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GP Week : Issue 102
O ne of the busiest men over the race weekends is the man with the longest job-title in the pit lane – the FIA’s Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and Head of the F1 Technical Department, Charlie Whiting. Charlie, who used to be Chief Mechanic at Brabham when Bernie Ecclestone ran the team, has worked for the FIA since 1988. Simply put, he is responsible for the flawless execution of a race weekend, which can mean anything from making the calls on last minute track changes, handling the drivers pre-race to heading up the team of people who follow the events from Race Control. So what is Race Control? Visually, it is a room full of TV screens showing the FOM world feed as well as CCTV. The Safety Car and Medical Car are dispatched from Race Control, and marshals around the circuit receive instructions from RC about appropriate flag signals. In the next room the stewards are ready to evaluate all situations, looking to the rule book to apply appropriate penalties. This year the FIA decided to turn the page and use former drivers to complete the stewards’ panel. Prost, Warwick, Mansell, Wurz, Hill, Sullivan and Herbert are among the former racing drivers who have taken seats next to the regular FIA stewards and there is little doubt that this has allowed the FIA to better evaluate significant incidents. From the time a message appears on your T V screen until a decision is made about it, Race Control and the stewards’ room is typified by non-stop action. Beside Charlie, there is also an observer, the Race Control operator, and the medical delegate, who liaises with the chief medical officer; he always comes from the local country in question. In total about 15-20 people work in race control. The messages that are coming to our TV screens are posted by FOM who take the initial messages written by the Race Control operator. Communication between Race Control and all the on-track personnel is vital. The ‘middle-man’ is the Clerk of the Course. He is responsible for communication with all the marshalling posts and organises appropriate responses to an incident in close cooperation with and approval from the FIA race director. Bear in mind that many races take place in non-English speaking countries, and the importance of the Clerk’s role comes into focus. Beside the official filming by FOM TV, the circuit is also covered in detail, as mentioned earlier, by a CCTV system. Race control also monitors a GPS system (which shows the exact positions of the cars on the circuit), the marshalling system (with the new light panels that are also duplicating messages to the drivers, along with the classic flags from the marshals), the radio transmission systems and also over 20 different TV pictures from around the track. This is the Race Control ‘toolbox’. Who looks into incidents and who judges if something is important enough to be looked at in the first place? Both the Race Director and the stewards have the right to look at any incident. The stewards’ position has been boosted this 42