Did you watch the sensational Formula 1 race this weekend? The motorheads amongst you will have been on the edge of your seats watching the final race of the F1 season, which took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton took the win, earning his second drivers’ World Championship with a comfortable victory. Hamilton’s first title was won in 2008, and he is only the fourth British driver to win two world titles. While Lewis Hamilton may be celebrating another grand accomplishment, the logistics divisions of each of the F1 race teams will surely be breathing a sigh of relief – as their strict to-the-hour deadlines have now all been met for the season.
Top-tier motorsport series’ such as F1 are elaborate affairs – as well as logistical nightmares. In any race season, there will be ninteen races on six continents. These races take place over a period of just eight months, meaning the teams need to be ready to race almost every two weeks. To race just two cars that often, teams need access to fifty tonnes worth of vehicle, spares and tools, all of which have to be shipped from one race loaction to the next in the shortest possible time. We’re talking about enough kit to fill six of DHL’s massive cargo-shipping jumbo jet aeroplanes. It’s a huge amount of mission-critical gear, each piece absolutely necessary to keep an F1 team in action for two-hundred days. One missing or delayed item could spell disaster for everyone involved.
The teams need a tools to keep them fully operational in a huge range of conditions, from Japan’s sometimes stormy weather to Abu Dhabi’s heat. F1 is one of the biggest sports on the planet, so it’s absolutely essential that the teams are prepared for all potential challenges and can overcome any obstacle to their racing. When budgets in the millions of pounds are in the mix, every eventuality must be covered.
Included in these essential provisions are forty sets of tyres, two and a half thousand liters of high-performance fuel, two hundred liters of motor oil, and ninty liters of coolant. Plus over two hundred meals for all the staff on the team. While the large teams move around fifty tonnes to each race, even the smallest teams will find themselves lugging over thirty tonnes of gear.
So how do eleven F1 teams move their cars and equiptment the sixty-two thousand miles required to make each race? Well, it takes specialist support from international logisitcs experts like DHL.
As soon as an F1 race is over, the work begins in preparation of the next. The cars cool down for a few hours, before a post-race inspection. This is carried out to make sure that all of the cars were “race legal”, and nothing had been tampered with to gain a competitive advantage in the last minutes and seconds before the race. After everything has been given all clear, the team set about stripping the car down to it’s bare components. Even key components such as the engine and gearbox are removed from the vehicle, with rear wings, mirrors and suspension parts lifed out too.
Each piece is then fitted into a custom cut piece of dense foam, which sits snuggly in a bash resistant metal container. If the team are concerned that the item doesn’t have enough protection, they may resort to bundling on a mass of heavy-duty bubble wrap instead. Seems like many of us may have something in common with F1 logistics teams! The bubble wrap is also used to cover painted parts of the vehicle and protect sponsors logos from being tarnished.
The chassis that remains is then placed within it’s own huge, custom built case. Alan Field, trackside support manager of McLaren, says that you wouldn’t know an F1 car was in the box if someone didn’t tell you. Common parts, things like workshop tools for example, are less urgent and are therefore sent by sea.
The Ferrari team acknowledges that the demand they put on DHL is formidable. “Usually it’s given to us today,” Ferrari says. “And they expect it yesterday.”
While Lewis Hamilton’s achievements are quite remarkable, it’s worth remembering that drivers cannot shine without the support of their mechanical and technical teams, and they in turn rely on faultless logistics teams to make sure that they have everything they need to succeed – exactly when they need it.
Congratulations to all of the logistics teams who made this F1 season a great one, to Mercedes’ mechanical team, and to Lewis Hamilton on taking his racing career to new heights.