The Insane Logistics of Formula 1Jul 02, 2021
This video was made possible by Crew 2, a new open world racing game from Ubisoft. More on this after the video. No sport is as logistically challenging as motorsports. While the team is important in any sport, in motorsports the human being is only half the athlete, the vehicle is the other half. The performance of a sports car is directly related to having the right components in the right place at the right time, so
logisticsis part of the competition. Racing may be a sport, but it's not all fun and games. Teams are businesses, businesses that are expected to make money.
The most valuable Formula 1 team, Scuderia Ferrari, is worth more than $1.3 billion. This means that this team is valued as much as the tech companies Discord, Bird Rides or DoorDash. Wealthier teams like Ferrari can spend more money on transportation to bring in more equipment and parts that can make the difference between winning and losing when things go wrong. Formula 1 is, in many ways, the most international sports competition. During its 21 annual races, teams span five continents with just one week between events. A chaotic ballet of trucks, ships, and planes transports this spectacle around the world each year. Ten teams compete in Formula 1, and despite the fact that it takes place all over the world, it is in every way a European sport.
Eight of the ten teams are registered and operate outside of Europe. Only the Indian and American teams are from elsewhere, although the Indian team is actually based in the UK, while the North Carolina-based American team operates a secondary forward base in the UK for their personnel do not have to travel all the way back to the United States between each of the European races that have been held in recent years back-to-back, with the brief interruption of the Canadian Grand Prix, in the height of the summer season. Thanks to this, the European leg of the season is, compared to the rest, relatively easy from a logistical point of view because within Europe you can drive.
The cost of shipping by truck is so low compared to shipping by air that teams bring entire buildings with them to European races. These buildings are what are modestly called "motorhomes," but can be as large as Red Bull's three-story structure that includes offices, bars, and a restaurant with a full kitchen. All of that is packed into several trucks and can be assembled in less than two days. Along with all the other teams, including cars, parts and electronics, convoys of dozens of trucks per team cross the continent before every European race. Races are typically held every other weekend on Sunday, giving teams plenty of time to relocate before activity begins on the Thursday before the Grand Prix, but from time to time the schedule shifts. reduces and the races are held two weekends in a row.
This proves a more daunting logistical challenge, as teams only have three full days to break down, transport and reassemble their gear at the new race site. Worse still, for the first time in the 2018 season there were three weekends with three races in a row. On June 24, the French Grand Prix was held at Le Castellet and the following weekend the Austrian Grand Prix was held at Spielberg to end the following weekend with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The transfer between Austria and the UK was the most difficult, involving driving nearly 1,000 miles, including through the channel tunnel bottleneck.
For this journey, each truck was crewed by three drivers so that while one was driving the others could sleep in an RV that accompanied the convoy. That way the trucks could drive continuously only stopping to refuel. But then again, these races are logistically easy compared to those held outside of Europe, known as flyaway races. As with European races, most sprint races occur within two weeks of each other, but occasionally races are scheduled on back-to-back weekends thousands of miles apart. These back-to-back races are the most logistically difficult weeks of the Formula 1 season. The Bahrain Grand Prix took place in Sakhir, Bahrain on Sunday 8 April 2018 and seven days later on the weekend Next, the Chinese Grand Prix was held in Shanghai, China.
More than 4,000 miles separated those two tracks, and yet, like all races, it all fell apart on Sunday night in Bahrain and had to be operational on Thursday morning in China. Worse yet, Shanghai is five hours ahead of Bahrain, which is actually five hours less to get the job done, but in reality, planning for this transfer started months before. Around January 2018, three months before the first races of the season, each of the ten teams packed five sets of containers. Each of these outfits carried their sea kits carrying things like chairs, tables, appliances, kitchen utensils, and some items from their garages.
They ship this bulkier and less expensive equipment by sea, as it is vastly less expensive than shipping it by air. The number of containers per team varies as richer teams like Red Bull will take more, but in general each team takes around three 40ft containers. Of course, shipping is slower, but since there are five sets, there is always one in the right place at the right time. That January shipment sent the first five kits to the first five races: Melbourne, Australia; Sakhir, Bahrain; Shanghai, China; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Montreal, Canada. Then, as each race was completed, their gear was packed up and shipped to the next race destination with no gear: the Australian went to Singapore, the Bahraini to Russia, the Chinese to Japan, the Azerbaijani to the United States. , and the Canadian to Mexico, and then towards the end of the season, when there are no more tracks to send kits to, they are sent back to the teams' bases for the winter.
At the race track, the main downtime for the Formula 1
logisticsteam is actually during the race itself, but for the transfer from Bahrain to China, the real work started on the Thursday before the race. It was then that the logistics manager of each team began to make their disassembly plan, deciding in what order and in what containers their different teams should go. Once that was complete, there really wasn't much to do until Sunday. On Sunday morning, before the race even started, the packing began. Many of the spare parts cannot be used during the race (they won't be replacing an engine during the Grand Prix), so they are the first kit parts to be packed into their bins.
Not much happened during the race itself, but within 15 minutes of finishing the main pack started. The cars, the most important pieces of equipment, underwent a post-race inspection to ensure no illegal modifications were made, but everything else was immediately ready to pack up. All the equipment that the teams wanted at the destination was first placed on one of three priority pallets. Together, the priority pallets from each team filled the first plane to Shanghai. As soon as they were full, they were driven straight to the airport just a few hours after the race ended to be ready for an early morning flight to Shanghai.
When that plane took off, the final pallets were being packed on the race track. Just six to eight hours after the checkered flag dropped, all the pallets were packed and on their way to the airport. By noon Monday, all six Boeing 747s used to transport the teams' equipment to China were airborne. These planes were chartered by Formula 1, but the teams still pay for the space. Also on Monday all the staff started their trip to Shanghai. Much of the lower level staff only flew normal commercial flights, while some of the higher profile drivers flew private flights between the two countries.
After nine hours in the air, the first plane landed in Shanghai in the early afternoon local time. The cargo was unloaded and taken to customs. By midnight, all priority cargo was headed for the racetrack. During the night, the logistics workers organized the loading of the different equipment in their respective paddocks. No crews are allowed to touch their load until all other crews' loads have arrived, both for fairness and safety reasons, to ensure there are not too many people around while pallets are being unloaded and moved. On Tuesday morning, the game began for the mounting teams. At this point, each team had their three priority paddles and their sea kit.
On their priority pallets, the teams didn't put the highest value or the most important load, they put the things they needed to assemble first: the basic skeletons of their garage. That includes your wall panels, the core of your electrical system, and most IT and communications equipment. Construction was completed Tuesday night and the runway was again inaccessible to crews as non-priority pallets were delivered overnight. Early Wednesday morning, around 6 a.m., the crews returned to the track and began work on the final assembly of the garage. Only after about four hours, late in the morning, were all the garages of the different teams operational.
In all, ten Formula 1 teams successfully packed up, sent their entire gear 4000 miles, and reassembled their paddocks in 58 hours. Thanks to careful planning and experienced workers, Formula 1 achieves this impressive feat every year without a hitch. Earlier in the video I mentioned how the short 7 day transfer from Spielberg, Austria to Silverstone, UK is the toughest race transfer in Europe, but oddly enough, about a month ago Ubisoft took me onto the Formula 1 track. Spielberg to test his new career. game: The Crew 2. This game is open world, which means they actually recreated the entire USA and you can drive and race through it all, not just in cars but also motorcycles, boats and planes.
Even as someone who doesn't play video games much, I really enjoyed Crew 2 and found it to be an accurate recreation of the actual races I did that day at the Spielberg track. If you think he might be interested in playing this, there will be a link in the description where you can watch it. Thanks to the support of Crew 2 and Ubisoft, this video is additional, so there will be another Wendover video next week.
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