How the F1 Teams Travel the World

End of 2012 Season Was Busiest Ever

Andrew Smith/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

While the first thing that comes to most fans' mind with Formula 1's grueling travel schedule around the world might be the tiring job the drivers face during that period, the heroes behind the wheel laugh it off.

''For a driver it's not that difficult -- only in the sense that you are more days outside your home and if you have a family it is tougher -- but the real heroes here are the teams,'' said Pedro de la Rosa, a driver at the HRT team.

''Because a back-to- back for us means two weeks; but for the team -- the mechanics, engineers -- it means maybe one month. Or for some people even two months, because they stay in between and do two back-to-backs.''

Indeed, for many of the team personnel there will be a period of almost continuous travel over two months, away from their families in Europe, living in hotels.

''It will be very challenging physically for the mechanics,'' said Monisha Kaltenborn, the Sauber team director, which is based in Switzerland.

''If you look at the current season, I think 20 races are, under the current structure that we have, the limit,'' she added. ''If you were to bring in more races, you would have to change a lot in how the team is set up.''

The Sauber team's logistics are typical of how the teams move from race to race and from continent to continent.

While in Europe, where the teams are based, the teams handle their own transport in team trucks that crisscross the Continent.

But for the other races, the 24 cars and all of the material from the 12 teams' motor homes and garages are sent around the world in six jumbo jets, and in hundreds of sea crates.

Beat Zehnder, the Sauber team manager, has been in charge of the team's logistics for 20 years. He explained that there are five different shipments moving over the seas to cover all the races.

In other words, for much of the less-important material such as the cooking utensils, chairs and tables and appliances and things that the team uses in the hospitality areas at a race, there are five different replicas that go around the world.

After the race in Monza, the cars and computers and all the garage materials were packed up in crates by the mechanics, truck drivers and hospitality staff and sent back to the team's base in Hinwil, Switzerland.

Once there, the cars were worked on and disassembled and sent to Milan for transport on Sept. 13 to Singapore.

In Singapore, at the track the advance crew then began setting up the temporary paddock and the team garages on Monday Sept. 17, while another group arrived in Singapore on Wednesday.

After Singapore, the materials will be flown to Japan for the race there on Oct. 7 and then on to for the Grand Prix there a week later.

''It's tougher this year because there are so many races,'' Zehnder said. ''The majority of our team after Singapore is staying in Asia. We go to Thailand, 75 percent of the team; we are going to a nice hotel there for a week of relaxation.

It would not make sense for especially the first group of mechanics to go back to Switzerland, they would arrive Tuesday after Singapore and have to go out again on Saturday, spending just four days at home and traveling twice through the time zones.''

The team goes from Thailand to Japan and then to South Korea and then back to Switzerland.

'And so it's a lot of work," said Zehnder. "It's a lot of people involved, basically our whole race team, all the mechanics, the truck drivers, which is about 28 people involved in setting up, in packing and unpacking, plus the eight people in catering. There are 47 operational people traveling to the races, but that excludes marketing, press, catering, so in total here we are 67 people going to the races. Helping with preparation loading the freight it is about 30 people, about half the team at the race.

And those are long working days, they are not turning up at 9 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m. You are regularly turning up at 8 a.m. and leaving at 10 p.m. So it is going to be a very intense second half of the season.

''The main thing is always: 'Don't forget anything at home.' If you forget an essential part... On top of the normal freight, if you have development parts for the car, from time to time you have to send an extra person with hand luggage to the races because they are bringing new parts which makes the car a bit quicker or a bit better to drive, and so at the last minute sometimes you have more than one person coming with hand luggage with parts.

For some drivers, nothing will have prepared them for so much travel and racing in their careers.

''Never in my dreams,'' said Jean-Éric Vergne, a rookie driver at the Toro Rosso team team. ''I trained a lot in the summer and I have a good group of people working behind me with my physio, basically like how you would speak to a kid: 'Go to sleep, go to eat, eat this, don't eat this, don't do this, do this.' And in the end it will make a big difference, I think, during such a period. So I'm pretty relaxed about it.''