Anyone involved in exports would be familiar with the initials DHL.
When it comes to logistics, the company is a global market leader.
DHL has vast experience in international express, air and ocean freight, road and rail transportation, contract logistics and international mail services.
It boasts a global network throughout more than 220 countries and territories and has about 285,000 employees worldwide.
In 2012, DHL – which is part of Deutsche Post DHL – generated revenue of more than 55 billion euros.
Not everyone, however, is aware that for the past 25 years DHL has been an integral part of Formula 1 racing.
Not a single wheel could turn in Formula One without logistics – and DHL operates a 24-hour express service for all of the F1 races.
As the official logistics partner, DHL is responsible for transporting cars, engines, motor, fuel and equipment by air, sea and land to the 20 race circuits around the globe.
This month the Formula 1 cars were flown a distance of 12,102km between Bahrain in the Middle East and Melbourne for the first Grand Prix of the 2014 season.
Italian born Pierluigi Ferrari, Deputy Managing Director, DHL Global Forwarding Motorsports, is the man responsible for ensuring the cars and equipment arrives in tip top condition.
Ferrari (whose surname just happens to be synonymous with motorsport) spends more than eight months a year travelling the globe. In the past 30 years he has attended more than 400 Grand Prix events.
“We move equipment for all the major teams, he says proudly. “The biggest challenge is to ensure the material arrives in perfect condition.”
Ferrari says his team of more than 100 logistics experts must be prepared for any contingency, including bad weather and transport delays.
Since he took over his current role with DHL in 2000, there have been no major incidents.
“We have had a clear run – touch wood,” he says.
During the course of the year, a team’s racing cars will be transported over 100,000km between the 19 Grand Prix venues.
The logistics team at DHL has to know the individual peculiarities of each country inside out and ensure that all regulations are adhered to scrupulously. One mistake and the equipment may be held up for days or even weeks.
Six jumbo jets
DHL handles a wide range of transport duties for Formula 1, including the overseas transportation of racing cars, engines, tyres, spare parts and general team equipment. In addition, DHL carries the TV equipment, the special fuel for the races and material that goes into the construction of the Formula 1 Paddock Club VIP hospitality.
The transportation of these over 600 tonnes of material on average requires up to 100 trucks and, of course, the use of aircraft for the overseas races.
Formula 1 equipment travels by sea, land and air. A complete paddock fills the cargo holds of six jumbo jets.
Every Formula 1 team transports roughly 30 tonnes to each overseas race. For the European races, this figure rises to between 35 and 40 tonnes. The teams are completely self-sufficient – they bring their own water bottles, refrigerators, cabling and even their own power generators.
And everything has to be done at top speed – the turnaround time between Grand Prix races can be only seven days in some cases.
Good logistics in Formula 1 means good advance planning. The DHL experts therefore draw up a long list of transport and customs rules before the start of every season.
Principle of rotation
For the overseas races, the teams have three to four identical sets of 40ft sea containers. These are shipped around the world on a rotational basis. They contain all the heavy and interchangeable items of equipment.
Transport of the fuel required for each race per team includes 2,500L of motor fuel, 140L of engine oil, 40L of gear oil and 90L of engine coolants. The fuel is transported in special fireproof canisters with capacities of between 50 and 200L. While in transit, the fuel has to be protected from extreme temperatures such as the heat of Malaysia and the cold of the North Atlantic.
How the cars travel
Before the Formula 1 cars themselves are transported, the front and rear wings, steering wheels, rear view mirrors and sidepods are removed. The bottom and the sides of the car are encased in wooden panels, while at the rear, a bumper protects the gearbox. At the other end, a specially designed cover safeguards the steering and the front of the chassis.
Formula 1 logistics is a full-time job for almost 365 days of the year.
As soon as the chequered flag comes down at an event, the pit crews immediately start dismantling the garages, working through the night from Sunday to Monday on packing everything up. By Tuesday, most of the equipment will have arrived back at the factory or at the next circuit.
Thanks largely to Pierluigi Ferrari and the DHL logistics team the 2014 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park was again an outstanding success.
How does Melbourne compare with other events on the Formula 1 circuit?
“It’s fantastic, says Ferrari. “The people here are really passionate about motorsport. And it’s a fantastic circuit.”
The DHL team now moves on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the second round of the Formula 1 series from March 28-30.
That leaves only 12 days to complete the mammoth task again.
“Actually, that’s a very long time, says Ferrari. “Sometimes we only get a week.”
Details at a glance
- DHL transported more than 600 tonnes of equipment 12,000km from Bahrain to Melbourne using five 747 cargo planes.
- Each Formula 1 team transports about 30 tonnes to each race – for European races this can increase to 35 or 40 tonnes
- Formula 1 equipment travels by sea, land and air. DHL supports the equipment’s travel across the globe – approximately 160,000km
- Transport of the fuel required for each race per team includes 2,500L of motor fuel and 140L of engine oil.
- For overseas races, the teams have 3 or 4 identical sets of 40ft sea containers. These are shipped around the world on a rotational basis.