My job in racing: F1 scrutineer

Motorsport.com caught up with Indian F1 scrutineer Kartik Chaturvedi to discuss how he makes sure all grand prix cars conform to the rules.

Tell us a bit about yourself..

I am a Mechanical plus Automobile Designer by profession and passion as well. Having done numerous projects at college level from making my own FSAE car and Baja Car, the world of fast paced motorsports has always enthralled me from my childhood.

Relationship with motorsports has been a memorable one. Not only being my passion, it has helped shaping up broader creative thinking. Marshalling at Motorsports was an inevitable entry, since having done four National Rallies as a navigator. I realised that as a participant it would be expensive to grow, and the only other way to get involved in this sports was through this endeavor. The journey of 25 Formula 1 Grands Prix (the highest from India), 3 World Endurance Championship races, 2 MotoGP events has taken me around the world, and I have met some great people and made friends for life.

What is your job during a race weekend? 

Being involved in the technical side of things as a scrutineer for last seven years, my role in and out is to check the compliance of the cars which are entering into the competition. In broader terms the legality of the vehicle, whether it has been setup according to the rules laid down by the FIA.

As a scrutineer one must have the in-depth knowledge of the internal mechanics and what special criterions do each competition cars have. So I have scrutineered from road going cars to F1 cars.

What is your typical race weekend programme? 

As a typical scrutineer, the day must start with a healthy breakfast as it's a strenuous job, involving long hours of concentrated focus and commitment.  Any race weekend starts by marking your presence to the Chief Scrutineer, that you are there for the day. For national events, there is a briefing involved with the Clerk of the Course, Technical Delegate, stewards and Secretary of the Meeting for any special directives to be kept in mind from previous day (normally any race weekend is spread over 4 days).

For International events like F1, WEC and MotoGP, there is a morning briefing with the Chief Scrutineer. Then the Technical Delegate for the event does the briefing for the activities to be carried out in that particular day. There are three types of scrutineering involved: - Pre-event Scrutineering, Live Race Event Scrutineering, and Post-event Scrutineering. Each of these are important for having a clear and unbiased result at the end. As most of the teams are clean at the start, but somehow there are some tweaks they do mid-event, which if not caught at the end, might affect the result.

What is the most important part of your job? 

To answer this question in one straight line, “Be focused at all times, and know what is in front of you”. As a scrutineer, one must be curious to ask and know. The reason I say is from the fact an F1 car is engineered in a completely different way as compared to a WEC car. One can’t know everything as these cars' internals are very different with your average daily-going cars.

As I mentioned above, there are three scrutineering steps a car and the team is scrutinised for. I would take my F1 experience for my description below:-

  1. Pre-event Scrutineering:- In this there are some dimensional restrictions and some safety equipments (like Wheel tethers, Onboard extinguisher, fire hydrant release nozzle direction, seat belt conformity etc) are checked thoroughly with the help of a checklist. We have to check all the driver apparels - whether they are conforming to the FIA License numbers for Helmets, Banaclava, gloves, race suit, shoes and internals. Apart from this there are cockpit and legroom openings in the car which have to be checked for accessibility for driver ease of removal in case of emergency using standard templates.

Personally, I keep an eye and note on the advancements a team could have done if I am doing races at different points of the season.

Any anomalies one sees here has to be reported as soon as possible to the FIA for further course of action. Seat-belt structural deformity is the major thing we look out for.

  1. In-Race Scrutineering:- This is more relaxed step of my job. In the garage with a team, we have to check the speed w.r.t., time and weight of the fuel going in the car, as this is the grey area where most teams try to go around the rules. Sometimes the fuel gauges on the machine are hidden from scrutineers. A top team was reprimanded by me back in 2015 for the same fact; they were filling fuel very fast. Apart from this tyres are checked for conformity - whether they have been assigned to that particular competitor or not by using smart laser bar code scanners.

During this time, cars are stopped by FIA for random checks when the qualifying is on to keep the team on toes. After qualifying all the top 10 cars are checked for their external dimensions and contours using standard templates by the FIA and the scrutineers. There are also some special tests I have been witness to; they are the Front and Rear Wing Deflection Tests, Car Floor Feflection and Size Conformity, Torque Input on the paddle shift.

  1. Post-Race Scrutineering:- In this both the driver and the car is weighed after the event is over. All the 22 drivers and cars are checked for conformity and the driver is not allowed to drink water, as it could offset his weight before weighing is done. The cars after checking, when the final result is published, are released from the Parc Ferme.

For me all of the above mentioned parts are important in my scrutineering job, and scrutinising a F1 car is both a challenge and privilege, because when the engine covers are off, it is a secret world in those wires and metallic jungle. It's an engineering marvel in itself, when one comes to realise the weight of clutch assembly of an F1 car is lighter than a paper weight, and assists gear shifts in milliseconds. There are many parts in the car which boast of many brains going into designing and building them.

No wonder they say running an F1 team is no easy

Name three tools that are most essential for your job

To simply answer this question: a fresh and clear mind, willingness to listen and accessing your previous experience and learning the new. As a scrutineer these are very important, as the dynamics and internal of the cars change very slightly from one event to another, but each of them have a significant change. When it comes to instruments, a measuring tape, a notepad and a torchlight to see the internals of the car are essential as it's a maze of darkness most of the times.

Peple you are always in touch during a race weekend... 

As a scrutineer, I am always in touch with the Chief Scrutineer and the Race Control with Clerk of the Course as there are some urgent occasions which have to be bought to the immediate notice. The Technical Delegate is also someone we have to be in touch, if one thinks, if the severity of the problem is very high. For instance, if a team has removed a part during the Parc Ferme conditions (teams can only change parts of equal weight and dimension in presence of a FIA Scrutineer during Parc Ferme conditions, which come into affect as soon as the qualifying ends for that particular competitor), and the old and new parts are not matching, it has be informed directly to the Technical Delegate.

Away from motorsport, what do you do?

Well, I am a technical person in and out. If I'm not doing scrutineering I am into my Mechanical Designing which I do with my organization Delta Electronics India Pvt Ltd. I also work as a Automobile Chassis Designer as a freelancer. The desire to explore the unknown is so hardwired in me that the technicality of things always keeps on the toes.

What are your hobbies? 

Sports is something I am associated with since my childhood and when dad was in Air Force, I was exposed to a disciplined and strict way of life. So yes sports has taught a lot, and playing badminton is one of my favorites after motorsports. Apart from this travelling is a big bug which had bitten me 10 years ago and my international exposure via motorsports has only increased the thirst of that bug.

What does motorsport mean to you?

Motosports I would say, I owe my life to it. I say this with conviction because it has helped my personality building, defined a lifestyle for me, made me approach and solve blind challenges and explore the unchartered waters. Had it not been for motorsports in my life, I can without a shadow of doubt say I would have missed a huge story of my life because it has taken me to places and most of all made me come in touch with some of the amazing human beings across the globe. The learning has been huge. I intend to continue with my F1 juggernaut as there have been opportunities to help the teams for few rounds, so that has been a huge learning experience in itself.

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Series Formula 1
Article type Special feature