No sports is as logistically challenging as motorsports. The formula 1 calendar is filled with many races during the season, and teams have to move from circuit to circuit in a fast-paced environment. The logistics ‘race’ might be just as impressive as the race itself. This article takes a closer look at the impressive logistics of the formula 1 racing.

The Formula 1 calendar of 2019 is filled with 21 races across five continents. In a time period of about 9 months, each formula 1 team travels nearly 160.000 km, which equals travelling around the globe for four times. All 10 formula 1 teams have to relocate themselves to the next destination on the calendar, sometimes in only four days. This year, there are five such called back-to-back races, where two Grand Prix’s take place with only one week in between. This means there is no time to lose for the teams; when the drivers are celebrating a successful race by champagne showers, the rest of the team are dismantling the race car at maximum speed to prepare it for transportation.

Responsible for this impressive logistics operations is DHL, the world’s largest logistic company. In the countdown of each race, DHL criss-crosses the globe to transport the race cars, equipment, spare parts and infrastructure. For each non-European race, six Boeing 747 cargo planes are required to transport about 600 tons of air freight. As airfreight is expensive, even for the wealthy formula 1 teams, only the most critical parts are transported by air. The major bulk is transported by ship, sometimes taking weeks to arrive at the next destination.

Out of the twenty Grand Prix’s, nine take place on the European continent. This is also the continent where most of the teams are based. For the European Grand Prix’s, most equipment is transported by truck. Each team has multiple trucks for themselves. Each truck is driven by multiple drivers to enable the truck to keep driving non-stop.  

For non-European Grand Prix’s, the logistics challenge is considerably more complicated. All equipment has to be either shipped to the next destination, consuming weeks of time, or be flown to the next destination, which is a costly operation. The choice between flying and shipping is determined by the criticality. Critical parts, such as chassis, tires, engines, wings, computers and IT racks, are transported to the next destination by air cargo. Non-critical parts, such as garage equipment, are maintained in 5 identical sets which are to be shipped between two global race locations. Despite the mode of transport being slower, having multiple sets ensures that the teams can ship them well in advance in order to receive them on time.

As the popularity of formula 1 is increasing globally, chances are that more races will be held outside Europe, hence the logistical efforts needed to transport the teams and their equipment will also expand proportionally. Rumours are Liberty Media, the owner of Formula 1, is planning on increasing the number of races, focussing on new territories.

In some occasions, external conditions make the logistic challenge even more challenging. Weather conditions may cause major problems for the logistics operations. The Grand Prix of Japan is vulnerable to typhoons, which is a possible threat for the logistics operation. Monaco is another challenging circuit; beloved by the fans though often a nightmare from a logistic perspective. The city of Monaco, well known for its small streets, creates an extra constraint for the operations.

The next race coming up on the formula 1 calendar is the Grand Prix of Barcelona, on Sunday the 12th of May. As you are reading this, the logistic challenge of transporting all equipment from Azerbeidzjan to Barcelona is already about to finish. After reading this, which ‘race’ do you find more impressive?

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