LOGISTICS

For Formula One racing teams one of the biggest battles of a race weekend or testing session will be over before a car even turns a wheel: the vast logistical effort required to get all of the team's equipment to the circuit.

Indeed each team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship now travels something like 160,000 kilometres (100,000 miles) a year between races and test sessions - with some of the larger constructors (running one or more test teams) doing considerably more than that.

Nor is the logistical effort as simple as merely getting people and equipment in place. Hotel accommodation must also be found and booked (a team can require anything up to 100 rooms), hire cars must be sourced and the team's facilities at the circuit - from the pit garage equipment to the drivers' motorhomes and the paddock corporate hospitality units must all be in place. Almost equally important, in this digital age, are the secure data links that connect the team to its base, enabling telemetry and other data to be sent directly back (which in turn allows engineers to study any potential problems, even while the race is running.) All-in-all, an enormous task.

For the European rounds of the championship most of a team's equipment will travel by road, in the liveried articulated lorries which are such a familiar sight in race paddocks across the continent. All of the race equipment required for the weekend will be loaded in these: cars, spare parts and tools. Most teams will 'pack' three cars, one spare chassis and several spare engines plus a full kit of other spares. Tyres, fuel and certain other equipment are brought separately by technical partners and local contractors.

For the non-European 'flyaway' races the logistical effort is considerably more complicated (all Formula One teams being resident in Europe at the moment) as equipment has to be flown out on transport planes. Rather than use conventional aircraft containers, teams have created their own specially designed cargo crates, designed to fill all available space in the planes' holds. At present most of the teams use cargo planes chartered by Formula One Management (FOM) which fly from London and Munich to wherever the race is being held. In the case of successive flyaway races (such as with the Chinese and Japanese Grands Prix in 2006) there is insufficient time between them to allow the teams' equipment to be brought 'home', meaning direct transit between the two races. This means that considerably more components have to be packed.

As the number of races outside Europe continues to expand, so the logistical effort required to transport the teams and their equipment will expand alongside it. Already the amount of transport required for a season of Formula One has been described, only half-jokingly, as being similar to that needed for a medium-sized military campaign.