Within F1, there are a number of terms you may hear from time to time that may not be familiar outside of the sport. One such term is Parc Fermé, and it does indeed play an important role in the sport. However, many new and existing fans alike may not be sure what Parc Fermé means.
Parc Fermé in F1 represents periods of time during a Grand Prix weekend where the cars are in their garages, but under strict supervision. Cars are checked by scrutineers to ensure the cars are within the regulations, and teams cannot modify their car in any way once it’s in Parc Fermé.
This is an important aspect of F1 during a weekend of racing, and while it may also be a time of frustration for teams, it’s something they do all respect. Below, we go into more detail about what Parc Fermé means, and why it’s an important aspect of the sport.
Parc Fermé is a French term that means ‘closed park.’ It refers to times during the Grand Prix weekend when teams have their cars parked in a secure area. This then allows their cars to be examined by scrutineers, and teams are not allowed to modify their cars in any way in Parc Fermé.
Basically, it’s a safe area where the cars remain untouched, to a certain extent, to then double-check that the race itself is run by cars that follow the rules. This is an integral part of the entire race weekend.
During these checks, the scrutineers carry out a mixture of both standard checks along with random checks on the cars. This is something that is done at every single race,and the teams are used to working under this series of restrictive conditions.
Parc Fermé operates under a number of very clear rules that are designed to stop teams from trying to get around them and gain some sort of an advantage over the others. Each rule and subsection is laid out clearly, so there can be no ambiguity for the teams as to what is expected from them under these conditions.
The reason behind the existence of Parc Fermé is to check over cars to ensure they meet the different rules and regulations. It would not make sense for the FIA to allow mechanics to mess around with the cars while they’re being checked.
So, virtually no work is allowed to be carried out at this point. However, three mechanics can be present in order to safely shut down the various systems that make up an F1 car.
Help And Not Hinder
Another job for the mechanics is to ensure that the correct equipment is there to not only deal with the systems, but also to assist the scrutineers with their job. They must help and never hinder as the scrutineers go about their task of making sure the cars meet the strict criteria.
The scrutineers are not only present at random times or when they’re doing their checks. While Parc Fermé conditions are in practice, it means a scrutineer is there whenever the team is near their car.
At the beginning of every race weekend, the teams all declare that their cars meet the criteria and do not break any rules. This self-declaration is generally accepted, but throughout the course of the weekend, a minimum of six cars are called into Parc Fermé to see if this is the case.
These first checks are carried out after the first practice session. But that’s not the only time cars will enter into these conditions. However, teams are free to make changes to their cars up to the start of the first qualifying session. At that point, every car is said to be under Parc Fermé conditions – more on that soon.
Parc Fermé is very specific in terms of when teams are able to work on their cars while under these conditions. After qualifying has ended, teams have a time slot of three and a half hours to work on their cars, within a set of parameters outlined by the Parc Fermé regulations. The cars are then covered, and the teams leave.
On race day, the teams are allowed to go to their cars five hours prior to the formation lap taking place, and they can then start work on their cars once more. This work includes things like adding fuel, inspecting the engine, and replacing fluids. They can’t make major changes to the car like changing the style of rear wing or swapping out engines.
During Parc Fermé, there may be times where the FIA requests changes to be made to the car. However, they tend to be minor tweaks if anything at all.
Of course, this does not include any changes requested if they discover that a car has fallen foul of the laws. The only other thing they can request to be changed is if there is some safety issue that has to be revised. Clearly safety is at the absolute heart of it all, but even this type of change is not too common.
The rules state that each car enters Parc Fermé conditions as soon as qualifying begins. That means they cannot make a whole host of changes to the car through the qualifying session. When cars are knocked out of qualifying in either Q1 or Q2, those cars must return to the garage. At that point, they are still under Parc Fermé conditions.
The rules then state that a steward must be present whenever the teams of mechanics are close to the car. They are not allowed to make changes without a steward being present. The cars remain under Parc Fermé conditions throughout this entire time.
But any car that makes it to Q3 is then treated differently, according to the rules.
At that point, all those cars must go to the physical Parc Fermé rather than into the garage. Each car is then checked over to ensure they are legal, and then they are released back to the garage. However, a steward must still be present when the teams are working on their cars as they do remain under Parc Fermé conditions.
When you watch a race, you will see the top three finishers pulling up in a certain spot. At that point, you are looking at the physical Parc Fermé.
Each car is checked over once again to ensure they are legal. This is something that can take a couple of hours, as they certainly don’t rush what they do, and it’s only after they have passed all of their checks that the cars then go back to the teams. Also, one car is chosen at random to then undergo a much more thorough inspection.
The race results are not confirmed until the cars have gone through Parc Fermé and been checked out. The results you see immediately after the race are entirely provisional, even though they very rarely change.
One other interesting point is the use of setup sheets by the teams. They are forced to provide the FIA with these sheets with the setup they will use in both qualifying and the race itself. They are then not allowed to change this at any point.
These sheets are then used as part of the checks that are carried out to see that they have indeed stayed with what they stated.
Finally, the rules are clear on what happens if there’s a change in weather conditions after the setup sheets have been submitted. It’s accepted that cars designed to be driven in the dry cannot then be driven with any real ease in the wet.
If this happens, then the rules state that the Parc Fermé conditions can be relaxed to a certain extent. That means the teams are allowed to change the setup of the cars to ensure they can be driven safely in the different conditions. This usually involves altering a lot of the aerodynamics to ensure the car will have enough grip in the wet.
So, we’ve touched on it already, but it’s worth taking a closer look at what exactly we mean when we say Parc Fermé conditions.
Parc Fermé refers to a zone that is cordoned off for cars to then be examined. The teams will have limited access to their cars when they are in Parc Fermé. Parc Fermé conditions are the regulations that apply to the cars regardless of where they are, be it in the pits or on the track.
Often, Parc Fermé will be located close to the FIA garages. Also, you will notice that the race winners park in it, and that means Parc Fermé is also generally close to the podium.
When a car is under Parc Fermé conditions, it means the car can be in the pits, or even out on the track. However, they are still under certain rules and regulations even though they are moving.
When cars are under Parc Fermé conditions, the teams are allowed to make certain changes to the cars, but these are very limited and restricted in nature. They will not be allowed to do anything too major when it comes to changing things.
There is a long list of different jobs that teams are free to carry out on cars when they are under Parc Fermé conditions. If the teams wish to carry out a repair that is not on this list, then they need to seek special written permission. This is something that is then assessed on an individual basis.
The jobs allowed can include carrying out engine checks, starting the engine, charging energy storage devices, dealing with oil and other fluids, and looking at the brakes. Add in looking at the wheels, and even changing parts of the front wing, and you will see how most of the jobs are linked to ensuring the cars will actually start, and that they will be safe to start.
If the teams have to remove a part in order to check it over, then it must be done close to a steward who can keep an eye on what they are doing. Anything that is removed must then be refitted in the exact same way as it was before it was taken off.
Dealing With General Repairs
If something happens mid-race, or mid-qualifying, then there is some scope for the teams to carry out repairs without written permission. This can only be done when it is accepted that permission would be given anyway, as it’s hardly fair to waste time getting permission when every millisecond counts in F1.
Parc Fermé is regulated by the FIA, and they set the rules and control what happens. However, it requires a team to ensure that all rules are adhered to at all times. This is the domain of the FIA Technical Department, so it includes experts who are highly trained from a technical perspective.
The FIA sits at the head of everything. They then have a large team of stewards who spend time making sure the different cars meet the rules and regulations. While under Parc Fermé conditions, the FIA effectively own the cars, and not the teams. The teams only regain control once the cars have been released, and that happens only when the FIA says so.
Parc Fermé starts from the very moment that the cars leave the pits to begin qualifying. Prior to that point, teams are free to work on their cars as much as they like, but as long as it falls within the rules of course. Car’s may also be summoned to Parc Fermé at different times.
Parc Fermé technically ends at the start of the formation lap before the race. However, it then takes effect again at the end of the race, when the cars are all checked over once again, and Parc Fermé as a whole doesn’t end until the last car is handed back to the team.
Parc Fermé in F1 is an area the cars go at various points over the race weekend to be scrutinized to ensure they are within the regulations. F1 cars are under Parc Fermé conditions at different times throughout the weekend, to ensure teams cannot heavily modify the cars.