IN light of the tragedy that befell Sepang International Circuit at the MotoGP last October, the organizers in collaboration with the Malaysian Formula One Medical Services (F1MS) have stepped up their efforts in hopes of preparing for any eventuality on the race track during the Formula One PETRONAS Malaysia Grand Prix on the 23rd to 25th March.
Earning high praises from International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) for its handling of the Marco Simoncelli incident, the F1MS headed by Major General Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Zin Bidin, have been a backbone of the organisation of F1 since the circuit was first established in 1999.
They are the unsung heroes who ensure the smooth running of Malaysia’s premier single seater race, serving the needs of the public in times of distress and more importantly, is the difference between the life and death of the driver on the track.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Colonel (Dr) Mohammad Razin Kamarulzaman sheds some light on the workings of the F1MS which have gained in prominence due to the increasing risks of danger posed by motorsports.
“Basically the medical coverage consists of track medical services – riders, pit crew and marshals and the public medical service,
“For the track medical service, we will be here at the track medical centre from 20th March until race day.
Meanwhile at the track medical centre, we have a group comprising of 2 anaesthetist, 1 general surgeon, 1 burns specialist, 1 neurosurgeon, 1 orthopaedic surgeon, 1 emergency physician, 1 radiologist, 2 flight surgeon team and 2 helicopters on standby,” said Razin when met at the opening day of SIC’s track medical team training at the circuit’s medical center last Friday.
“On the track side, there are 5 medical intervention cars manned by specialists in airway management, 4 small medical car with clinical specialists, 11 ambulances and 3 extrication teams he added.
“For the public medical team, the team will be stationed at the Mall Area from (23rd March) Friday.
“Operations will be up and running on 24th and 25th March and there will be one clinic and 3 mobile teams stationed there. There will be 3 physicians catering to 20 beds at one time.
“For the hillside, we have physicians stationed at 7 outposts.
The 3 day training which ended on Sunday will focus on enhancing and strengthening the competency of the F1MS with the emphasis being on pre-hospital care, special training for the trackside medical team focusing on airway management and extrication techniques in removing drivers from horrific car crashes.
Lt Col (Dr) Saravanan Annamalai who is head of training and extrication for motorsports explains that the ability to extricate the driver from the car in less than 5 minutes is the key to increasing the chances of the driver’s survival in life or death situations.
“During this 3 day training, we will be training 3 teams with each team comprising of 6 members. Each team will have 1 doctor and a driver doubling up as a paramedic. This is in accordance with FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) ruling.
“They have been training in a real F1 car and will be assessed by the FIA Medical delegate on the 22nd March (Thursday) during the race week.
“In real life, the procedure will take less than 5 minutes as they will need to cut the seat belt and cut up the doors. This is not allowed in training as we do not want to damage the car.
“My team are well trained as they have undergone training for more than 100 times. This team comprises of only military personnel as this procedure requires a chain of command,” added Saravanan who began his involvement in motorsports safety in 2001.
Comprising of 50 doctors and 170 paramedics from the Armed Forces, Ministry of Health, university hospitals and individual practitioners, the EMT will follow a specific standard operating procedure in ensuring everything runs at clockwork during Race Day.
From left, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Colonel (Dr) Mohammad Razin Kamarulzaman; Major Shahidah Leong, Secretariat Medical Team, Training program volunteer, Dr Sharifah Fetom Syed Ali; Head of Training And Extrication, Lt Col (Dr) Saravanan Annamalai
“In the event of an accident, the first medical responder at the nearest post will respond to the emergency and will notify the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), describing in detail about the accident,” said Razin.
“Depending on the severity of the accident, the CMO will then deploy the appropriate medical team. This can only proceed upon the running of a safety car or a red flag.
“If the drivers encounter breathing difficulties, medical intervention car will be called upon. The driver will be extricated and given necessary assistance.
“He will then be transferred to an ambulance to the Track Medical Centre within a stipulated time. He will be assessed and stabilized and if the situation is required, airlifted with a flight surgeon to a designated hospital which is HUKM (Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia), Cheras or HKL (Hospital Kuala Lumpur),” added Razin who has been assisting SIC’s F1MS team since 2001.
Sepang International Circuit Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Razlan Razali hailed the contribution of these medical personnel as ‘unsung heroes’ who put their lives at risk every day for the safety of the drivers and public.
“These dedicated people work day and night in ensuring the safety of all the people involved in the Formula One race. I really salute and admire their dedication and selflessness in performing their duties during race week.
“Without them, there is no F1, and they surely deserve the title of unsung heroes of F1 Malaysia. No amount of money can repay the good deeds they have done for SIC and for our nation.
“I would like to record my deepest appreciation and thanks to the wonderful job they have done for SIC since 1999,” added Razlan.
Razlan also urged the fans to quickly snap up their tickets in anticipation of the ‘hottest’ race in the world, the Formula One PETRONAS Malaysia Grand Prix on the 23rd to 25th March.
As in 2011, fans are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets early because seat selection will not be allowed during the ticket sales on the 23rd to 25th March in the interest of serving the larger crowd of patrons present at the circuit grounds.
Fans should not miss the opportunity to catch current champion, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) duelling with former champions, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes), Fernando Alonso (Scuderia Ferrari), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team) and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus F1 Team).
2007 world champion, Raikkonen will be making a comeback with the Lotus F1 Team after a 2 year hiatus competing in the World Rally Championship. Raikkonen has previously been in negotiations with Williams before joining Lotus.
Watch the extrication procedure video demonstration.