The extreme logistics behind the global Formula 1 circus

Formula 1 kicks off a new racing season in Bahrain this weekend. It’s a high-tech sport where hundredths of a second separate winners and losers, and discerning team owners spend small fortunes in the hope of succeeding.

Top level events would not be possible without the ability to pack and move racing machines, parts and tools, fuel, oil, tires, broadcast equipment and entertainment paraphernalia in extremely difficult and critical conditions.

An extreme sport that travels around the world requires extreme logistics.

“You work at the limit of what is logistically possible, and any setback has a ripple effect on the teams,” F1 sporting director Steve Nielson told reporters in December ahead of the Grand Prix. from Abu Dhabi.

Last year’s dramatic championship win by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended in the final race, where he edged Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in a controversial finish, helped by the race director’s restart decision in the last round.

FI’s popularity in the US is exploding in large part thanks to the Netflix series “Drive to Survive”, which offers a compelling inside look at drivers, teams and the competition. ESPN’s live coverage in 2021 averaged a record 934,000 viewers, and in a survey of 6,630 adults conducted by Morning Consult, 28% identified themselves as F1 fans – almost the same as ‘IndyCar, the most established open-wheel racing circuit in the United States.

No surprise F1 has added a second US race for the 2022 season, as Miami will join Austin, Texas as host tracks. It’s the first time in 38 years that F1 has raced in two US cities in the same season.

On Saturday, the defending champion blasted the track in pre-season testing with a lap time of 1:31.72, made possible by composite materials, advanced aerodynamics and sophisticated software.

The logistics operation is also based on speed and precision engineering. If a piece doesn’t make it to a race, a team could be at a huge disadvantage.

In fact, the Haas Formula 1 team missed the first round of pre-season testing in Bahrain last week after the cargo plane they used to transport their vehicle was blocked in Istanbul due to technical difficulties. The shipment arrived two days later than expected, according to F1.

Formula 1 freight is transported by land, air and sea to five continents in nine months. With 22 events separated by less than a week or two – the Russian Grand Prix was canceled after the invasion of Ukraine – the logistical schedule is intense.

Deutsche Post DHL Group, Official Logistics Partner of F1, has a dedicated team of 35 specialists who travel to each race to manage transport, installation, breakdown assistance and packing.

In 2021, DHL moved 1,540 tonnes of material and 532 cars over 74,500 miles. This translates to approximately 44-55 tons for each of the 10 teams, over 330,000 pounds of broadcast equipment, 30 containers of tents and other hospitality equipment, and over 22,000 pounds of electronic equipment per team.

DHL is also providing multimodal transport of around 460 tonnes of Formula E equipment, including electric racing cars, batteries and chargers.

Teams and other F1 units pack all material in air containers or pallets for transport by truck. A group shipment is called a kit. On average, the equipment is delivered to the racecourse 14 days before the event and collected one week later.

In addition to the kits sent from circuit to circuit, around 120 ocean containers circulate in the background carrying less urgent equipment, such as furniture or catering items, to the race sites.

The set transported by air or road must be on the track eight to ten days before the race, depending on the equipment and the schedule, said Paul Fowler, global motorsports manager for DHL Global Forwarding.

Additionally, five to six duplicate kits per team are shipped by ocean freight and stored at various locations on each continent.

DHL has three teams – receiving, on-site customer service and packaging – which overlap to manage every step of the process, especially with back-to-back events. Even before the checkered flag is waved at the end of a race, the DHL team is already dismantling and storing the equipment.

For each run, priority pallets with materials to install the garage are usually the first to arrive on site, so that the installation team can begin building workspaces before the rest of the staff and contractors. equipment does not arrive, from a Williams Racing YouTube video. The team says it takes around 60 computer screens for the track, with 400 miles of wiring and cables to run the IT infrastructure. For races that require air transport, teams cannot start creating their individual spaces until all the cargo has arrived to ensure fairness, according to F1 experts.

DHL typically uses five Boeing 777 freighters for a flyaway event. Seven aircraft are involved if there is a lower series race, F2 or F3, on the same runway.

Most transport for races in Europe is done by truck.

Fowler said Brexit has created additional logistical complications as most teams are based in the UK and everyone has had to adjust to complex new customs procedures, documentation requirements and fee to cross the border.

DHL Forwarding experts were able to step in and provide ATA Carnets, a temporary international customs document that allows imports free of duties and taxes for up to one year. These “goods passports” are typically used by travelers and businesses crossing multiple borders and returning home with the same merchandise.

DHL plans to use more sea freight in the future as the lower cost is in line with new Formula 1 cost caps and is more sustainable, the motorsport chief said, but this now comes with risks due to the global backlogs and significant backlogs plaguing the industry.

In the past, racing cars traveled in complete units. Today they are disassembled, with sections placed in foam slots and sometimes wrapped in bubble wrap as an added precaution, and transported in specially designed protective capsules that fit into an air container. They are reassembled at the next destination. Each plane can carry about 40 modules, Fowler told FreightWaves.

Logistics planners this year need to account for shipping boxes that have been enlarged to hold a new type of tire that requires larger rims, although the exact implications for logistics won’t be known until teams find the best loading method, Fowler said.

DHL also has to handle expedited freight outside of the normal routine, such as when a team rushes in a replacement car from the factory or restocking freight with modified parts for the car. Parts also have to be flown in for testing in specialized labs around the world.

“We always have to be ready for last minute requests as it can impact the race,” Fowler said.

DHL is also helping F1 reduce its carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.

The logistics provider equips its entire fleet of dedicated F1 trucks with a 5G data download system and GPS to monitor fuel consumption and select the best routes, using more maritime transport and replacing 747 freighters with 777s, which are 18% more fuel efficient. . Last year, the convoy of trucks tested the biofuel on a trip between northern Europe and Italy, said Arjan Sissing, global brand market manager for DHL Group.

As independent entities, F1 teams are allowed to select their own logistics providers. In January, Ferrari entered into a multi-year partnership with Ceva Logistics, part of the CMA CGM Group, to provide road and sea transport of equipment and support items to Grand Prix and GT series race venues. CEVA also handles spare parts shipments in Europe and global retail merchandise distribution.

DHL is responsible for shipping Ferrari racing cars.

Overcoming the pandemic triple heads

The last two years have been particularly complex and exhausting, according to race officials. COVID has forced several schedule changes.

Before the pandemic, tour management and DHL took up to 18 months to plan an event. Instead, some races were held within weeks. The replacements condensed part of 2021 into three triple-headers over back-to-back weekends, which race teams oppose due to the cost of travel crews, Nielson said.

Ongoing restrictions and strict DHL safety protocols, such as disinfecting vehicles and cargo areas on the European circuit using atomizers that turn disinfectants into mist, have added to the burden.

Biggest hurdle: A tricontinental triple-header consisting of races in Mexico, Brazil and Qatar. Bad weather delayed air freight to Rio de Janeiro, causing shipments to arrive much later than expected and putting DHL in a race against time to get everything in place.

“It’s a tough challenge. You work at the edge of what is logistically possible, and any setbacks have a ripple effect on the teams,” Nielson said. “In Formula 1, we plan everything to the death because when you plan, you have a better chance of success. So we plan every detail months and months in advance. [With shorter horizons] experience and trust in partners becomes extremely important because you don’t have time to go over all the details like you would in a normal environment. We do not take risks that we believe are not worth taking.

Achieving delivery goals during double and triple headers is never easy, but DHL has improvised to make it happen.

“There is no room for failure,” Fowler said.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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