Formula 1 and MotoGP are among the best-known competitions and brands in the global world of sport today. Fair to say that most people are convinced that motorsports are male dominated. It might seem that way from the outside, but there are many important roles and positions fulfilled by women. María Herrera, Spanish MotoGp racer once said in an interview: “Being a woman you have to prove more than a man to make them trust you.”
Now, Csilla Felföldy, Hungarian protocol professional having been living in Spain for over 30 years gives us a real insider of what is really going on behind the scenes. Based on her nine years of experience working in the field of sport protocol she reveals some details never discussed before in order to get a glimpse of the high-visibility protocol events such as the award ceremonies where she not only meets the finalists but also the sport and the state protocol guests – usually the members of the Spanish Royal Family.
„The changing of the world regarding gender equality has reached the motorsport as well: gradually, not only the racing teams but also the staff of the World Championship’s organization (Dorna) have more women employed every year.
Needless to say, I am overjoyed to be part of such a prestigious event.
At the beginning of my professional career, one of my goals was to get formal education in the field of protocol. Protocol, in my view, gives you the confidence to make the right decisions during any type of event. I completed my Bachelors Degree in Protocol and I also achieved a degree in Organization of Sports Events. Upon completion of my studies, I was asked to join the XV. Mediterranean Games of Almería in 2005 to serve as Chief of Protocol during the Podium ceremonies of different sports, such as water polo, handball and weightlifting. This experience was the catalyst to become an expert in sport events.
Then Formula 1 arrived in Valencia. I got an invitation from one of my former students, the Chief of Protocol of the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, to work in the Grand Prix of Europe held in Valencia in 2012.
The Circuit Ricardo Tormo, also known as Circuit de Cheste, is a motorsport race track named after Ricardo Tormo, two-time world champion Grand Prix motorcycle racer,
The Circuit was in charge of organizing the protocol of the F1 GP Europe 2012.
This was the first time I had got acquainted with motorsports as a staff member and no longer as a spectator. And at the highest levels! It was an amazing experience making me realise my love for motorsports.
Now, I have been cooperating for 8 years with the Protocol Department of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo being in charge of managing protocol affairs. I can also proudly say that the protocol department has more female employees than male.
If you may, I would gladly share some of the organizational ‘secrets’ of this enormous sports show!
Since the GP in Valencia has taken place for over 21 years, there are many organizational aspects that are very well known by the protocol team. Though every year is different, there are elements that cannot be changed, e.g. the official awards ceremony.
However, during the GP weekend we organize many different, unique events each year.
Some of these include the signings ceremonies. These special side events may include a presentation of the CETDM (Specialized Sports Center for Training and High Performance Efficiency), a homage ceremony in honour of the 12+1 time Spanish World Champion, Ángel Nieto, or a naming ceremony of a curve. During these events, several dignitaries are present both from state and regional level as well as sports leaders and World Champion riders and other stars and celebrities over the years: Freddie Spencer, the North-American motorbike legend, Michael Jordan and Keanu Reeves are famous bike lovers.
Sunday always kick off with the official welcome ceremony of the dignitaries where the President and the Minister of Sports of the Valencian Government, the Mayor of Cheste and members of the Spanish Government are present. In Spain there is a Royal Decree (2099/1983) that determines the precedence of the Spanish Dignitaries. According to this, females are not given any priority because what matters is the position that the person occupies. But Valencia Region has its own decree (235/1999), too, on the precedence of the Valencian Dignitaries. Since it is a private sports event, we usually alternate the different protocol lists mixing civil and sports dignitaries. The protocol team works diligently behind the scenes whilst VIP guests enjoy the event from the VIP area where brief meetings may be held upon their request.
But the most spectacular part is by no doubt the award ceremony!
The protocol team carries an extremely high responsibility to ensure smooth and flawless experience for all concerned parties: finalists, dignitaries, media representatives, photographers etc.
This is how we do it: all trophies, flags and the national anthems have to be prepared and checked prior to GP start. Riders must be provided with towels and water for the Podium ceremony. Before the podium ceremony starts, flags should are to be hoisted in a preset (usually vertical) format I am responsible for. There is always some stage panic to be expected but in the end it is well managed.
When all is prepared, the podium becomes a ‘female territory’ since all staff members are women. The ceremony is orchestrated by Dorna’s Master of Ceremonies and the Chief of Protocol of the Circuit, both women.
The trophies are always presented in strict order: winning constructor, third place, second place and winner. The national anthem of the winner is then played, the official photo session begins and the Prosecco sprays all over the podium. All of this is completed in less than 5 minutes! We have to move on quickly for the next category to come.
As a women in a men dominated world I realised that I can always rely on my soft skills in this multitask-based position: flexibility, ability to improvise and resolve unforeseen issues, being able to manage stressful situations of great responsibility, dealing with high-dignitaries… they altogether can be rather difficult at times but have been rewarding and my love for both sports and protocol always compensate me.
And maybe I will have the opportunity to come back and share my professional experience in Hungary as a new circuit will be built with construction expected to begin in the second quarter of 2021.
„The contract for Hungarian MotoGP race, which will be held for ten years starting 2023 on the newly constructed track near Hajdúnánás, was signed at the Innovációs és Technológia Minisztérium (Ministry of National Innovation and Technology) on Thursday morning.
The contract was signed by Carmelo Ezpeleta, president of Dorna Sports, commercial rights holder of MotoGP, and József Pacza, managing director of Kelet-Magyarországi Versenypálya Kft. (Eastern Hungary Racetrack Ltd). Dorna has come to the meeting with a complete delegation.
Dorna has been organizing the Grand Prix for 30 years without interruption, and it is interesting that in its first year in 1992, the series also visited Hungary, just could not root here,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta. “In 2018, the possibility of a Hungarian race was again in talks which we were very happy about. We thank the Hungarian government, Minister Palkovics and everyone who made this contract signing possible. It is an important step in MotoGP’s history. We are proud that that a Grand Prix will also be held in Hungary from 2023. This will bring prosperity not only from a sporting, but also from an economic point of view. I can promise you that the Hungarian Grand Prix will be a very important race in the world championship series.”