At first glance, here, the mood is not macho. But if they do get macho, they will be put in their place, as they should be.” Her male colleagues can be reassured that they will avoid her wrath, because, according to Lamia, there is no sexism in sight: “I participated for the first time last year and it went very well. My boyfriend has been a marshal for eight years; he was the one who introduced me to Formula One. One day he offered me a place, and I loved being there. I knew that my place was on the other side, with them, so I decided to take part. They learned to discover women in this environment, and are very respectful.”