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FIA parc ferme relies on Big Brother camera technology
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Mar 2010   |  2:52 am GMT  |  57 comments

The parc ferme rules in F1 are an important part of the ritual of a race weekend.

From the moment qualifying starts on Saturday to the moment the cars go to the grid on Sunday, they are in parc ferme conditions, which means that no work or modifications can be done on the cars without FIA approval. It’s great for the mechanics, who get a guaranteed evening off, especially welcome at this time of the year. In Bahrain many teams did all-nighters on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.


After qualifying the cars used to be handed over to the FIA and stored overnight in a garage to ensure that no-one tinkered with the cars. Now with an expanded grid of 24 cars, that solution isn’t so practical and so this season the FIA has introduced overhead spy cameras to watch over the cars in their own team garages overnight.

The cameras have two settings:

“In ‘normal’ mode, which is started at the beginning of qualifying, cameras are accessible by FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer; after qualifying the cameras switch to ‘night’ mode, and are configured to view the entire car and detect any movement in its immediate vicinity, ” according to the FIA. “Once qualifying is complete and the cars are returned to their pits, they are covered, sealed with a tamper-proof fastener and placed under camera surveillance. A security guard watches the camera feeds from all garages and alerts the technical team to any untoward activity.”

The camera’s output is recorded digitally.

There is also a security benefit for the teams. There hasn’t been a break in for quite a few years but in Montreal once Minardi had steering wheels and lap tops stolen and there has been the odd bit of sabotage in the dim and distant past..

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57 Comments
  1. mongo says:

    great solution and would’nt hurt the FIA to add a little live feed of all cams on there website gives that little xtra to the fans

    1. That would be scintillating viewing wouldn’t it? An unchanging view of a car covered in a sheet for 12 hours. I can really see people tuning in for that.

      What a waste of resources that would be.

      1. niceguyrichy says:

        i dunno, they spent years putting a live feed of the actual Big Brother on all night long, why not watch cars covered by sheets instead of people covered by sheets.. ? :D

      2. KNF says:

        Well, people do watch live feeds of cheese aging, don’t they?

      3. Chris H says:

        We all watched Bahrain didn’t we? Show me the difference!!!

    2. Ben says:

      Yes, riveting viewing, I’m sure.

      But great post James, appreciate all of these technical insights that don’t get reported in other places.

    3. Rusty0256 says:

      Absolutely.

      It might even be more exciting than watching the race.

      1. Scribe says:

        Pretty obvious that he ment during quali an build up.

    4. Seriously??

      Mate, there’s a line, which some of us get closer to than others. Staying up all night on the internet watching a stationery car under covers for 20 hours… I think you may have tripped over that line my friend.

  2. Marc Paston says:

    James,
    Why aren’t teams allowed to work on their cars between qualifying and the race?

    1. James Allen says:

      To save endless tinkering and prevent people having a “quali car” and a different “race car”. It’s a rule which came in a few years ago and has been very successful. The mechanics love it!

      1. Oliver Neilson says:

        On a wider point, what was so wrong with having a quali car anyway. My personal favourite memories of F1 were watching Senna in 86&87 qualifying in the turbo charged Lotus Renault, super sticky tyres, unlimited turbo boost, and an engine that blew itself up after the session had finished. I haven’t seen a spectacle to touch it since.

        Presumably it’s all down to cost saving.

      2. Marc Paston says:

        Endless tinkering? The kid with the soap box racer at the top of the hill is doing that. This is Formula 1.

        Make life easier for mechanics? You think Armstrong’s mechanic goes to bed before he’s prepped Lance’s bike for the next day’s stage? He considers it a privilege and understands there are twenty guys lined up behind him who want to do it.

        Different race and qualifying cars? They’re limited to 8 engines and there’s an engine development freeze on anyway. Qualify the engine/chassis or start from the back.

        No, I’m talking about engineers having to hedge their bets on things like ride heights and wing settings because the weather report says there _might_ be showers. The teenagers and their dads at the local karting circuit look more professional.

        It’s all these little things that rob F1 of its purity and credibility. Mandatory pitstops wouldn’t surprise me. That’s probably next.

        This year the teams made sure their stars were aligned and the drivers have done their part too. If it doesn’t turn out to be a great season then I think the organizers need to do some soul-searching here because it’ll be them who have squandered it. Prepare the stage and get out of the actors’ way I say.

  3. fausta says:

    Thank you James for this interesting insight. This is an area of the sport we only hear about.

  4. bones says:

    Great article James,this is why your web is the best,we do not like to go 1000′s of times over the same interview,you talk about cool and important things related to F1.
    Thanks

  5. Bob says:

    And yet we still can’t HD feeds to the fans…

    1. Kedar says:

      May be the spy cam vids are HD!!

  6. Nadeem Zreikat says:

    Again James great article. A side of F1 us fans are always interested in. Something different. Looking forward to you work with One HD this weekend.

  7. Red5 says:

    The minimum weight rule is well known to most fans.

    Are there any other key rules and regulations that are checked over the course of the weekend in the weigh bridge?

    I was wondering if the FIA has someting like a checklist for potential rule bending…

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll have something on this soon

      1. Martin B says:

        On the ball as ever James!

        Another excellent article. I really enjoy how you keep us up to date with the things that no one else would think about and you make it interesting.

        I would have still thought they all went into a locked garage.

        One comment above mentioned the lack of HD broadcasting. You’d think Bernie would have thought about it, surely? Many people have HD TV’s now and other sports (football, cricket), look great in HD. I’m sure F1 would look brilliant.

      2. James Allen says:

        He wants to wait until all the broadcasters are willing to pay for it

      3. jocker12 says:

        so, if they don’t pay, F1 it’s going to stay in analog 4:3 or digital 360p… clever, very clever…definitely bernie cares about f1 fans, tv viewers and business… ohh, I forgot… he has a good sense of English humor…

      4. Phil C says:

        I’ve heard they’ll be filming some races in HD this year as a trial, to offer to broadcasters in 2011

      5. Pat says:

        Quite a blinkered point of view of Bernie’s really – He needs to think a little about the advertisers who spend small fortunes in filming their ads with top notch equipment of film making standard who then pay the TV companies huge fortunes to advertise in the breaks who then pay Bernie.

      6. MarkA says:

        Indeed, the worlds most technologically advanced motorsport, many many years behind NASCAR broadcasting standards.

      7. Mike400 says:

        That would be great – I would love some insight into what the FIA “checkers” go through on a race weekend, what they look for, how they monitor the teams etc

        also off topic – whats the story with filming races in HD? seems for such a technology rich sport Bernie is missing a trick?

        oh and great website by the way, I like your writing style – informed, intelligent analysis and not the same old copy and paste stuff we see nearly everywhere else. keep up the good work!

  8. Johnnyboy says:

    James, you say that “From the moment qualifying starts on Saturday to the moment the cars go to the grid on Sunday, they are in parc ferme conditions”

    Are adjustments allowed DURING qualifying? eg suspension or wing adjustments. We often see drivers making a pit stop to change tyres, especially in Q3.

  9. Dave Bird says:

    James,

    Have the rules changed this season regards penalties for engine changes? At the last race in Bahrain both the Ferrari’s had their engine changed and this was mentioned by the BBC team, but there was no kind of penalty given out?

    Has the rules changed on this or did I miss something?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes. You only get a penalty if you change engines twice in a season and when you use your ninth engine

      1. Phil C says:

        Sorry James bit confused – How do you mean twice in a season?

        Obviously the allocation is eight engines, but I thought the teams could use these eight as they wished – a la Red Bull last year, putting months old engines into Vettel’s car for practise, before implanting the healthier newer powerplant for the race.

        Also, will the team get a penalty if they have to use a 10th engine?

        With the longer season this year, I can see a few teams taking a hit later on.

      2. Chris H says:

        I presume James meant to say twice in a session?

      3. Phil C says:

        I got bored and read the FIA Sporting Regulations for Formula 1

        Article 28.4a states that a penalty of 10 grid places will occur when a driver changes to their ninth engine.

        subsequently, should the driver require a 10th engine, another 10 place penalty will occur at the event in which this engine is used.

        Should the ninth and 10th engines be used in the same event, a 10 place grid penalty will occur at the race where the engines are changed, and at the following race.

        However if the teams change an engine in Parc Ferme after Qualifying, that engine cannot be used until the final race of the season (Article 28.4e)

        So I believe the teams can use the engines however they like, as long as they don’t use over their allocation of eight engines?

        I can see the new teams using more than eight this season!

  10. rpaco says:

    So did the FIA use RFID to record all tyres used in Q3? or did they just rely on the teams putting the right tyres on for the race?

  11. Thalasa says:

    One question, James: Do the teams themselves have access to the CCTV images, or is only the security guard?

    As you can see, I rather trust in God (who doesn’t exist) than in the FIA. :)

  12. Ben G says:

    Blimey, who were the saboteurs? Sounds intriguing…

    1. Seisteve says:

      James,

      This is perhaps a great topic for the off season or one of those three week breaks during the season, maybe after the Chinese Grandprix… no names but some of the great sabotage rumours/stories from the last few years…

      Could also include great moments of one-oneupmanship a little like the Ferrari wheels that no one can copy because they are frozen which is why they didn’t see light of day until the last test…

    2. juan says:

      I distinctly remember Alonso’s McLaren getting crushed at the 07 Bahrain GP in parc ferme, also Stepney putting the mysterious white powder in the Ferrari’s fuel tank in Monaco 07.

    3. NikiTheRat says:

      In Phoenix in 1991, the Leyton House mechanics returned to their garage for Saturday qualifying to find that wiring looms and brake lines had been cut in the night.

  13. David Jerromes says:

    An interesting use of technology that both enforces the regulations and allows the hard-working mechanics a much deserved break.

    However, personally I’d love for teams to be able to further fettle their charges before the race…, but realise the regulation has been in place for some years now.

    A good article James, thanks.

  14. smellystudent says:

    Tales of sabotage?

    *raises eyebrow*

    I’d be very interested to hear of such things.

    1. Phil C says:

      I remember The Sun running a story in 1996 that Damon Hill’s Williams was sabotaged prior to the Spanish GP that year – his wing settings were changed and he was unable to drive on the wet track.

      Of course I think the sabotage stories actually ended quite a bit further back than the 90′s, or the 80′s

    2. Hagar says:

      Before everything got so commercial a certain green / black & gold team was well known for nocturnal visits to other team’s garages, as well as filling special tanks on their cars with water to have the right weight at the start, before disposing of the water on the parade lap. Not that any of the current teams would do such a thing ….

    3. Zobra Wambleska says:

      I know back in the 60s and 70s it was common for non red cars to suffer mechanical gremlins at Monza when they had been fairly reliable everywhere else.

  15. Nicollers says:

    This is classic. Sounds like Mission Impossible or Ocean’s Eleven! I can picture Ron Dennis absailing down, Tom Cruise style, donned in black and balaclava into the McLaren garage whilst Whitmarsh takes out the security guards.

    Or Dominicalli arranging a fake Ferrari garage, and then hooking up the live-feed to the FIA security guards, whilst his team set to work on the park ferméed cars!

    1. David Jerromes says:

      Like it!!!

      I was only thinking the same thing!!! 8-)

  16. Rusty0256 says:

    Just like the hermetically sealed bubble that Bernie exists under.

    Apparenty brilliant for preservation and keeping you seperate and secure from the rest of the World.

    1. rpaco says:

      “Just like the hermetically sealed bubble that Bernie exists under.”
      I think it’s the thick layer of money that does that. ;-)

  17. russ parkin says:

    ha bet the cameras dont pick up the colour red though so stef and luca can adjust the ferrari as needed.

  18. NigelF says:

    I seem to remember a gantry mysteriously collapsing on a Mclaren car at a Grand Prix overnight in parc ferme. I can’t remember the track/year although bahrain seems to ring a bell?

  19. Seisteve says:

    Great site James, love the insight (on the site!!!) and am sure the visitor numbers are climbing into space as the season starts.

  20. Bill Day says:

    I too would like to hear about these goings-on from the dim and distant past….

  21. luc says:

    James, can you elaborate a bit on the “odd bit of sabotage in the dim and distant past” that you mentioned? Sounds intriguing.

    1. James Allen says:

      In 1991 Leyton House had their garage broken into and the car was tampered with

  22. rpaco says:

    “Just like the hermetically sealed bubble that Bernie exists under.” That’s a thick layer of money and bodyguards. ;-)

  23. CS says:

    At the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was excluded from Qualifying Session because he did not make it to Parc fermé. Was it Valencia – European Grand Prix, where Alonso also stopped when he won the race – also not making it to Parc ferme but he got to keep his points and win. Kindly explain to me the difference or rather different use of the rules here

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