Formula One Logistics: 32 Tonnes Over 100,000 Miles

Formula One Logistics: 32 Tonnes Over 100,000 Miles

With the Formula One circus about to embark on the European leg of the championship, I decided to find out just how much the teams ship around the world during the course of the season, in particular how they get everything to the flyaway races. As all teams are currently based in Europe, they have to travel to as far flung places as Australia, Japan and Brazil. And shifting all their people, parts and paraphernalia to these circuits takes time, money, and most importantly, organisation. Let’s look at Formula One logistics.

The teams travel around 100,000 miles each season, some squads travel even further if they decide to test at non-European circuits during the off-season. Going as far west as Brazil, and as far east as Australia in the course of the year. They take with them around 32 tonnes of equipment, around 80 personnel, have to accommodate and ground-transport these people, build and dismantle their corporate hospitality facilities and motor homes, set up secure data links to their factories and arguably most importantly, water and feed their staff. The teams take around 3,000 bottles of mineral water with them. Now multiply all that by eleven, for the eleven teams currently competing in Formula One. I think you’ll agree that for a sport, we’re now looking at some serious numbers.

A lot of time planes are used to transport the equipment around. The teams each own a fleet of large trucks in which the cars are carefully stowed, tightly packed in on top of each other and nestled in between rows and rows of drawers containing just about every spare part you could imagine, and the necessary tools needed to fit them. Upon arrival at the airport, the FIA chartered 747s are loaded up, the equipment being housed in specially designed containers, enabling the safety of the cars and parts as well as minimising wasted space.

For the flyaway races, a lot of the equipment is also sent over on ships, together with the trucks and a small crew of staff. For the European races, often the trucks will transport most of the goods over ground. The larger transportation methods tend to be very expensive, even with the FIA’s help. Most British teams actually make a point of purchasing left-hand drive trucks simply because most of their mileage is accrued on continental Europe. The only real journeys made in the UK are from the team’s base to down to Dover in the South East.

You might think that with such a large operation involving so many parts, things probably go missing all the time, or get temporarily mislaid at minimum. But according to Paul Singlehurst, Williams’s logistics officer, every single part has its place.

Every part has a fixed position. At the track, we don’t have time for any major searches. Paul Singlehurst.

Singlehurst has, like all his counterparts up and down the pitlane, an 80+ page document detailing every item that has be accounted for, from engines to bolts, umbrellas to awnings. Other items on the checklist include ~50 computers, ~100 radios, ~500 metres of data cables, ~300 metres of power cables, the list is almost unimaginable.

Surprisingly though, very few slip ups occur and the process in very methodical and just as well rehearsed as the pit stops. By the time the cars have finished the race, the structures are already in the throes of being dismantled, ready for the next leg of their journey.

Red Bull Racing

And just one last thing to mention: At the time of writing this post, I didn’t consider what BMW need to add to their list for their F1 Theme Park, nor did I consider Red Bull’s huge Energy Station that they somehow manage to erect in Monte Carlo’s harbour each year. The numbers are extraordinary enough without adding these sizeable items in.

Images courtesy of McLaren and Red Bull.


  • Ahh, I could do it in my sleep. Just kidding. It really is astounding what goes on behind the scenes we never know about. We just see everyone set up at the races as if they are there all the time.

    I’m sure there are some headaches for those in charge of the moves.

  • It certainly is quite impressive! Especially that Energy Station.

    I’m also researching a post into the setting up of the Monaco Grand Prix as well – now that is a logistical nightmare! Might do Valencia and/or Singapore as well, but I imagine they’ll be a bit samey.

  • Yes it is a massive logistical job.

    Now add onto that the 10-12 TV Broadcasters and then Radio never mind Photographers / journalists that travel the F1 circuit!

    Just as a small example, the company I worked for shipped 2.5tons of equipment to Australia for use by 3 different broadcasters, but it was only part of their setup!

  • This article isn’t strictly accurate.

    After several years in F1 I can honestly say I have never heard of a team sending freight by ship!

    All trucks are left hand drive.

    3,000 bottles of water is not carried around the world, the catering staff buy it at the local super market unless it’s part of a sponsorship deal and then it’s provided by the local distributor.

    The reason everything has to be accounted for is if the weight going out is different to the weight coming back customs will have to investigate if your actualy importing or exporting products in your freight.

  • Some of the essential equipment is sent by sea freight too. Items that are bulky or heavy are cheaper and easier to send by sea freight than by air. These items then join up with the airfreight at the circuit.

    We send about five and a half tonnes by sea and we send this three months in advance of each race. It’s mainly heavy electrical cables, gear that’s cheap to buy but heavy and expensive to transport. It costs around $9000 to send it by sea – that’s a fraction of the airfreight cost. We’ve made some huge savings just by doing this over the last three years. Source (6th paragraph from bottom).

    While the WilliamsF1 Team is packing everything together after the British Grand Prix, 50 crates with a total weight of about six tonnes are already on their way by sea to Montréal. Because it is cheaper by sea than by air, they were sent on their way immediately after the previous race in Imola. Source (Paragraph 4 from top).

    As the world leader in logistics, DHL has successfully combined its land, sea and air transport capabilities to provide Formula 1 with the required logistics solution, allowing organisers and drivers to focus singularly on the race ahead. Source – Michel Akavi, DHL Area Director, Middle East.

    @And: Perhaps Williams are just being tight with their funds?

  • As a minimum, Red Bull send some freight by sea (or so the May 2006 edition of F1 Racing says) – generally things that are either unlikely to change specification during the long sail and thus cheaper to send by boat (such as the chairs used in the hospitality area) or forbidden on planes and therefore must be sent by boat (such as adhesives). In addition, every team (Super Aguri aside) uses sea freight for part of the journey to the Turkish Grand Prix because Bernie Ecclestone negotiated a deal to send the FOM-subsidised freight across the sea that way once it reached eastern Italy (this being cheaper to Bernie than using planes all the way there).

  • hey it takes acharter ship 10 to 15 days to reach australia from europe and 8 days to america, so theres no excuse not to send most of the stuff on shipping lines like bbc or boluga they have ships around the world at all times.Thats just an idea but im just a fan so as long as sponsors keep paying why should they save money for?

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