Triple Header Logistics Story

At Silverstone this week fans will see our cars stationed in the well-equipped pit garage, while behind in the paddock sit both the race base and the hospitality building.



It’s an impressive set-up, and it’s the same at every European event. However, the process by which everything reaches the circuits is a far from a straightforward story, especially when – as in the case of the British GP – the race is the third leg of a triple header.



Our entire race weekend infrastructure had to be transported by road from Barcelona to Spielberg and finally to Silverstone in what is an incredibly complex and operation that leaves little margin for lost time.
"There's quite often a perception that Europe is easy, because we're close to home and we drive it on the roads,” says our race team manager Rob Cherry. “However, I can quite honestly say that doing Las Vegas, Qatar and Abu Dhabi is a walk in the park in comparison.



“It is just a very simple process of having your air freight that you pack up on Sunday night, it goes to an airport, and it goes on an aeroplane. Now that may be an 18-hour flight. However, it's a nicely controlled delivery. It lands, and we do it all again. In Europe it’s quite a different story!”



As noted, the circuit infrastructure used in Europe involves three distinct areas – the garages where the cars sit, the race base behind the pits which includes the engineering offices, and then the hospitality unit.


The last-named is still referred to by many in the paddock as the “motorhome”, even if the days of a single vehicle with an awning are long gone
“The motorhome and the race base travel on a fleet of trucks,” says Cherry. “Plus there are the four team trucks, in which the cars, car parts and equipment are carried. On top of that, we have our PU side, which is one truck.


“In addition, we use a contractor, and they run trucks for equipment. We have our sea freight sets at the flyaway events, and all of those large, bulky items – the pit wall, the garage, the engineers’ desk – that we normally transport in sea freight end up on those trucks.”



After the first European races of the season in Imola and Monaco most of those vehicles remained on the continent, with the PU truck returning to Viry, and the rest of the fleet in secure parking.



Only the race team trucks travelled back to our Enstone base in order to dispatch their contents ahead of the trip to the Canadian GP. Preparations for the first race of the triple header were thus slightly more relaxed, because while the race team was busy with Montreal there was plenty of time to transport the motorhome and race base vehicles to Spain, and set them up in the paddock.


“Although they're owned by Alpine they are managed and set up by contract firms,” says Rob. “Ultimately we're there to direct that, but they provide the personnel and the resources, rather than those being Alpine employees.”



After the air freight returned from Montreal and the A524s were serviced and rebuilt at Enstone the four team trucks the travelled to Barcelona to join the rest of the fleet.



The move to Austria at the end of the Spanish GP race weekend was when it became a little more stressful given the time constraints.



“We'll strip all the cars at the track,” says Rob. “The parts then return to the UK via vans, and that's how we get everything to stay out in Europe, because we can transport things back individually for service, repair or replacement.”



Meanwhile there was frantic activity as the garage, motorhome and race base had to be packed up and sent to the Red Bull Ring.



“It's 1600kms from Barcelona to Austria,” says Rob. “And everything that was up and existing on Sunday had to be broken down and moved by road and set up again in Austria.



“For us the event starts on a Wednesday. That's when the car build starts, and the engineers want to start working. To do that is a huge task.”



The trucks that went from Spain to Austria made a pit stop along the way. With working hours strictly limited their original drivers handed over to replacements who had flown out to a specific meeting point, thus ensuring that the vehicles could continue without losing time.
“Just having your driver rotation plan isn't straightforward,” says Rob. “It adds to the numbers of people that you need to move our fleet.”



One extra equipment truck travelled early from Enstone to the Red Bull Ring to give the team a head start in building up the garage before the rest of the fleet arrived from Spain.



"One garage equipment truck from the UK arrived in Austria on Sunday,” says Rob. “The rest of the trucks had to come from Barcelona, and some arrived on Monday evening, and then the remainder on Tuesday morning."



Moving everything by road is just one challenge. Setting it up at the next circuit in the limited time available, and with every other F1 team also trying to unload their vehicles in the cramped paddock and pitlane, is another.



"You have to run day and night to get the work done,” says Rob. “There are no working restrictions on operational hours that we have during the event, but you obviously have the human resource as a limit. So it's about running day shifts and night shifts, and just trying to do it as safely as possible.


“People can get tired, and working in an environment where the guys work at heights, and with heavy equipment, we have to be really diligent and not stray from the health and safety rules.”



Usually the first vehicles to leave a venue and arrive at the next one are the team trucks carrying the cars and spares, and those with the garage equipment, because they can be packed in the pitlane before the more complex motorhome and race base in the paddock are ready to travel.



“That crew of drivers then sets up our garage,” says Rob. “They unload all of the trucks, they know where to put things. They start rigging up the infrastructure.
"I suppose it sounds obvious, but if you just unload all of the trucks, you end up tripping over everything. So we have to have a structure to how we unload and plan our build.”


The dimensions and layout of the pit garages at each circuit are never identical: “All of the garage plans are done in advance. We have drawings and layouts for our power and electrical infrastructure as well as our cabinets and work areas, showing where everything needs to be. A lot of thought goes into that.”



On Sunday night in Austria the whole exercise of packing and derigging was repeated for the trip to Silverstone.


“Not only is it another 1600 kilometres, and we have to do exactly the same thing again, but we also have to cross the English Channel, with potential delays on Eurotunnel trains and so on,” says Rob.



From Austria the trucks travelled to Rheims, where fresh driving crews were waiting to take over for the remainder of the trip to Silverstone, ensuring that no time was lost once the original drivers had used up their hours. After resting the first drivers then return to the UK in the minibuses that their colleagues came out in.



Thanks to the additional post-Brexit checks the France/UK border crossing is a more complicated exercise in terms of paperwork than it previously was.
“Our team trucks are based in the UK, and we have the documentation for that,” says Rob. “But with the motorhome and race base, it goes the other way. They are Europe-based, so you're effectively importing them. While we're going home, they're going in! So there's another set of hoops to jump through.


“I think that's quite common up and down the pit lane. There's one race in England, the rest are in Europe. You just have to base things in the most efficient place, because the cost is obviously very important now for everybody.


“We consider the environmental impact as well. You reduce your road mileage where possible when using so many trucks. And time efficiency is the other important thing."



Given the time constraints even the vehicles carrying the race cars travel straight to Silverstone, and don’t go to Enstone first. The car preparation process takes place at the circuit, just as it did between Spain and Austria.
“By Tuesday, garage setup will be complete,” says Rob. “It is very robust and repeatable. We know that we'll always be ready on Tuesday, and therefore we can start work on Wednesday.”



By this stage a lot of our crew members involved in moving everything around will have been working for three weeks with barely a break.



“It is really tough, especially for the people that can't have that day's rest,” Rob admits. “We try where possible to ensure that the minimum amount of people work all of the time. There are a few that do have to do it, but where possible we'll rotate, and give people a day off. It's a difficult task."



With Silverstone the last race of the triple header things will be slightly less frantic on Sunday evening and Monday morning. However, there’s not much of a rest before the back-to-back events in Hungary and Belgium, and the whole process starts again.



"There will be a one-week break before we start our next double header,” says Rob. “However, it has a Pirelli tyre test tagged on to the end of it in Spa, just to extend that trip slightly. And then that will take us into summer shutdown."