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F1 logistics nightmare

For the backroom staff, the race is on


PROGRESS REPORT: A view of the Buddh International Circuit, which will host the Indian GP in October. This is as far as one can get, since the circuit is off-limits to the public.

Formula One isn't just about fancy playboys, shapely ladies and glitzy yachts. An incredible amount of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure a perfect weekend of racing. CrestSport offers a peek into what is essentially a logistics nightmare...

India will soon get that heady feeling of being a part of the global phenomenon that is Formula 1. It represents the pinnacle of racing for young drivers with adrenaline gushing in their veins, but off the circuit too the world of F1 is equally interesting. An exhilarating combination of cutting-edge technology, pioneering safety measures, innovative marketing - and the glitz and glamour that goes with all of it - ensures that F1 garners the highest TV ratings of any sport apart from the FIFA World Cup.
The world of F1, though, is not just about billionaire playboys or their fancy yachts and ladies. An incredible amount of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure a weekend of uninterrupted racing. It is both fascinating and challenging.

The sport can now claim to having truly transcended international boundaries. While travel from one race to another within Europe alone can be a monumental task, teams now have to make their way across more countries and continents than ever before. With India now on that list, I thought I'd give you an insight into the logistics that go into making the Formula 1 Airtel Indian Grand Prix a reality.

Being from a motorsports family, the fact that the race - 17th on the 19-race calendar - is being held in the village of Dankaur, where my mother grew up, gives me immense satisfaction. Incidentally, the BIC (Buddh International Circuit) coincidently carries the same initials as my dad Bharat Indu Chandhok, who was instrumental in bringing motorsport to India.

For the millions of TV viewers around the world, a Grand Prix begins when those five red lights go out on a Sunday afternoon. For the backroom staff and logistics department, each race starts even before the season begins. Away from the whirlwind of laps every other Sunday, a different kind of race is fundamental to the successful working of all teams. The Formula 1 circus covers 1, 60, 000 km within a championship, with at least 30 tonnes of equipment and around 100 personnel per team, all to be transported to each race weekend or test session on time.

The challenge doesn't stop there. Once on location, team members need food, transport, hotels and suitable working conditions. For flyaway races, like to India, the cars, spare parts and equipment is shipped by air while European races have 'truckies' filling four trucks with everything the team can ever need at the circuit, from the smallest of spark plugs to entire gearboxes.

All the sea freight for the Indian Grand Prix starts rolling in a fortnight from now. That includes air freight from Korea, the 1, 200 people that will slowly fill the paddock and the marketing gurus and IT junkies who follow suit on the Monday of a Grand Prix. Once at the Buddh International Circuit, the pressure of setting up the perfect garages with tool boxes, computer stations and everything else needed over the weekend will be in full flow and can take anywhere between eight to 10 hours.

What is even more fascinating is the fact that by 2 am - a few scant hours after the race is done - teams will need to have all their freight packed and ready to depart to the next destination.

The enormity of the task is handled by the teams with the help of Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM). Even FOM covers only half the freight cost of all teams through the year. Teams essentially bring four cars to each race with two of them fully built and enough spare parts to build another two!

It goes without saying that their teams are often working days on end to ensure the car is near perfect when it hits the circuit. Motorsport relies entirely on the private sector for its infrastructure and I really commend the Jaypee Group for providing the right impetus with this world-class facility. On October 30, India will bear witness to this incredible sporting spectacle but for the teams themselves, the Indian Grand Prix has already well and truly begun!

(The writer is the president of the Federation of Motorsports Council of India)

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