There are a lot of sports in the world, and every sport has its own challenges. But its safe to say that the world of Motorsport is the most logistically challenging sport in the world. Why? Let’s take a look at Formula 1.
In Formula 1 the driver is only the half of the contender. The athlete wouldn’t be anywhere without its car. The team can’t function without having the right parts on the right location on the right time. So you can almost say the logistics are part of the competition.
The Formula 1 is in many ways the most international sports competition in the world. The Formula 1 will have 22 races in 22 countries and 5 continents for the 2020 season. This with only 1 or 2 weeks between races. So the teams need to use trucks, boats, and planes to make the parts get wherever they are needed when they are needed.
When the teams are racing in Europe they will only have one week between the races, however this is also the easiest part of the whole season. Within Europe, all the teams except Haas racing have their home base located. The transport between races will be done by trucks. Transport by truck is the most cost-effective way of transport, so the teams can bring much more with them then for races far away. This is also shown by the whole building for the staff that travels with them during the European part of the season. While those buildings are referred to as motorhomes those buildings can be big as office buildings and even include pools.
But the real logistic nightmare comes for the races outside of Europe. Those races are also referred to as fly-away races. For almost all fly-away races the teams have two weeks to travel from one location to another. But even the fly-away races can have moments they are only one week apart. In the 2020 season, they will be in Australia on the weekend of the 15th of March and one week later they will be in Bahrain. The same thing goes for Singapore and Russia. Those weekends are also planned without an extra weekend.
Now it’s easy to think a week is enough to travel from Australia to Bahrain or from Singapore to Russia. But a week isn’t a full week. The team needs to be fully operational on Thursday morning. The team starts with the practice session on Friday and they will race on Sunday. So that would give them only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to travel from one country to the other.
So how do they do it?
The whole planning for the transportation of everything will start somewhere in January. When the official season calendar is released. For the start of the season, every team prepares shipping containers with non-critical stuff. This can be office materials, chairs, kitchen materials and some promotional parts of the pit-boxes. Those containers are then shipped by boat. The number of containers may vary by the budget of the teams. However, in 2018 the teams took 3 40 foot containers on average by boat. Since ocean shipping slow and cheap the teams will prepare 5 sets of 3 containers and ship them out in advance. So the first 5 sets will be sent to the first 5 countries. So the first 5 sets will be shipped to Australia, Bahrein, Vietnam, China, and Azerbaijan. After the race in Australia, they will pack that set again and sent it out to Canada. So every fly-away race will have their set in time. This is how the teams get the non-important stuff from race to race.
For the important stuff, we will take a look at how it gets shipped from the moment after the race. The team will start packing materials on Sunday before the race. You might think about why? But the spare parts that they can’t use doing the race will be packed before the race even begins. This since no team will replace a gearbox or an engine during the race, so there is enough time to pack that already. In about 5 hours after the race, the team is pretty far with packing all the other materials.
The teams are getting 3 priority boxes from DHL (The preferred Formula 1 supplier). Those three boxes will be shipped as first by airplane to the next race. All the other materials are shipped the next Monday morning by three Boeing 747’s charted by the Formula 1.
On Tuesday all the priority materials and sea containers are brought to the paddock by the Formula 1 logistics team and placed before the dedicated pit-boxes. The Formula 1 regulation says that the teams aren’t allowed to touch their gear until all boxes for all teams are placed on the dedicated locations. This to make sure that all teams have the same amount of time to start building things up again. Now you may think that the priority boxes contain things that the teams need for racing. But that is not the case. The priority boxes normally contain the things the team will need to build up shop.
On Wednesday the paddock is closed again while all the other boxes arrive. At that moment the teams are again not allowed to touch anything until everything for all teams has arrived. On Wednesday evening all the teams have an operational garage and can start building the car again. So within 72 hours after the race, the teams will have moved the whole show between countries.
There is no other sport that has this challenging logistics. And this can only be done by careful planning starting 3 months before the season and careful planning during the weekends.