This weekend there has been a lot of confusion in the paddock as a few teams have been caught out by the strange hours at the Singapore circuit and marketing staff have violated the curfew, by coming into the track too early.
Red Bull, Mercedes and Virgin all had staff inside the paddock during hours when it was off limits to team personnel, as prescribed by the FIA.
The idea of the curfew came in when race teams went down to 47 people per team working on the car. It was to stop those 47 people working all nighters during a Grand Prix weekend and to give the FIA observers clear times when they could leave the track and rest.
Some teams were under the impression that this did not include marketing staff, but when I spoke to FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting about this on Saturday, he said that nothing has changed since the start of the season and it includes everybody except cleaners.
His view is that if the curfew did not include everyone, marketing staff could be inside the circuit doing work on the car,in contact with engineers and mechanics by phone. This being F1 you can imagine some extreme scenarios.
Many people will scoff at this, but I’ve known technical people in F1 who changed to become marketing staff, account managers looking after sponsors. And to get an edge its conceivable that teams might employ one of two such people “just in case”, anything is possible in this sport.
Ross Brawn’s Mercedes team was one which hadn’t realised the curfew applied to marketing people,
“We have the crew of 47, which includes engineers and the various people working on the car, and the reason for the curfew was to make sure that that team, once it was reduced in size, did not get overworked.
“We didn’t want to have a situation where that crew worked for a solid 48 hours because of course, if you constrict the size of the team and you don’t change the workload, then all you do is work longer hours.
“I think the curfew has worked very well. Everybody’s understanding was that it applies to the 47 people, which is a list that is generated and everybody knows who they are and they were people who abide by the curfew.
“In our case, a couple of our marketing commercial girls came to meet some guests at 3.30pm rather than 4pm and broke the curfew, so that is something that we need to discuss with the FIA to tidy up. I cannot quite see an objective in having a curfew for marketing staff. It is something that does need tidying up; I think it is just a misunderstanding.”
Another story concerned Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost, who was in such a hurry to get into the track on Friday, he didn’t notice the queue of staff waiting at the paddock entrance for the curfew to end, went to the front of the queue and entered, using up one of his team’s four allowed curfew busts.
Red Bull has now used up three of its allowed busts and will hope that it doesn’t have any genuine dramas between now and the end of the season, like the one it had in Monza on Mark Webber’s car.