It’s time for a very special feature on an intriguing part of Formula 1. And that is scrutineering and Parc Fermé in Formula 1. Formula 1 is a motorsport with complex regulations. The FIA, which is a sports association that is the governing body of a large number of motorsports, set the Formula 1 regulations. The FIA have split the F1 Regulations into 4 categories. There are the Technical Regulations, Sporting Regulations, Financial Regulations, and Related Regulations.
Scrutineering and parc fermé regulations are part of the Technical Regulations category. A lot of F1 fans know that parc fermé is something related to the technical regulations. It’s something that must be strictly adhered to because whether it’s qualifying or the race, the session is over but the results are not fully confirmed until a couple of hours after the race.
The scrutineers have to examine and scrutinize the cars. The FIA Technical team to make sure the cars comply with the parc fermé rules. After that happens, the stewards confirm the final classification. Recently, at the 2021 British GP, Sprint Qualifying took place for the first time. With a new weekend format came special parc fermé regulations. I’ve covered that in my news roundup about Sprint Qualifying.
This blog post talks about parc fermé in a little bit more detail. There are 3 aspects of parc fermé that I’ll cover in this post. The physical parc fermé, parc fermé conditions, and how scrutineering is part of the parc fermé process. It’s fairly complex, but I’ve broken it down and structured it so that you guys can understand what this intriguing set of regulations is all about.
Both existing F1 fans and new F1 fans alike can read and understand this post. After reading this, you will have a better understanding of one of the most important processes that take place behind the scenes in F1. Hope you enjoy this post, and be sure to follow F1ntastic on social media and share this post!
What Are Parc Fermé and Parc Fermé Conditions?
Parc fermé is French for “closed park”, which is exactly how it is applied in Formula 1. The physical Parc Fermé is essentially a car park for Formula 1 cars; it’s where the cars are parked after qualifying and the race. The parc fermé area is a restricted area of the paddock that is sectioned off. It’s usually at the beginning of the pitlane and directly under the podium.
At the end of the slow down lap after the race, the drivers drive into the pitlane and park in the parc fermé area. When the cars are in this restricted area, the F1 teams no longer own the cars, and no member of the teams can touch the cars. A team member can only touch the car when being tightly supervised by the race stewards.
Whether it’s qualifying or the race, the stewards don’t confirm the results until a couple of hours after the session. The cars have to be examined and scrutineered by the scrutineers and the FIA Technical team to make sure they comply with the parc fermé rules and the FIA Technical and Sporting Regulations. After the race, the podium finishers’ cars are in a separate fenced area from the rest of the cars. Both areas are fenced off and protected so that no changes can be made to the car after the race.
But why do the cars have to be kept under such strict conditions when they’re in the parc fermé area? Well, this is because the cars are under parc fermé conditions. These parc fermé rules exist for two main reasons. First, to “check the cars fit general conformity with the Technical and Sporting Regulations”. And secondly, to “ensure that in each case the car which is scrutineered, qualified and raced is one and the same”.
All 20 F1 cars will enter parc fermé conditions as soon as they leave the pitlane for the first time in Qualifying 1. The cars are no longer under parc fermé conditions once the race has started. If a car doesn’t leave the pitlane during Q1, they enter parc fermé conditions once the chequered flag is shown for the end of Q1.
During parc fermé conditions, the teams and the mechanics can only perform certain work on the car. But obviously, this work cannot be carried out when the car is covered and sealed for the night before the race. Now I will explain in detail what type of work the teams can do on the car when the car is under parc ferme conditions.
Of course, there are the required tasks, such as turning on the engine and adding and removing fuel. Mechanics can also remove, rebalance or change, the tires, wheels and wheel fasteners. They can check but not change the tire pressures under parc fermé conditions. There are many other things permitted related to the cooling system and the fluids and compressed gases in the car. Mechanics can perform tasks like cleaning the car, adding tape to the car, and making cosmetic changes to the bodywork.
But changes that the FIA don’t permit include changes to the aerodynamic and suspension setups of the car. These setups can seriously affect the performance of the car. If the FIA would allow the teams to change the aero and suspension setups of the car, F1 wouldn’t be as fair. The margins between teams would expand significantly and the sport would change completely. Also, the teams can’t change or replace components on the car unless the replacement part is of the identical specification to the part being replaced. The design of the replacement must be the same, while the mass and function must be similar to the original.
And as mentioned earlier certain work can be done on the car and certain things can be changed under parc fermé conditions. Teams can obviously repair damaged parts under parc fermé conditions. And lastly, one of the most important rules is that teams can change the aerodynamic setup of the front wing using the existing parts that were already fitted to the front wing. There are other changes that the teams can make for safety purposes as well.
Teams can send requests to perform work that is not permitted by default during parc fermé conditions. The FIA Technical delegate must approve a written request from the team concerned with the request. If certain changes are to be made under parc fermé conditions during the qualifying session, then there is no time for the technical delegate to approve that change. That’s why teams can make those changes if and only if they are certain that they would’ve received approval if there was time to send a proper request.
3 and a half hours after the end of qualifying, the cars are sealed. All parts used for qualifying must be re-fitted to the cars before the cars are sealed. But the wheels can be placed beside the car if they aren’t attached. 5 hours and 10 minutes before the start of the race, the seals can be removed. But parc fermé conditions still apply, and only certain allowed tasks can be performed on the cars. As I mentioned earlier, the parc fermé conditions end when the race starts. But some rules still apply for what can be changed during the race.
With the exception of compressed gases, no substances can be added to the car. Parts that need replacing must be replaced by parts that do not weigh more than the original part on the car. Also, the teams can make changes to cooling and heating devices and make changes for driver comfort. The mechanics can also make changes to the radiator ducts and the air ducts around the brakes. Changing the wheels and tires, repairing genuine accident damage, and of course, starting the engine and preparing for the starting of the engine are all permitted. And lastly, the aero setup of the front wing can be adjusted during the race. However, the mechanics can only use the existing parts on the front wing to make those adjustments.
Post-race checks take place to make sure that the cars adhered to the parc fermé and other applicable rules. The checks also make sure the fuel, oil, and software used in the car are all conforming to the rules. The oil and fuel checks are done in a laboratory after the samples have been collected. Software validation is done separately. Along with that, the cars and drivers are weighed after the race. The cars are weighed on a weighbridge like the one in the image above. These post-race checks can only take place once the 3 podium finishers have been taken to the cool-down room, just before the podium ceremony.
But who are the people that check the cars and make sure they comply with the rules? Who are the people that stay in the team garages and keep track of the work the mechanics do? Who are the people that enforce the FIA regulations? Those people are the FIA scrutineers, and here’s a proper explanation of why parc ferme will not work at all without scrutineers.
What Scrutineering is and how it’s a Huge Part of Parc Fermé
As I briefly mentioned earlier, the scrutineers and the FIA Technical Team make sure that the cars are complying with the rules. Scrutineering is the FIA’s way of enforcing the parc ferme rules. Scrutineers are vigilant and attentive, and play a key role in making sure F1 is a fair sport. This personnel are mostly people living in the country where the races are taking place. So each race has different scrutineers and a different Chief Scrutineer. The FIA Technical Delegate remains the same for all of the races.
First, we’ll see how many personnel are required to be present at an F1 race, and what their jobs are. Then, we’ll take a deeper look into scrutineering and what exactly the scrutineers and the FIA Technical team do, and how they carry out those all-important tasks.
First of all, there are ten main garage scrutineers, with one spare scrutineer. There are eleven tire checkers as well, and they’re there to make sure that the teams are using the correct tire sets. I’ll explain more about the tire checkers later in this post. There are also 5 weighing platform scrutineers, and finally, one chief scrutineer. The processes that are under the scrutineering umbrella take place during and after F1 sessions. Initial scrutineering, which took place before the F1 race weekend began, no longer takes place in Formula 1.
Each of these members of personnel has a vital job. Starting with the garage scrutineers, they are the scrutineers who make sure that the teams only carry out the tasks on the car that the FIA have allowed them to. The FIA give scrutineers sheets to record which tasks the teams carry out on the car. A garage can get really busy, especially during qualifying, which makes garage scrutineering a difficult job. Keeping track of each and every task carried out on the car during a busy quali session is no mean feat!
Next are the tire checkers. Tire checking is also part of the scrutineering process. Tire checking is there to ensure that the teams are following the tire rules that the FIA set. Each set of tires have a certain barcode, which the tire checkers can use a tire scanner to verify. If the tire scanner shows a mixed set or any other issues, the tire checkers report the issue to the FIA. The same goes for the garage scrutineers; they must report any anomalies to the FIA. The tire checkers also operate in the garages alongside the scrutineers.
The weighing platform scrutineers are in charge of weighing the cars during and after the sessions throughout the weekend. They make sure that the cars aren’t lighter than the minimum weight. The minimum weight of F1 cars has been increasing year by year. This year, it’s 752KG, but the minimum weight for next year’s cars is a hefty 790KG.
The teams will constantly be trying to make their cars as light as the FIA allows them to because a lighter car is a faster car. Less weight means easier acceleration and higher cornering speeds. The weighing platform scrutineers also assemble the weighing platform in the parc ferme area to weigh the cars during practise and qualifying sessions. Let me know in the comments below if you want to read a post about cars being weighed at random during the weekend!
On top of that are the Chief Scrutineer and the FIA Technical Delegate. The Chief Scrutineer is the person who is in charge of the meetings and briefings that take place among the scrutineering personnel. A Chief Scrutineer often has a lot of experience as a scrutineer. They would be more than familiar with the rules and scrutineering processes. And lastly, there is Jo Bauer, who is the FIA Technical Delegate. There’s always one FIA Technical Delegate who keeps the same role at every race. He heads the team of FIA and local scrutineers to ensure that the cars are complying with the rules. He’s the head of the entire thing. As I mentioned earlier, he also approves any of the teams’ requests to change any parts on the cars during parc ferme conditions.
As you can see, scrutineering and ensuring that F1 cars are legal is a huge operation. There are many staff involved that work tirelessly to ensure that Formula 1 is a fair sport. These are the people who work behind the scenes. A majority of F1 fans aren’t aware of the hard work that the FIA and their personnel do to make Formula 1 the wonderful sport it is and to keep it that way. That’s why I decided to write this post. I wanted to write about parc ferme, a major part of Formula 1. And I wanted to write about the whole scrutineering operation, and how it’s vital for the sport. Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!