While many racing fans will speak of Ayrton Senna as the last fatality over a Grand Prix weekend, we must not forget those that died in accidents outside of the cockpit.
Friday September 10th signalled the tenth anniversary of the death of track marshal, Paolo Ghislimberti.
On the opening lap of the 2000 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, a mammoth crash occurred as the field approached the Variante della Roggia chicane.
As the field bunched-up, the two Jordan’s of Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen collided with each other, before collecting Ruben’s Barrichello in his Ferrari and the McLaren of David Coulthard.
As that accident reached its conclusion, Pedro de la Rosa – blinded by the gravel dust – smashed into the back of Johnny Herbert (Jaguar), launching the Arrows high into the air and into a violent barrel-roll. Upon landing, de la Rosa found himself planted precariously inbetween Barrichello and Coulthard. For the drivers, it was a terrifying accident and a very, very near miss.
Sadly for Ghislimberti, the marshal was struck by Frentzen’s right rear tyre as it flew through the air at high speed. In the meantime, the safety car was brought out while Ghislimberti received trackside treatment – a move that drew much criticism after the race, with Coulthard extremely vocal that the event should have been stopped. The accident led to adoption of wheel tethers in Formula 1, which had been introduced in CART a year earlier.
Less than six months later another track marshal, Graham Beveridge, was killed by a flying wheel from Jacques Villeneuve’s BAR at the beginning of the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. Following this, the wheel tethers were strengthened further and barring some incredibly unusual accidents (Sebastien Buemi during practice at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix comes to mind), the tethers have worked extremely well.
It must be remembered that without marshal’s, motorsport cannot possibly exist. Without their help and expertise, no circuit racing could take place anywhere – regardless of whether that marshal is just there to wave flags or whether their job is to stabilise a situation until medical help arrives.
The loss of Ghislimberti, Beveridge and other marshals at this rather unglamorous end of motorsport must not be forgotten and should be remembered as keenly as lost drivers of time passed. It is their efforts that make this sport possible.