RACING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS – THE LOGISTICS OF FORMULA 1
In all likelihood, some or maybe all of the 2020 season of F1 will be raced behind closed doors. Whilst this means that some aspects of a team’s operations will be affected, such as corporate hospitality, much of what a team does on a normal race weekend will still need to take place.
If you then add into the mix that the proposed F1 calendar will be compressed into 15 races taking place between July and December, its clear the effort and planning to take the F1 circus on the road is no less of a task.
We’ve tried to look into how this may play out during a heavily revised season. What we haven’t been able to factor in is just how much of the global transportation infrastructure will be compromised in the later stages of the year, so for now those issues have not been factored into our assessment.
Getting the driver to the race is only half the job. Getting every nut and bolt to the track on time and in perfect working order is a true feat of planning and execution.
Whether it’s by road, sea, or air, in order to relocate between continents with only a week or two in between will be one of the true examples of “just in time” logistical perfection. What is even more staggering is that to truly understand the complexity of this you have to multiply the effort by 10 teams, add to that all of the non-team specific support equipment and personnel, and FIA infrastructure.
As part of the deal with Formula One Management (FOM), teams who perform well in a season also qualify for concessions on fly-away logistical support to those races outside of Europe where transportation by road alone is not possible.
As part of the deal that each local race organiser commits to is to provide equipment trackside for the teams and organisers to utilise. Cranes, for trucks, etc are all provided by the race organiser. Much of this equipment is also delivered on site so you can start to build a picture of primary and secondary logistical exercises that will work in tandem but are wholly managed by different organisations.
Under normal circumstances equipment not essential to the car or race engineering staff, such as hospitality equipment, gets shipped by sea in shipping containers months before to multiple destinations all over the globe such as China, Australia, Canada, and the Middle East. Once these races have taken place they then get shipped off by sea to the next set of fly-away designations, such as Japan, Singapore, USA, and Mexico before being shipped back home to the team HQ at the end of the season. With the cancelled races, much of this equipment will be rerouted and with hospitality currently off limits, much of this equipment will be held in stand-by, while essential equipment to provide refreshments to teams will be shipped.
For personnel directly involved with the race, their schedules will be largely unaffected, although significant social distancing will be enforced which means routines will need to be modified to ensure safety for all.
During race weekend, logistics teams in each race team have little physical work to do. That said, the reality is that as soon as they have delivered and assembled all of the pit and hospitality facilities for the team, they are already starting to plan how they will break down the equipment at the end of Sunday and organise moving on to the next race destination. This exercise will still need to take place. In fact, any equipment or spare parts which won’t be used in the race, such as spare engines or gearboxes for example, will be packed ahead of the race once the car is on its way to the grid.
Within minutes of the race being over each team will commence packing away. Aside from the cars which will go through post-race scrutineering, everything will be packed into shipping or air freight containers, or into custom made trailers for haulage overland.
Another consideration that will be made during this equipment breakdown is the order at which it will be need at its destination, the next race. Parts and equipment that are needed first will packed and shipped first, so it arrives at the right time and assembly at the next race can start immediately and without stoppages.
Under normal circumstances for example, in the case of the US Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix weekends, within 24 hours of the end of the US GP race, all the equipment would be track side in Mexico and to ensure fairness to all teams, no team would be allowed access to their equipment until all teams freight has arrived. Under the current health restrictions this procedure will be maintained.
An area of logistics we haven’t yet touched upon is the transportation of the team members themselves. It’s no secret that drivers usually travel in private jet luxury. However, most team members such as hospitality staff and pit crew will travel on scheduled flights and arrive at the next race destination on the Monday or Tuesday before race weekend. Under the current health restrictions this approach could be modified and teams or the FIA could charter flights to isolate teams from the general public.
Assembly of equipment usually starts on Tuesday morning before race day and is completed by lunchtime on Wednesday, ready for all the teams to commence preparations of the cars for the first practice on Friday.
It’s clear we will learn more over the coming days and weeks as to the scale and to what extent the 2020 Formula 1 season will survive. However, what is clear is that whilst FOM and the FIA will forego some elements of the race weekend it will be replaced by many other logistical challenges to ensure all concerned stay safe both on and off the track.
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