Marshaling has been a crucial part of motorsport since its inception. We’ve always needed folks available to wave some flags and let drivers know what’s happening on the track, like if they need to slow down for a hazard or if they’re just going too damn slow. But Formula One, always ahead of the curve, has something better: an electronic marshaling system that immediately conveys information from a marshaling stand to race control to drivers. And today, we’re going to dive into how it works.
Or, more accurately, the wonderful Stuart from Chain Bear on YouTube will explain the system to us, since he was the one who spoke to Luca de Angelis from EM Motorsport, the company that designed F1's electronic marshaling system:
The LED flags produced by EM Motorsport in 2009 and were made mandatory soon after. The goal is basically to make things safer for marshals and to ensure drivers have a better chance of seeing the flags. The actual folks in the marshaling stand don’t need to get close to the track to pop out a flag, and you can add LED flags in high-visibility places that might be dangerous for people.
Each track is broken up into small marshaling sectors. Each sector must be wholly visible from the marshal’s stand. So, while we might think of Imola as being divided into three timing sectors, it’s also divided into 19 marshaling sectors to give the folks at the stand direct control over their specific area. If there’s a hazard, the marshal is in control of the LED flag panel that activates the flag at that part of the track; it also alerts drivers, race control, and camera crews.
The physical marshals are still hugely important, even if they’re no longer physically waving flags mid-race, since they’re the ones in charge of highlighting issues that pop up on their specific section of track, which is why FIA-grade marshaling standards are so high. The electronic system mainly just means they’re out of danger.
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I’ll let Stuart and de Angelis explain things more in depth in the video.