By on November 23, 2021



We know the eyes of our readers generally glaze over like a Thanksgiving ham at the mere mention of an F1 topic. That’s why we don’t run race reports and the like on our front page. However, a few comments from this weekend’s F1 event – plus a follow-up observation by an astute Twitter user – prompt us to deviate from the norm.

Specifically, someone has asked why an outfit with estimated earnings of $1.38 billion continues to rely on volunteers for some of its most important work.

Bringing all hands up to speed, the topic arose following Red Bull team principal Christian Horner fuming about a five-place grid penalty issued to his driver, Max Verstappen, during the event in Qatar. Verstappen, who is in the thick of a two-way heat with Lewis Hamilton for the series title with just a couple of races remaining in the season, was assessed this penalty for failing to slow his car sufficiently in response to a couple of yellow flags near the end of the Q3 qualifying session. In the heat of the moment, Horner is reported to have complained the penalty was a result of a ‘rogue marshal’, comments which were quickly condemned by F1 race director Michael Masi.

All hands seem to have kissed and made up after Masi said “I think you should not attack any person, particularly when we have thousands of volunteer marshals around the world that give up a huge amount of time globally,” referring to the work being put in by enthusiasts who sign up to work races when the F1 circus rolls into town. “Without them,” Masi said, “this sport that everyone has very close to their heart, all of them give up a huge amount of time, and without them it won’t happen.”

In the process of defending the marshals, however, an observant gearhead on Twitter made a very good point.

Really, though. If Masi and Co. put so much value on the services being provided by marshals, why don’t they pay them for their time? Especially if, as has been reported, F1 – as a business – is on track to pocket over $1 billion this year. Marshals are in key positions around the track, after all, and often make critical decisions in the blink of an eye. This takes more talent and knowledge than many realize; it’s not like F1 is dragging people in off the street for these roles. Marshals, clad in those vivid orange coveralls, enable the event to take place safely – trackside marshals often pitch in to clear track debris, flag marshals are responsible for providing important visual signals to drivers, while pit marshals can be called into action if there is an incident on pitlane. These are people who know what they’re doing in fast-paced (pun firmly intended) situations.

As for Horner, he has since said his comments were made out of frustration, which isn’t surprising given how much the title race has tightened in the last few races and the effect a five-place grid penalty could have had on the championship outcome. Indeed, Verstappen’s point lead was cut in half following the race, after Hamilton took first place and the Red Bull driver wound up in second position. There is 7-point delta between finishing 1st and 2nd this year. Horner has since tempered his heat-of-the-moment comment, commending marshals for their “wonderful job” and pledging to be part of the stewards’ seminar in 2022.

If that’s the case, and F1 continues to use volunteers as marshals, Horner will likely be one of the only people being paid while attending the seminar.

[Image: FIA]

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13 Comments on “Voluntold: Red Bull’s Horner Criticizes Volunteer Marshal, F1 Claps Back, Public Wonders Why Moneyed Series Relies on Unpaid Workers...”

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This one’s easy.

    F1’s 2021 earnings are estimated at $1.38 billion, why is it relying on “volunteers”? Because F1’s 2021 earnings are estimated at $1.38 billion.

    You don’t make money by paying a bunch of people who’ll work for free.

  • avatar

    1- I used to love F 1 . Now? A lot of PC crap is slipping in and I notice it, so, I m out. Most of the time.

    2- Isnt this the second shady call that went against Max and benefited Hamilton. Hamilton seems to get more than his share of good luck.

    3- A multi grid position penalty is very serious in any race. Nailing Max to the wall now smells with only a few races to go i the season. This should not be levied by 1 unpaid Marshall who is a Hamilton fan. 2 of 3 appointed Sr Staffers should have to agree.

    4- wheezy tiny motors with rube goldberg hybrid recapture with DRS that can only deployed if this and that are occurring. You must use 2 types of tires. You cannot refuel. You must tap your belly – rub your head – and rotate 720 degrees all at the same time.

    It’s BS like this that has put me mostly out of F 1

    • 0 avatar

      Definite agreement on point #2. Although I think you’re being charitable calling this as the second time. Hamilton has definitely been the ‘teflon driver’ this season, the position penalties in the previous race being noteworthy by their being a rather unique surprise.

      F1 has definitely been pro-Mercedes for the past couple of seasons.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision


        Allegiances change.

        The FIA was so beholden to Ferrari at one time that Martin Brundle said the organization was colloquially referred to as ‘Ferrari International Assistance’ in the paddock.

  • avatar

    F1 is cool. It reminds me of why I prefer large-displacement low-revving engines in my personal vehicles.

    [If I thought harder, F1 would remind me that modern composites definitely have a role to play in producing lighter yet safer vehicles. But I try not to think thoughts like this too often because they are not complimentary to mainstream automotive manufacturers.]

  • avatar

    F1 motor races are usually run under “control” of the local/state/national motor club or government. The Melbourne Grand Prix was actually “owned” by the State Government. That is why there is a “fee” paid to the FIA to run the said race. Most racing clubs are run by volunteers and given a chance for free entry to the track, closest to the action, most would do that gladly. These marshals ply their skills on most weekends for nothing as well. They do it for the love of the sport and the sense of involvement. Are NASCAR marshals paid?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @downunder Sir, NASCAR is gonna NASCAR. They usually attempt new levels of ineptitude every season and always manage to come through. NASCAR has “officials” whose qualifications and experience are never explained. Yet these same “officials” can cause a caution to come out during a boring (or less boring than normal) race. These mysterious cautions almost always allow the favorite to get near the race leaders. Kind of like pro wrestling when the favorite escapes the chokehold the heel has put on him.

      But Wait! NASCAR is only gonna be better next year. One wheel nut like real race cars (the ones without fenders) and carbon fiber construction. Never mind that most production cars made of carbon fiber costs as much as a beach house. NASCAR runs four what they call restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talledega raceways. The drivers say it’s all a roll of the dice when they race those races. All four of those races usually have huge multi-car wrecks. Now NASCAR has never been known for or given credit for having any sort of foresight. When 10-20 carbon fiber bodied race cars start wrecking at speeds of 190 MPH, I don’t want to be within 150 meters of that monster wreck. I’m concerned about what will happen when all that carbon fiber starts splintering and flying around like high-speed darts.

      A hundred years ago some of the best automobiles in the world were built in Indianapolis, IN. A guy named Carl Fisher and some of his friends built a race track in 1909. That track still stands today and is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It has a professional staff, usually retired racecar drivers and racing industry insiders. The IMS has Safety Patrol members also known as “yellow shirts” who are volunteers. The Safety Patrol members provide vital services when IMS is sold out and the crowd is 500,000 people.

      Financially, Roger Penske paid 250-300 million USD for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League. To put it mildly, Penske’s standards are a great deal higher than other racetracks/racing series owners. Some say Penske could have bought all of the failing NASCAR series for what he paid for IMS. That debate goes on.

  • avatar

    Actually it’s the tracks that use volunteer marshalls. Tracks provide them and the use the same ones at all their races.

  • avatar

    Love F1! More F1 coverage please!

  • avatar

    Marshalls volunteer because they like to be near “the fast”. I worked Rally New York, where the marshalls were all vollys. The radio net and operators were all volunteer ham radio ops, some of whom provided not-cheap radios for the rally.

    At Lemons, same. The corner workers are all volly, and for the same reason…but there they get “bribes” from the competitors, at least…food and booze…but they aren’t there for that.

    I’m surprised, though that F1 is as janky as Lemons or a bunch of irish contractors beating subarus through the Sullivan County woods. At this level, wouldn’t you want vetted people with some training and payment ?

  • avatar

    It’s no different than golf tournaments. They rely heavily on volunteers as well. But the tournaments usually do support golf related charities in the community, like First Tee. Does F1 do anything similar?

    • 0 avatar

      F1, like the IOC, supports slave labour, human rights abuses, and validating dictators and other totalitarian governments, so kind of similar to golf tournaments? Like, they are supporting something bigger than the sport.

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