Practice makes perfect and in the case of the marshals on the Buddh International Circuit that adage will be certainly put to the test. After all, in the first mock safety drill session on Monday, the ambulance supposed to be carrying a critically-injured driver could not find the way to the medical facility for over 20 minutes.
By then, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) representative from Bahrain, who was playing the role of the patient, asked the driver to stop. He got off exclaiming that the interval was enough to have killed the person who would have needed urgent medical attention.
Vicky Chandhok, president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, confirmed the incident but insisted that everything would be fine by race day. "The ambulance drivers were exposed to the track for the first time today. By the end of the day they had brought down the time to four minutes. These things happen."
The exercise simulated a crash on turn 4 of the circuit and both recovery and medical units were sent out in response. The ambulance reached fine and the crane loaded the crashed car onto the flatbed without a problem. After that, chaos broke loose.
It turns out the ambulance drivers were not informed this was a drill. "They panicked and began to careen around the track," said an eyewitness.
Even the recovery vehicle was unable to figure out where it was supposed to deposit its load.
"We were watching everything from the control room. We could have stopped them when we wanted but we wanted them to learn things the hard way," says Chandhok.
The distance that the ambulance was supposed to travel is close to 3 km. "We will have five more shakedowns before the cars come out."
Participating teams will push their machines in free practice which begins Friday. With two days to go, there is not much time for the Indian federation to get its act together. To make things more complicated, Wednesday has been declared a full holiday on account of Diwali.
Reason to fret
It is possible that things may be fine by the time the engines start gunning on Friday morning. However, there have been consistent whispers over the last few months that the Indian federation has handed out marshalling duties at the track on the basis of proximity to the powers that be.
Current racers who are in synch with the dynamics of a live race were turned down without reason.
This was exemplified by an old-school aged gentleman exchanging hot words with race control as things were not going as he thought they should!
He stormed off his station in a huff.