What lies beneathBy Hetal Mehta
I’ve been an ardent fan of Formula One and have been following it closely for almost a decade now and always dreamt of being a part of it in some way or the other. My thesis in college in the UK where I studied too was on the role of Indian motorsport and F1 in India, and its challenges and opportunities. So when the news of a Formula One race happening in India got confirmed, I couldn’t stop myself from writing to the BIC even before I came back to India! I finally realised my dream when I became a part of the organising team here. Formula One is a world of fast cars, high speeds, hugely talented drivers, mechanics and engineers, not to forget the pit babes who strut their stuff. That is what most people associate Formula 1 with, and on the surface that’s how it is. But it’s a different world behind the scenes which not many people know about. With more than 70,000 people attending a race, the teams, their 24 drivers and crews, together account for more than 2000 people! Bringing Formula One down to India was never going to be an easy task but the Jaypee Group deserves kudos for pulling it off successfully.
Consider for a minute the elements that go into a successful GP – months of exhaustive planning, logistics, marketing efforts, ticket sales, arrangements for hospitality of thousands of people and many other requiring in-depth, detailed planning. Preparations begin months in advance, and with feedback from the FIA and FOM we ensure everything happens on time, and in sync with the requirements of the governing body. To begin with, we first decide time frames for logistics, approval and sanctions from the government for equipments, workers, marshals and volunteers. Coming to marshalling, we received an overwhelming response this year, with nearly 6000 entries coming in from across the country. The BIC operations team along with the IMMC (Indian Motorsports Marshals Club) recruited 700 marshals for the event.
The in-house training for marshals was conducted by Farhan Vohra (clerk of the course, 2012 F1 Indian Grand Prix) under FIA guidelines with the IMMC officials three to four months before the race. The training was conducted for equipments like ear plugs, whistles, flags, food, gloves, water, essential clothing, first aid, radio usage and so on. Proper training of marshals and volunteers is extremely important, as one mistake from a marshal can cause serious problems. Marshals are categorised as rescue, pit, flag and on track marshals. Volunteers play a crucial role too, and are a huge help when it comes to work like arranging for press conferences etc. This year’s GP had 155 volunteers from the JIIT (Jaypee Institute of Information Technology) & JBS (Jaypee Business School). Of these, 43 were girls which is commendable considering this is a male dominated sport.
This year our main target was to ensure the facilities at the track were on par with the race tracks in Europe, and the track is dust free unlike last year. People worked day and night to ensure the track remained dust free, so drivers could get good traction and visibility. We had four mechanical road sweepers, two high pressure road washers and water tankers along with 40 workers on the job. We also had 41 painters who painted the kerbs, mobile fence footers, starting grid, pit wall, pit lane and other areas. The paint used on the kerbs is an anti-skid paint, and is one of the most expensive paints, purchased from Italy after an approval from the FIM. Apart from this there was a separate team that worked towards maintenance of the track, keeping the entire circuit including all team buildings spic and span, and took care of waste management, pest control, fire fighting and safety. Not many people know that even the gravel used in the gravel traps at the circuit is very special. Gravel traps are designed to help cars decelerate very quickly from high speeds, and the gravel needs to be smooth, without any sharp edges as they could cause a puncture. The size of the gravel has to be between 5mm and 15mm. The gravel used at the BIC was bought from river beds in Uttarakhand in North India after the monsoons.
As part of the organising team I got to interact with national and international media apart from the drivers, who were all very happy with the organization. I was handling the Media Accreditation Centre (MAC) which is where guests, television and radio crews and national and international media collect their passes from. The logistics teams also had a huge share in making the Indian GP a success, making sure all the cargo arrived on time. The amount of cargo that travels around the world as part of the F1 circus is unimaginable for people like you and me. Three weeks before the race weekend cargos containing fuel, kitchen hospitality and paddock club equipment arrive by sea. 60 to 70 containers, each 40 feet in length bring all this equipment in, while six air freighters arrive with pallets carrying 600-700 tonnes of cargo. The bigger challenge however is winding up on Sunday evening for the next race. The time frame to move the cargos out is about four hours. The time and effort to ensure pallets are put back into the trailers without a mistake is the toughest part for the logistics team.
Last but not least, the security is divided into zones such as track, spectator, paddock and outside security. Traffic management, crowd control and planning of transportation is done two-three months in advance. There are 240 CCTVs all over the circuit where the crowd is monitored closely. Being one of the several people who burnt the midnight oil to make the Indian GP a success, I must say that everyone present was all praise for the organisation and this is something that gives me immense satisfaction. It is easy to remember the flaws in the organisation of an event and not the positives, and everyone at Jaypee Sports International Limited worked extensively to this does not happen. There were times when I would not get time to even eat, but I am glad we were able to achieve our aim, especially since we are involved with a sport we love so dearly. Post the race I got to catch up with some of the team personnel who happen to be my friends, and they all said they are keen on coming back next year. As for me, after a quick break for the festive season I am back at work, preparing for next year’s race, trying to see how we can make it bigger and better. Bring it on I say!