By- Eesha Rudra
Over the years, Formula One has gotten faster and quicker than ever. It is a sport that is known for its top speed, top-notch man-machine-team coordination, exceptionally efficient crew members and spectacular podiums. But the scenes behind are just as amusing. There is a back-breaking herculean amount of logistical effort that goes on behind the race tracks.
The logistics of transporting the equipment of 10 teams to 20+ races across 5 continents in a season of 9 months requires extreme fidelity and planning. Each Formula 1 team travels approximately 160,000 km every year between races and carry almost 50 tons of equipment along with them. Transporting everything that a team needs every week is such a monumental task that Formula One Management relies on their official logistics partner, DHL to get it done.
Each of these races takes place every 1 to 2 weeks apart. The time available to get everything running at the next venue between back-to-back races is just 3 days.
So Even before the chequered flag waves at the Grand Prix Champion, the pack-up operation is already under process to arrive at the next F1 circuit.
The F1 teams use a combination of all three modes of transportation- roadways, airways and waterways, to transport their cars, engines, equipment and crew members. Since F1 is a Euro-centric sport, all the teams have a base organization operating in Europe. For the European GPs, the majority of the teams’ equipment is transported by road, to save money. Each team utilizes their fleet of branded trucks that travel around the continent bringing all the race equipment required for the weekend, including the cars, spare parts and tools.
All the F1 teams pack their non-vital and heavy equipment in 2 to 3 separate containers on ships. These containers accommodate all the items that can be made in bulk, like, garage equipment, tools and toolboxes, computers, pit guns, etc. One container heads off to the first race venue (Australia), another container heads towards the second destination and the third container ships to another race venue. These containers arrive at the venues, weeks or months before the Grand Prix and remain in storage. This makes it convenient for the F1 teams to get ready for the next race, as most of the things are already assembled beforehand. These containers are shipped by sea and usually take around 2–3 weeks to deliver at the race venues (depending on distance), so they are sent out well in advance.
Post the first Grand Prix, this process of wrapping and setting up starts all over again at the next destination. The apparatus from the first Grand Prix are packed up and shipped to the 4th race on the calendar (the items for the 2nd and 3rd race are already on-site), the apparatus from the 2nd GP once over, will be shipped to the 5th race, and so on. This continues till the end of the season (Paizs, 2020).
The cars, engines, front wings, gearboxes, tires, etc are shipped by air as these are priority equipment that needs to arrive at the destination of the next race within 72 hours from the venue of the previous GP. As soon as the race is over, the cars are dismantled, packed and shipped to the next venue that very evening. In case of a night race, the cars are dispatched early in the morning the next day. The commotion and the speed at which the engineers and packers work after a GP ends is mind boggling, they can empty a garage in 3 to 6 hours (Paizs, 2020).
For the international Grand Prix also known as “flyaway” races, the logistics pose knottier challenges. All the fragments are grouped into 2 categories, critical and non-critical. Critical parts include chassis, tires, engines, computers and IT racks, etc. Non-critical categories include items in the garage like jacks, tools, etc.
Non-critical parts are sub-categorized into 5 sets which are then shipped between two global race locations. These sets are usually transported via sea. This mode of transport is the slowest of the three, but harbouring multiple sets of equipment ensures that the teams can ship them well in advance, to receive them on time.
An article published by Wired revealed that each Formula One team carries enough spare parts that they can rebuild their cars. They carry almost 40 sets of tires, 2,500 litres of fuel, 200 litres of motor oil and 90 litres of coolant with them. In addition to the tools, computers, they also have enough food to make as many as 200 meals.
With the popularity of the sport increasing globally, the logistical efforts needed to support the smooth transport of the teams and their equipment also needs expansion, proportionally. Inevitably, things can go wrong. In 2017, a Mercedes Formula 1 team minibus was held up at gunpoint by robbers outside the Brazilian GP circuit, in São Paulo. The nature of this sport makes perfect planning impossible as anything is susceptible to happen.
Sources and References:
Paizs, L. (2020, October 1). (11) how are formula 1 cars transported between grand prix venues? – quora. Quora.com. https://www.quora.com/How-are-Formula-1-cars-transported-between-Grand-Prix-venues
RacerThoughts. (2017). How do Formula 1 Teams Travel Around the World? | RacerThoughts #12 [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvy2Y_KGX0Q