The incredible around the world logistics behind Formula One
How F1 moves 500 tonnes of equipment around the world, all in the name of sport.Neil Churchill March 15, 2015
It's been 112 days since Lewis Hamilton took the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi, winning his second Formula One World Championship. And after a long, quiet 16 weeks for F1 fans, normal service resumed in Melbourne today, with the British driver leading his Mercedes teammate home in first place.
But just because the race is over and your TV broadcaster has stopped airing the coverage, that doesn't mean the sport has come to a stop. On the contrary, hundreds of people behind the scenes will now be working in overdrive to make sure everything is ready and in place for the Malaysia grand prix, two weeks from now.
What that requires is a mind-boggling logistical process to move around 500 tonnes of equipment over 6,000 km. And that's a gentle leg. On April 12, Formula 1 will have just four days to get everything from Shanghai to Bahrain - almost 7,000 km - for the first day of practice. It's a phenomenal effort that takes a year in the planning by each team to make sure nothing goes drastically wrong. Here is how they do it:
There will be 19 races this year - assuming the German Grand Prix does not goes ahead, which is looking increasingly likely - held from March to November, across six continents. That's around 70,000 miles of travel during the season, with each team transporting around 50 tonnes each, as well as their huge teams of people. All in all, it's around 200 days a year on the road.
This year there are 10 teams in F1, meaning 20 cars need to be stripped down to their individual parts after each race. The engine and gearbox are removed and packed separately, as are the front and rear wings and suspension parts. Each component has its own, foam-filled travel box while the car's body goes into its own custom cover, and hard case. It's not just the cars that need transporting. Each team has around 40 sets of tyres for the season, 2,500 litres of fuel, another 200 litres of motor oil, 90 litres of coolant and an array of spare parts as well as new parts joining the team whenever they're ready. And of course there are the tools including wheel guns, trolleys and jacks. All of this needs to be flown to either the next race, or if there's a three-week break, the team's European headquarters.
As anyone who's been to an F1 race and witnessed the inside of a team's hospitality area or garage will know, there's a lot of baggage that goes with a team other than the cars and their parts. There's the people for one thing - teams can have 25+ staff members on the road at any one time, not including their sponsors. For example, there's the catering equipment, the food to be cooked and the people to cook and serve that food - that's just one small part of a team's load.
While the richest drivers - namely Lewis Hamilton - may travel by private plane, the teams require six Boeing 747 cargo jumbo jets to haul everything. Coordinated by F1 sponsor DHL, the planes carry the precious cargo to the next city, where a fleet of trucks collect it all from the airport and take it straight to the track. When the F1 calendar is on its European leg, everything is hauled via trucks, including the teams' personal motorhomes.
The less important equipment - work benches, marketing material, corporate lounge furnishings - are shipped by sea weeks in advance, with the teams using multiple sets to make sure they have what they need in any given place.
It's not just the teams that require logistical geniuses to get everything in order for each race around the world. In order for it all to be broadcast - and essentially to keep the sport ticking over by providing the sponsors with TV time - hundreds of media personnel from all over the world also need to have their flights booked and equipment packed.
Cameras, tripods, microphones, laptops and all manner of equipment needs to be in perfect working order when the TV crews, presenters and professional broadcasters arrive at each race.
When you consider all these global logistics that are required to keep the sport going, you can begin to understand the astronomical costs involved, and how the smaller teams - particularly in recent seasons - have bowed out and left F1. It also makes you wonder that maybe the real heroes of F1 aren't the drivers after all, but the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring you the sport from all 19 countries on the calendar.