The 2014 Formula One season is over and the people have got their champion in the form of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes as the champion team. People are rejoicing a great season, teams-celebrating their success, and drivers- relaxing for next 3 months. But nobody will be more relaxed than the team logisticians and employees of DHL, who won't have to undergo the mad rush of packing and unpacking 22 cars and tonnes of equipments, in as low as 36 hours.
But what's so special about transferring a car? To start with, there are more than 19 races a season, and more than 11 teams, with 22 cars and about 50 tonnes of gadgets to be transferred to over 5 continents, travelling more than 100,000 kilometers in the process. The people in-charge have to face the test of time, as sometimes the turnaround from one race to another could be as short as only one week. Yes! One week only, and they have a maximum time period of 36 hours to transfer everything after the Sunday race, as the practice session begins on Fridays. This amount of materials is enough to fill six Jumbo Jets and keeps a whole army of people on the road for 200 days a year.
The work starts as early as three hours after the race is finished. Once the cars have gone through post-race inspection, to check if everything is in-line, the team comes together to perform the massive and time-bounded task ahead of them. The initial stage of the operation starts from stripping down the F1 car to its last known component. To start with, the front wings are removed, followed by the nose, engine and gearbox, rear wings, mirrors and suspension parts. Each part gets its own foam box, for that extra care these delicate and expensive parts needs. But in some case, bubble wraps are also used, to save the paint of the car. As for the chassis, it has its own very special packing and according to Alan Field, the team’s trackside support manager "You wouldn’t recognize it if you saw it packed up."
It's not about an F1 car, but also several tonnes of other necessary equipment, which needs to be packed and shipped. A car needs enough spare parts to rebuild them, almost 2500 litres of special fuel designated by FIA, 200 litres of engine oil, about 100 litres of coolant and almost 40 set of tires. Then there are tools, computers, food, and the list goes on. All-in-all, a total of 50 tonnes of gear and stuff is carried by a team in a single race.
DHL is the official partner of Formula 1 providing all sorts of shipments and transportation for the cars and equipments. DHL gets the packed stuff between three and six hours from the teams, after the race is over. DHL keeps in handy, a fleet of seven jumbo jets, utilized to for flying the stuff around the world. But not everything is sent by air, as land transportation is also used prominently to move material from point A to B. Like in Europe, every country is at a handful of distance, and so material is sent in trucks. Apart from land transport, these trucks are used to deliver goods at the airport too.
“Usually it’s given to us today,” Pier Luigi Ferrari, DHL’s motorsport deputy managing director says, “And they expect it yesterday.”
They say the show must go on, and F1 is no exception. The 2014 season saw four back to back races within a gap of 1 week, though the typical time between two races is two weeks. DHL has a very risky job in hand, to deliver everything within 36 hours of the end of the previous race, as the technical team needs to assemble cars before the practice sessions begins on Friday. Take this as an example, F1 goods need to be transferred from Malaysia to Bahrain over a period of 36 hours only. Another issue is to manage the time zones, which can consume the time too.
No work is complete without facing any issue, and so is the F1 logistics. Something comes up everytime, sometimes a small inconvenience, but sometimes, a colossal nightmare. Russia was about to host its inaugural F1 at Sochi, after the Japan GP. But, Typhoon Phanfone, took a heavy pounding on the Japanese GP at Suzuka, where everyone was working under miserable conditions—strong winds, torrential rain and poor visibility, to make possible the Russian GP. “You can’t just stop what you’re doing because of the weather,” Field says. “You’ve just got to crack on.”
Apart from uncalled problems, there are issues related to policies of various countries, “Some countries are more closed, more difficult,” Ferrari says. For example, any food taken into China, Malaysia, or Singapore, must first be purified and certified, to ensure that no harmful or unwanted microbes are entering the county. It can be a bit of a hassle, if not planned well, but as Ferrari says, “Our timing, our schedules do not allow us not to be prepared.”
But in F1, where everything is measured in thousandths of a second, Ferrari’s crew is always looking for ways to save time. We salute the efforts made by these unsung heroes and respect the commendable job they do, enabling us to see the race on weekends.
While the logistics is tough, managing F1 is not easy too. Check our article on the same.