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What is parc ferme in F1 after Lewis Hamilton/Max Verstappen investigation?

Jake Nichol November 13, 2021
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The Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend has been overshadowed by an investigation involving Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in parc ferme – but what actually is parc ferme in F1?

Trouble started after Hamilton’s Mercedes failed a routine scrutineering test after qualifying for the sprint race in Sao Paulo.

The stewards found that, when open, the distance between the two flaps of his DRS system was greater than 85mm – breaking the rules in place to limit the DRS opening.

Normally it would be an open/close case as Hamilton’s Mercedes #44 was outside the technical regulations and would be disqualified from the session.

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This would mean Hamilton would start the sprint qualifying race from the back of the grid.

However, Mercedes used footage of Verstappen touching the rear wing in parc ferme after the session as part of its defence.

Hamilton has since been disqualified from qualifying, and must start the sprint race from the back.

He will then drop five places from wherever he finishes to determine his starting position for Sunday’s race.

Verstappen has been fined $50,000 for touching Hamilton’s rear-wing.

But what actually is parc ferme in F1, and what must teams do when their cars are in it?

Photo by Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

What is parc ferme in F1?

Translated from French, parc ferme means “closed park.”

Throughout practice, teams can make as many setup changes as they wish to get their cars optimised for qualifying and the race.

Once the car is on track during qualifying, parc ferme rules come into place.

Teams are no longer allowed to make major setup changes once their car(s) are in ‘parc ferme conditions.’

Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images

It allows the FIA to inspect cars to ensure they conform to the rules and regulations.

Nobody apart from those expressively told by the FIA can touch the cars during the time they are in parc ferme to ensure all is well.

What did Verstappen do in parc ferme?

After stepping from his Red Bull machine on Friday at Interlagos, Verstappen was videoed inspecting both his and Hamilton’s rear wings.

He touched his own, before touching the part of Hamilton’s car that subsequently failed post-session tech.

This was in breach of Article 2.5.1 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code which reads:

  • Inside the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations.”

Teams can sometimes replace parts in parc ferme that have been damaged.

The new parts must be an exact like-for-like copy of the damaged part, or a car will be forced to start from the pitlane.

What about Sebastian Vettel?

Over the years, Sebastian Vettel has been pictured inspecting cars in parc ferme after sessions, sometimes touching them.

But because these cars, including Hamilton’s did not fail post-session tech because of anything Vettel did, no further action was taken.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.