By Giulia De Ieso and Giulianna Faliero
After the success of the Singapore Grand Prix we had the chance to talk to the Deputy Clerk of the Course and Senior Manager of race operations Janette Tan! She kindly replied to all our questions and gave us some interesting insights about how it is to manage a the race operations during a F1 weekend and much more.
Could you describe your typical day leading up to Singapore GP?
In the days leading up to race weekend, I typically arrive at the circuit around 8am in the morning and my first and most important task is to make myself a cup of coffee!
Monday to Wednesday of race week are the hardest because we are often needed in many places at once. For one, the FIA and FOM personnel would have arrived for set up so we must always be on hand to assist them in whatever way we can.
This is also the time where the majority of our logistics and equipment arrives and we need to make sure that they are delivered in good condition. The items include food for the Volunteers & Officials, uniforms, and appreciation items. The circuit vehicles also start coming in on Tuesday. So over the following days I will receive like 20 cranes, 2 extricationvehicles, 3 race control vehicles, 6 medical vehicles, 4 technical and VIP shuttle cars, and 6 boundary bikes. We also have the track medical centre bump in where our local hospital set up the necessary equipment at our track medical centre, ready for any emergency throughout the weekend.
The final preparation also means checking track set up, barriers alignment, kerbs installation, light panel positions, and drain gratings. The accreditation passes are also distributed together with family passes and allocations are finalised. Equipment is packed into cages and sorted out into different sectors.
On race days, I am at the circuit by 8.30am every morning in order to prepare for the Senior Officials’ briefing at 10.30am where we do a quick review of the day before and give out final instructions for the day. This is always followed by mass briefing to all 900 of our officials reminding them to hydrate and eat well. We follow strictly to our minute-by-minute, a document that entails the schedule of all the on-track activities, once deployment begins. Although the chequered flag is usually waved at 10pm. I will wait for my F1 scrutineers to finish each night and that typically ends at around 1am or 2am in the morning.
What are your main challenges and responsibilities? You landed in motorsport as a fan and a volunteer, then managed to turn your passion into a job. What key factors played a significant role in this transition?What advice would you offer to someone pursuing a career in such a competitive field?
All street circuits come with their own unique set of challenges which are different year on year but the team is very experienced so I am lucky in that sense. No problem is too big, and if I need help, all I have to do is ask. From the core team in Singapore GP to our Senior and General Officials, no challenge is too big. We always accept and conquer them together.
I have been a big F1 fan since I was young, remembering the on-track battle between Prost and Senna which got me started in motorsports. I started volunteering for local motorsports in 2005 and joined the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. The scale of the Singapore Grand Prix is on a level that is completely mind-blowing. It’s nothing like anyone can imagine. It was really tough in the first few years, but as we get more familiar with the demands of the event, it got easier. Never give up, work hard for what you want is what I would advise anyone wanting to pursue a career in this field. Be humble, ask if you are not sure and never make the same mistake twice
Can you share some significant moments or experiences from your time working on the Singapore Gp that remain vivid in your memory?
There are so many different memories from each year, so its really hard to highlight just a few of them! I think a big turning point for us over the years was training our own officials to operate the recovery cranes. It really sped up our process of recovery and made it safer for everyone. They went through many weekends of training and I am very proud of them.
Another memory is the FIA WIM & VOC Officials’ exchange program where we received the 24 ladies from around the world. The programme had a very deep and lasting impact. Until now, we still keep in touch, constantly encouraging one another and doing more for women in motorsports.
Having read about Charlie (Whiting) and Herbie (Blash) for many years in the news and then sitting down to have many dinners with them is surreal at best.
The massive but quick clean up after Lance’s incident on Saturday will be one of my highlights for this year.
What is the most complicated phase in your job? How has your management of the race weekend changed after you started coordinating F2 and F3 as well?
I think managing the non-race related activities are the most complicated. From the Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk to the track invasion every night, while at the same time managing the recovery of cars, repairing of the circuit at the same time.
I was telling Niels, the F1 Race Director, just the other day that with my work in the F2 and F3 series, I have run close to 80 races now, which is a lot more than all my Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix races combined in the last 14 years! Working on all these races have definitely helped me in understanding the sporting and technical regulations and the various race starts, expectations of the FIA from the event organisers, etc.
The Singapore GP is one of the most anticipated on the calendar, do you feel that kind of pressure working there?
Not really. After 16 years on the job, and finishing my 14th Grand Prix last weekend, I don’t feel any particular pressure during race weekend. And I credit that to the Seniors and Officials because I know once racing starts, they will be able to handle anything the race track throws at them.
Are there any differences between working on a GP held in the evening compared to those held in the afternoon, with daylight?
I may be biased but the cars looks really beautiful under the lights at night for sure!