F1 was ‘like a religion’ to volunteer killed at Canadian Grand Prix: friend

MONTREAL – The volunteer marshal killed at the Canadian Grand Prix was a Formula One “fanatic” who died serving the sport he loved.

Mark Robinson died in hospital after being hit by a crane on Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve following the weekend race.

One of Robinson’s childhood friends tells The Canadian Press that his pal watched every F1 race on TV and taped any event he couldn’t watch live.

Marty Devey says F1 was “like a religion” to Robinson and his annual work at the Canadian Grand Prix over the last decade was always a highlight of his year.

It’s suspected that the 38-year-old slipped under the wheel of a crane at the end of the Formula One event and was crushed by it.

Officials have said he was escorting the crane as it moved a Sauber car, which had not finished the Montreal race.

He says Robinson would have been turning 39 on Wednesday and his friends were planning to celebrate his birthday with him during their weekly softball game.

“F1 for him was kind of like getting a chance to be a roadie for the Rolling Stones once a year,” Devey said.

“He thought about it, talked about it. For a quiet guy, if you started talking F1 with this guy, you wouldn’t be able to quiet him down.”

Several F1 drivers and car-racing officials have expressed their condolences since the incident.

“This tragedy has affected us deeply, and the whole of motor sport is profoundly touched by it,” said a statement Monday from Jean Todt, president of the FIA world body.

“In volunteering to be a marshal, Mark had made the choice to give his time, his knowledge and passion in the service of motor sport.

“All over the world, it is men and women like Mark who make possible the organisation of motor sport events. Without these thousands of volunteers who give their all selflessly, motor sport would simply not get off the starting line.”

This wasn’t the first death at a Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

In 1982, Riccardo Paletti, a rookie driver for the Osella team, was killed when he slammed into Didier Pironi’s stalled car on the starting grid.

Other F1 events have also witnessed deaths on the track.

A marshal was killed at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix when Canadian Jacques Villeneuve’s BAR Honda car leapfrogged another car and flew into a concrete retaining wall. The crash sent all four tires and other debris across the track and into a fence.

Only six months earlier, a fire marshal at the 2000 Italian Grand Prix died when he was struck by a wheel thrown from a multi-car pileup on the first lap of the race.

Other Canadian cities have also had racing-related deaths.

At the 1996 Toronto Molson Indy, an official died in the same crash that killed rookie driver Jeff Krasnoff.

Another track official was killed at the 1990 Vancouver Molson Indy when the car he was pushing on the track was rammed by another car.

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