With the Formula One circus about to embark on the European leg of the championship, I decided to find out just how much the teams ship around the world during the course of the season, in particular how they get everything to the flyaway races. As all teams are currently based in Europe, they have to travel to as far flung places as Australia, Japan and Brazil. And shifting all their people, parts and paraphernalia to these circuits takes time, money, and most importantly, organisation. Let’s look at Formula One logistics.
The teams travel around 100,000 miles each season, some squads travel even further if they decide to test at non-European circuits during the off-season. Going as far west as Brazil, and as far east as Australia in the course of the year. They take with them around 32 tonnes of equipment, around 80 personnel, have to accommodate and ground-transport these people, build and dismantle their corporate hospitality facilities and motor homes, set up secure data links to their factories and arguably most importantly, water and feed their staff. The teams take around 3,000 bottles of mineral water with them. Now multiply all that by eleven, for the eleven teams currently competing in Formula One. I think you’ll agree that for a sport, we’re now looking at some serious numbers.
A lot of time planes are used to transport the equipment around. The teams each own a fleet of large trucks in which the cars are carefully stowed, tightly packed in on top of each other and nestled in between rows and rows of drawers containing just about every spare part you could imagine, and the necessary tools needed to fit them. Upon arrival at the airport, the FIA chartered 747s are loaded up, the equipment being housed in specially designed containers, enabling the safety of the cars and parts as well as minimising wasted space.
For the flyaway races, a lot of the equipment is also sent over on ships, together with the trucks and a small crew of staff. For the European races, often the trucks will transport most of the goods over ground. The larger transportation methods tend to be very expensive, even with the FIA’s help. Most British teams actually make a point of purchasing left-hand drive trucks simply because most of their mileage is accrued on continental Europe. The only real journeys made in the UK are from the team’s base to down to Dover in the South East.
You might think that with such a large operation involving so many parts, things probably go missing all the time, or get temporarily mislaid at minimum. But according to Paul Singlehurst, Williams’s logistics officer, every single part has its place.
Every part has a fixed position. At the track, we don’t have time for any major searches. Paul Singlehurst.
Singlehurst has, like all his counterparts up and down the pitlane, an 80+ page document detailing every item that has be accounted for, from engines to bolts, umbrellas to awnings. Other items on the checklist include ~50 computers, ~100 radios, ~500 metres of data cables, ~300 metres of power cables, the list is almost unimaginable.
Surprisingly though, very few slip ups occur and the process in very methodical and just as well rehearsed as the pit stops. By the time the cars have finished the race, the structures are already in the throes of being dismantled, ready for the next leg of their journey.
And just one last thing to mention: At the time of writing this post, I didn’t consider what BMW need to add to their list for their F1 Theme Park, nor did I consider Red Bull’s huge Energy Station that they somehow manage to erect in Monte Carlo’s harbour each year. The numbers are extraordinary enough without adding these sizeable items in.
Images courtesy of McLaren and Red Bull.