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No more all-nighters for mechanics
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No more all-nighters for mechanics
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Dec 2010   |  10:08 pm GMT  |  66 comments

One of the features of this season was the Red Bull mechanics looking utterly exhausted as a result of working deep into the night before qualifying to fit new parts to the cars which arrived at all hours at the circuit.

The ‘go faster’ parts certainly made a difference and I’m sure that those mechanics have been catching up on sleep pretty much since they finished in Abu Dhabi, dreaming of what to spend their bonuses on.

Life will no longer be a blur for mechanics (Darren Heath)


But it’s not all like that. The mechanics at every team were stretched during a gruelling 19 race calendar and those working for the new teams had a really tough time in the early flyaway races, not least because there were fewer of them and they were trying to bed down unreliable new cars.

Well all of that is now a thing of the past as the FIA has issued its technical and sporting regulations following on from last Friday’s World Council meeting and forcing teams to leave the circuit for a minimum of six hours on Thursday and Friday nights is one of the eye catching changes.

Mechanics will be locked out of the track from midnight to 6am in territories where practice starts at 10am and from 1am to 7am where practice begins at 11am.

“However, each team will be permitted four individual exceptions to the above during a championship season,” according to the FIA edict.

With a 20 race calendar this is eminently sensible. There is real risk of burn out for F1′s hardest working and arguable most professional people – the mechanics.

Saturday nights aren’t affected because the cars are in parc ferme so most mechanics leave early evening after they’ve had something to eat.

There are also clarifications on driving etiquette picking up from some of the incidents last year and other detail changes to report. I’ll post an analysis of World Council decisions and the new regulations tomorrow.

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66 Comments
  1. Matt says:

    So we’ve traded the the stupid team orders rule for the dumb working hours for mechanics rule.

    I’d like to here one mechanic say he’d rather go home than find a tenth from a new part. Not to mention the first time a front runner is out of over time and stacks his car in FP1.

    1. Tim. says:

      It is NOT about a second off the lap…it is about SAFETY….tell me you get that please!

      1. Oliver N says:

        True, but with a curfew there maybe a danger that repairs or set up are rushed to make the deadline, which I would say presents as much of a risk to safety as tired mechanics at least having the time to do a more thorough job.

    2. Andy W says:

      tired people make mistakes….. simple reality.

      1. Érico says:

        If they can’t handle it, find an occupation elsewhere.

      2. Stefanos says:

        How many hours per day do you work..?

      3. Andy W says:

        Seriously? That’s your answer…. The regs state that the engineers must spend 6 hours away from the track (although they can skip that 4 times per season to account for rebuilds and problems) and you think thats unreasonable… because if they can’t hack being on their feet for upto 3 straight days….

        I think the idea is there to give these guys a few hours kip a night (lets face it after travelling to and from their hotels, food and washing they might be forced to get a whole 4 – 4.5 hours sleep…

  2. Nando says:

    Could end up being a bit unfair on one driver if his team-mate is consistently putting it in the wall in practice. Some teams with a clear no 1 driver might even chose not to fix a no 2 drivers car to preserve their night exemptions.

    1. Tim. says:

      Well…good time to stop writing off cars (VP) :)

  3. 0_0 says:

    F1 is more regulated than an American prison.

  4. Darren says:

    I wonder how long till a team gets kicked out of a hotel when the management find a group of their mechanics trying to put a gearbox back together in the hotel room at 3 o clock in the morning….

    1. DB says:

      Bwahahahahahahahaha!
      After that, the FIA will require that the mechanics be frisked when leaving the circuit to make sure they are not carrying parts!

    2. Jimchik says:

      Any rules against transporting a car off-sight on those days? And specifically, does the rule say that the mechanics have to have time off, or that they only have to get away from the track?

    3. kerek says:

      lol,

      Or perhaps they will create new ‘parc ferme’ where they would seal the mechanics in sleeping begs during the nights just to make sure…

    4. Darren says:

      Yes, in all seriousness though would there be a rule to stop that? I can see it now, a Red Bull mechanic leaving the circuit at night with a front wing stuffed up his shirt (its so flexible it can fold up you see ;)

  5. malcolm.strachan says:

    Good! They deserve a bit of a break!

    Also, I hope they redesign circuits to have 2-3 metres of grass (or slippery concrete) beyond the kerbing to ensure that running wide actually provides a penalty on the spot, somewhat akin to putting two wheels off at Spa or Suzuka in the old bits. The stewards will be busy assessing penalties during the races if the circuits stay as-is! Alonso would have had about fifteen 10-second penalties for the amount of times he ran wide in the final race! A little patch of grass would have made things much more interesting.

    1. Darren says:

      Yeah, you never see guys spinning off now and beaching themselves in the gravel. These big run off areas are no where near punishing enough. If you cut a chicane back then your penalty would be having to pit for new tyres and to empty your sidepods of gravel

  6. Robbiehooper says:

    Outstanding! The mechanics are the backbone of F1 and I think this ruling will go along way in supporting them.
    I did, however, have a question on overtaking. Surely, if they were to get rid of the rpm limiter then that would give a better opportunity to pass? I understand why its there (for cost on engine development) but it seems to be the most simplest way. How can we forget the turbo era in the 80′s when muscle overcame handling?

    1. Martin says:

      I don’t think removing the rpm limit will do much. If you took the maximum power at the moment, approximately 560 kW at 18000 rpm and assumed the engines could still achieve the same combustion efficiency at 20000 rpm then you’d get the same power boost as KERS had last year: 60 kW. With the rev limit increase what would happen is that every gear would be dropped in its ratio to increase the effective torque at the wheels. Based on optimised gearing for qualifying performance the top speed would go up 3 %. From this the gear ratio would about 7 % giving a 7.4% increase in torque.

      Because KERS is constant power, it could develop much greater additional torque levels than the rev range increase you propose. But if you think back, KERS only allowed passes in specific scenarios.

      I haven’t been able to find any good data on what the adjustable rear wing will achieve. Martin Brundle mentioned 60 kW of drag in one comment. However much it is, the effect will mostly be at high speeds. I suspect it may add about 20 km/h which is still only a car length every second. I think passing into turn 1 at Barcelona could happen.

      1. Ben says:

        Excellent stuff! Thanks

  7. Stuey says:

    It does seem they work all hours. These are the unsung heroes in Formula 1, putting in a lot of hard graft, what do the Teams and mechanics themselves think of this rule?

    How about a feature on the life of a mechanic? – what happens at race weekends, what they do between races and also in the off season? We know they are putting in a lot of hard work. It be interesting to get a view from one about how much!

  8. Spyros says:

    Any exceptions for drivers who wrote off a chassis?

    With the poor reliability of some of the smaller teams, this might create some hectic moments.

    1. James Allen says:

      Guess that’s what the four exceptions are for

      1. Tim. says:

        Those poor… poor …FOUR guys…..

      2. Stephen Pattenden says:

        “However, each team will be permitted four individual exceptions to the above during a championship season,”

        I think it’s individual occasions Tim; not individual people! :-)

      3. iceman says:

        I read that as four occasions, not four guys! It would be pretty harsh if they only let one guy back in to the circuit to try to change an engine by himself :)

  9. jonrob says:

    This is open to interpretation, does it mean 4 instances where the team can work all night? OR Four times when one guy is allowed in on his own? If the latter of course it will breach H$S rules. (in case he is injured)

    The new rule addition to 25.4e Sporting Regs seems laced with latent unfairness:

    “If the race is suspended and cannot be re-started, thirty seconds will be added to the elapsed time of any driver who was unable to use both specifications of dry-weather tyre during the race. However, any driver who completes the race without using both specifications of dry-weather tyre will be
    excluded from the race results.”

    1. DB says:

      I think I have the same doubt regarding the all-nighter limit: is it per team, per car/driver, per mechanic? Can a team have 8 all-nighters if they use only half their mechanics? Can they rotate their mechanics with those from HQ, for instance, so they have different people at different weekends? Can they just hire more people to rotate?

      As for the 25.4e rule, I see the point in having it, but the problem I see is that (as quoted) it does not provide for wet races in which the both-spec-use is not mandatory and therefore the penalty should not apply.

      Also, shortening dry races is extremely rare at best (can someone recal an instance, please?). Short of someone dying on the track or the 2h limit being reached for way too many SC interventions, both very unlikely, I can’t see how it can happen.

      Again, it doesn’t make sense in wet races.

      1. Nesto says:

        you guys are thinking too complicated. basically, they are allowed 4 instances to stay all night if they want. They just want to give the mechanics some proper rest and not have them constantly up all weekend working.

  10. Jo Torrent says:

    The idea is nice when it comes to RedBull mechanics having to put never ending new developments and removing them when they don’t bring the supposed enhancements.

    But what if you’re a Renault mechanic and you have a Petrov who destroy his car every now and then. Is Renault supposed to let the car remain the way it is. They have to rebuild it and the 6 hours might become precious.

    The rule should include an exception where the team mechanics might stay if one of they drivers destroy his car. Otherwise the rule is another sensible move in the right direction.

    1. Martin says:

      I believe you should replace Red Bull with McLaren. Red Bull had a much better success rate in terms of getting bits to work as they were almost always on the pace. The Red Bull problem will be taking the “we might DQ you bits that Charlie Whiting has only just seen off”.

  11. Adam Taylor says:

    James, is there a reason why they have not included the Saturday night as well or is it because the cars are typically in park ferme on that night

      1. Rob Haswell says:

        So what about when Petrov stacks it in qualli – basically out of the race? I bet Williams are going to regret dropping Hulk if this year’s rookies are anything to go by!

      2. iceman says:

        I guess they would be allowed to work all night then, since this new regulation only covers Friday night. The fact that they’d have to start from the pitlane probably already stops anyone from routinely doing an all-nighter on Saturday.

  12. Ashley Scott says:

    Oh for god’s sake! This is just getting ridiculous now.
    The way things are going, the FIA might as well put a rule in place for the cars to only have 3 wheels, twin exhaust pipes and no seat, because the driver has to push the car around the track!
    They just can’t leave the sport alone can they?
    So much for the pinnacle of motorsport… if you ask me, it is turning into the pinnacle of crap!
    Time for me to vote with my remote. No more formula 1 for me!
    Just goes to show how much the FIA,FOM and the manufacturers listen to what the fans want eh?
    Thanks for keeping me entertained for the last few years James, but I can hear the bells toll for formula 1 from here… can you?

  13. Laparel says:

    Isn’t this change unfair to the teams who that have fewer mechanics though?

    What are the mechanics’ thoughts on this rule?

  14. kaoru says:

    In my opinion, FIA should ban hand-carrying or air-expressing new performance parts to the circuit after the beginning of a FP1 for cost-cutting and equalisation of performance between teams.

    At Suzuka, for instance, Mclaren hand-carryed new spec rear-wing endplate by airplane and helicopter for Lewis to meet the deadline before the qualifying starting. However it was cancelled due to torrential rain and he didn’t use it on Sunday because of not enough testing it in dry sessions. Crazy.

    1. iceman says:

      That’s a pretty good idea I think. Fundamentally a nice simple rule that doesn’t seem artificial. What you turn up with on Thursday is what you race with.

  15. Abhi says:

    I’d hate to see a championship decided on the fact that mechanics weren’t able to work on a wrecked car after practice. Such a situation it’s not out of the realms of possibility either. What if Vettel or Webber had wrecked a car in the final three races and? The four exceptions probably have this situation covered, but still.

  16. Taylor says:

    I think it’s a good one. Mechanics do deserve some decent rest and also this will force the team to have better planned strategy since they have some limitation in time.

    How I hope that the refueling is back to F1.

    1. Martin says:

      Don’t hold you breath. The aim for 2013 is to dramatically increase the efficiency of the cars, and part of that will be some constraints on the input energy. Refuelling isn’t seen as green.

  17. Ben says:

    James, given that all of the teams bar Sauber are based in the EU, how have they been managing to get around the Working Time Directive anyway?

    1. Andy C says:

      Probably opted out. As an employee you can do do legally im pretty sure (I signed a form myself to do so in a previous role).

      1. Ben says:

        You can only opt out of the 48 hour maximum number of hours per week. You can’t sign an opt out of the other requirements of the Working Time Directive.

        If your employer got you to sign an opt out of your statutory break and rest periods then they have broken the law.

    2. Emile says:

      You can opt-out as the law currently stands.

    3. Mike says:

      Team memebers have to sign an opt out form on the working time directive.

      1. Ben says:

        You can only opt out of the 48 hour maximum number of hours per week. You can’t sign an opt out of the other requirements of the Working Time Directive.

        If the teams are getting their employees to sign an opt out of their statutory break and rest periods then they have broken the law.

  18. Andrew Turner says:

    Whats the penalty if they go over 4 instances ?

    The rule has been put in place for a reason, is it the result of mechanics being fed up working till the early hours of the morning knowing also the calander has been extended next year or is it to stop the teams fitting newly developed parts over a race weekend. Would like to hear the official explanation from the FIA on why this rule was introduced.

  19. Mark says:

    This seems like overkill to me. Just because the mechanics are not allowed in the pit complex does not mean they won’t work. If you’re dedicated (and which team isn’t?), you will work out a way around this. Some teams will ship tools and workshops to hotels, others may just have two mechanical teams – one in the pit and the other offsite, with parts transported into the pit area when it is “open”. If the FIA are trying to give mechanics a better nights sleep, they have probably just made their lives harder because they will now have to complete the work at two different locations. It’s like the government telling me I need to be in bed by 11pm. Huh?

  20. Jason says:

    As a Technical Innovation it will hurt some teams, for health and safety of the team members, it will be much better, but the problem will be, if there is a problem before and the mechanics will get booted out. With their commitment for excellence, the lack of sleep they will get due to the problem, could fear much greater for them. I know if I a mechanic I would be thinking, just let me fix it.

    P.S. Thanks for all the hard work you done for TenHD over the season James

  21. Warren says:

    If they are doing this, then they should allow some in season testing either before or after a GP weekend with reserve drivers. A big part of the reason the mechanics are working so many extra hours nowadays is because the teams are having to use GP weekends as test sessions for new parts.

    Or another alternative is to limit the number of new parts that teams may bring throughout the year. They don’t always work anyway and we’ve seen two examples in Ferrari (2009) and HRT (2010) finding performance by just understanding the car better because the mechanics have had more time to work with the same parts.

  22. zarooch says:

    does this time ban work for the night race of singapore?

  23. Mick Chan says:

    As some have commented before, teams may end up transporting parts or even entire cars off-site to work on them. James, has parc ferme been extended to Thursdays and Fridays to cover this possibility, and what are the mechanics’ thoughts on this?

  24. Érico says:

    If teams didn’t have to use race weekends as compact testing sessions going back and forth putting things on and off for comparision, the mechanics would most likely have a much easier time.

    The testing ban did not reduce costs, but it did reduce exposure and create problems during the GP weekends. FIA at its best and Todt has inherited a lot of its backwards thinking on this one.

  25. David says:

    James writes: “I’ll post an analysis of World Council decisions and the new regulations tomorrow.”

    Something I’m wondering: you hear time and again that the rear-view mirrors on F1 cars are almost useless. And yet there are now to be stiffer penalties more strictly enforced.

    Serious question: do the regulations include mandatory area-size for mirrors? Are there any technological developments to reduce “blind spots” for drivers?

    1. James Allen says:

      Good question, happy to oblige – Answer is yes, the reflective surface of the mirrors must be at least 150mm x 50mm. New regulation for 2011 regarding position of mirrors as follows: All parts of the rear view mirrors, including their housings and mountings, must be situated between 250mm and 500mm from the car centre line and between 550mm and 750mm from the rear edge of the cockpit entry template.

      1. David says:

        Many thanks, James.

        Seems it is a very small, simple but obvious area for development in the “safer, greener” F1 to come.

  26. Bec says:

    Reliability dramatically increases the less time mechanics have to fiddle with the car, parc ferme being a prime example.

  27. Lionel says:

    Any regulation as to how many cups of coffee a mechanic is allowed at race weekends.. How about the number of bananas and the shape of the said bananas. What about the length of facial hair they can keep?

  28. Stefanos says:

    James, could this rule be aiming to ensure that teams bring cars to the track that they reasonably expect will pass scrutineering, rather than flying too close to the wind, getting caught and having to change the car overnight (or not getting caught and getting away with e.g. flexi-wings for the entire season…)?

  29. CNSZU says:

    This is a hideous rule. It cannot be enforced. There’s no harm in staying up two nights in a row as long as you get plenty sleep at other times, which they do. It’s only hectic during a race weekend. The systems works perfect as it is, the employees are not forced to work overtime against their will. They do it for the team, there’s no need for the governing body to apply artificial working hours.

  30. Stone the Crows says:

    This is another ridiculous rule the efficacy of which will be challenged the day (er.. night) that a certain 2x WDC driving for a certain team (whose name need not be memtioned) splatters his car all over track and he misses quali because his engineers don’t have enough time to put everythig back together.

  31. part time viewer says:

    This is madness, i work in another field of car racing, and its the hours and resulting good pay that make the job worth doing, F1 mechs have a pretty easy life compaired to most other forms of motorsport, mainly down to their shear numbers.
    god forbid health and saftey getting to strong a hold on the world

  32. BMG says:

    It’s funny, I have always thought of F1 being a sport that will push the boundaries. F1 needs to have an over 50′ event because this rule will only benefit the mediocre teams and some of the old timers that keep holding on to past glories.

  33. er,go says:

    I’m pretty sure the mechanics don’t mind the all-nighters. It’s just part of the job. They get a kick out of telling the girls at the local during the off-season how many hours they work in exotic locations ( like pit lane in -insert track location- ).

    I think F1 is getting hellishly over-regulated. Soon we’ll have something akin to a public service where everything, including the right to extinguish the red lights, has to be submitted to a comittee for approval. Fair go.

    Things like overwork causing problems get sorted out on the job. Like in other fields. Only the strong survive. The weak leave bungs in cooling systems and are sacked.

    Formula One is becoming a place for softies. Come on, is there no place where hard work and pioneering spirit are respected?

    Where are the men with balls? Will the drivers be the next ones castrated by regulations? The engineers?

    In days gone by drivers were heros, but I think they will lose that status if we keep going in the direction of appeasement. When do we say it is safe enough, clean enough, relevant enough? Now I say.

    Let the mechanics work. They love it and are paid for it, so let them get on with it.

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