During the second half of last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, a member of the public breached security and entered the circuit – a moment of madness that could have rewritten the race.
Beyond the obvious alterations to the form of the event – the track invasion necessitated a second safety car period – the wandering man presented a significant safety issue for himself and the drivers.
One only needs to recount the horrific events of the 1977 South African Grand Prix top understand the consequences of a person entering a live track during a active event.
Following the incident, the FIA ordered an immediate investigation, tasking Gabriel Tan – the Clerk of the Course – to compile a report and solutions to the matter.
According to Me Tan’s report, the intruder “entered the circuit […] via a designated Egress Point (EP) along the track on the driver’s right on the Esplanade Bridge. This type of EP is a horizontal slot through which personnel can slide through to gain access the track.” The report adds that the opening is secured in selected locations around the circuit before sessions by locks gate.
This did not deter the track invader, who then “climbed over a 1.1 metre high security fence, gained access to a protected 2-metre-wide Marshal Zone, crossed a carriageway and slid through the opening in the EP.”
What is most frightening about the incident is that it only took ten seconds for the intruder to enter the track, after which he crossed the track at Esplanade Bridge before exiting over the Armco fifteen seconds later.
While a 1.1 metre high fence may not seem on the surface to be a great deterrent, it is of similar height to other fences used at Formula One circuits. It is not unusual for circuits to have only half of their EPs manned throughout the weekend by race officials, while those that are not manned are under the eye of patrolling security personnel or have spectator fences as an additional barrier.
Mr. Tan’s report concluded with recommendations to increase security in certain areas, as well as installing higher spectator fences in the area where the intruder gained access. The report also recommended an increase in the number of marshals covering the event.
From a purely sporting side, the was some luck in that the safety car did not particularly alter the running order, despite what Red Bull Racing may think. This was always Sebastian Vettel’s race – the track invader merely made his and Ferrari’s victory a touch more difficult than it should have been.