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Behind The row over curfews
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Sep 2011   |  4:34 am GMT  |  25 comments

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.

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25 Comments
  1. jpinx says:

    We will see some very highly qualified “cleaners” soon maybe ;)

    1. bearforce1 says:

      Exactly. What is the difference between cross trained marketing staff/engineers and cross trained cleaners/engineers.

      Unococ below is right just “parc ferme” – work ban during the rest period.

    2. wayne says:

      There is no sport in the world where the participants spend more time trying to circumvent the rules than F1. There is no such thing as the ‘spirit’ of the rules in F1, none at all. And that is not a good thing in my opinion. Too much money and to few participants is the root cause of most of F1′s evils I think.

  2. unococ says:

    Why not just chuck the cars under ‘parc ferme’ conditions during the so called ‘rest period’. That way it doesn’t matter who is in or out of the paddock because the cars can’t be touched.

    1. Jack says:

      i suppose it depends what you define as ‘the car’ doesn’t it? they could wheel a half built chassis into parc ferme but then still have people rebuilding some suspension in the garage, to be stuck on later. (maybe this exact example doesn’t work, but you see what i mean?)

  3. verstappen says:

    Love the Franz Tost bit!

  4. Doc Ric says:

    Why not remove the parc-ferme rule? Teams could set up cars to be just fast in quali (no more qualis with race setups, which is especially odd when quali is dry and race is gonna be wet)
    we could also see some surprises on sunday.
    All in all I believe parc ferme is less significant in cost cutting than more stable rules, and this is doable..

  5. Michael Grievson says:

    I think the teams are trying it on. Nearly at the end of the season they’re suddenly saying they didn’t realise marketing staff weren’t allowed on early/late? Pull the other one

    My guess is they’ve all used most of their jokers and are now trying to see what they can get away with

    1. Steve says:

      The arguable difference of course is that being a night race the curfew times at Singapore are significantly later.

      If you rocked up at 4 PM at most GPs the race would already be over…

  6. Nick says:

    But what is the actual text of the rule? Surely that is crucial to understanding who is right and who is wrong?

    1. James Allen says:

      “No team personnel who are associated in any way with the operation of the cars” is the exact wording

      1. bearforce1 says:

        Seems to me that marketing staff do not have anything to do with the operation of the cars.

        I really think this is silly.

      2. young slinger says:

        It would appear that both the FIA and the teams are stretching the meaning, then?

      3. jpinx says:

        “….. operation of the cars” certainly includes cleaners ;)

      4. Stefanos says:

        Is marketing “operation of cars”? Only if you take the (somewhat far-fetched?) view that with no marketing there will be no cars…

      5. Nick says:

        In that case, the FIA are wrong and the teams’ interpretations are correct.

        No wonder the FIA have given Mercedes and Virgin the curfew exemption they took away this weekend back to the teams!

  7. James encore says:

    I think Ross has it right. There is a list of 47 people who are subject to curfew. Anyone not on the list is not allowed to touch the car or anything concerened with operating it (various computer bits, spares etc).

    “Charlie Whiting’s view is that if the curfew did not include everyone, marketing staff could be inside the circuit doing work on the car”. He would be right IF there wasn’t a list of named people who could work on the car. If you can’t touch the car and its bits you should be able to come and go as you please.

    It seems bizare to forbid catering staff to come in and get breakfast on so the mechanics can have something when they arrive.

  8. Lez Martin says:

    I like the tweet by the Fake Charlie Whiting….

    ‘My view on curfew violations: if you don’t have cut hands or oil on your fingers, it’s not a violation. #F1′

  9. stefan says:

    does red bull and toro rosso each have 4 curfew busts or do they have 4 combined?

    1. Rob Haswell says:

      Red Bull and Torro Rosso are entirely separate teams. They must each build their own chassis and cannot share personnel. The only link between them is where the money comes from. Their workshops are in different countries!

  10. iceman says:

    If FIA are claiming they can’t properly enforce the curfew without including marketing staff, then by implication they can’t enforce the limit of 47 people in the crew either.

  11. Anton says:

    Does the rules permit staff taking components away from the paddock? Can they just work on it at the Hotel!

    1. Andy C says:

      I know you’re joking, but I’ve got visions in my mind of mechanics walking past security with a front wing tucked under the jumper :-)

      1. Anton says:

        Yeah – I also imagine mechanics trolleying out an engine and firing it up in a Hotel room. haha.

  12. John Smith says:

    Surely this is the result of a poorly drafted piece of regulation.

    Would it not make more sense to have rules that say:

    1. only the 47 people on the list may be associated in any way with the operation of the cars; and

    2. those 47 people can only work on the cars between xx and xx hours.

    Then there wouldn’t be any argument about the interpretation of “operation of the cars”. Any cleaner/marketing personnel who work on the car would be in contravention of the first rule.

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