Turkish GP - An interesting logistical challenge
Straddling the two continents of Europe and Asia, the Turkish GP presents an interesting logistical challenge, in that like all European races, the paddock in Istanbul hosts the team trucks and motorhomes. However, the distance from most teams' homes means that the best transport solution is the old-fashioned one of going by sea, with all the race cars, support vehicles and equipment being shipped to and from the Turkish capital from Trieste, on Italy's Adriatic coast.
In fact, sea freight might be old fashioned but it is actually used extensively by the majority of teams for all races outside Europe. While slower than sending equipment by air, it is significantly cheaper. "Sending equipment by ship is much much cheaper than using the FOM air charter," confirms Miodrag Kotur, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's head of logistics. "To give you an idea of the saving, it is still cheaper, even though it involves having three sets of everything that we sea freight, totalling around 15,000 kilos." The reason for having three sets is that this means each one can be shuttled around the globe to cover all the non-European events. "The equipment we sent to Australia for the first race of the season came back to Italy for re-stocking before being sent off to China," says Kotur. "The package that went to Malaysia will next be seen in Japan, while the freight first used in Bahrain then went on to Canada, USA and Brazil. Each package contains exactly the same equipment. Included in the list of equipment is stuff that in the past we would have hired on-site at the circuits, such as tables and chairs and kitchen equipment. Hire costs are so high that it is more economical to buy these things at home, as well as items such as generators, cables, connections and so forth and then send them by sea. A single chair can be ridiculously expensive to hire - this is Formula 1 after all! We can buy equipment and use it over several years so it is a good way of further amortising the costs." This sea freight never includes car components as they change too quickly, because technical developments are ongoing throughout the season. But pit and garage equipment, including some of the dividing partitions that go to make up the garage structure that are bulky and heavy are ideally suited to sea travel.
While we had Mr. Kotur's attention, it was a good opportunity to quiz him about the only new logistical challenge of 2007; the relocation of the Japanese Grand Prix to the Mount Fuji circuit. "It is will be a difficult weekend in terms of track access, with just one little road to the circuit," reckoned Kotur. "It is up in the mountains and while the facilities on-site are the same as at any other grand prix venue, there are no hotels or shops without going long distances which will take a long time and the hotels are not of a very high standard. Finding sufficient decent rooms was a difficult challenge. The journey from Tokyo on arrival will also be difficult with a two and half to three hour bus journey the only real option. The organisers are talking about a special "F1 personnel" route operating in a 25 kilometre radius of the circuit, which should help traffic flow on a daily basis."
Having looked briefly at the final part of the season, closer to home, Formula 1's "summer break" has now come to an end. While the additional weekend without a grand prix means that the time since the race in Budapest has allowed the team to catch its breath, work has nevertheless been continuing in the premises of the Gestione Sportiva in Fiorano. Apart from the usual work that can continue without the need for track testing - wind tunnel work, engine running on test benches and cars running on simulation rigs - the race team spent considerable time analysing its approach to all the various possible pit stop situations to review its methodology in these circumstances. This work was a reaction to the confused situation that developed in the Scuderia pit during Felipe Massa's pit stop in Saturday's qualifying session in Budapest. The pit crew itself also went through some intensive practice runs. Within the teams' testing agreement, shakedowns have been permitted during this break and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro took the opportunity of trying out a new chassis, number 263, which Massa will use in Istanbul. Finally, President Luca di Montezemolo met with staff of the Gestione Sportiva last Wednesday to add his personal support to the team. He did not have to spell out the targets for the rest of the season, as these are very clear: trying to win all remaining six rounds of the world championship.