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At some time every car enthusiast has watched the television coverage of a Grand Prix taking place in some exotic location halfway across the world, one of 18 or so race weekends throughout the hectic 9 month season, yet rarely is any thought given to how all those people and cars are got to that precise spot at the right time and, even more remarkably, with all of their high tech luggage intact.

Consider, the scale of the undertaking... There are 11 teams competing in F1 and each takes at least 4 forty foot transporters to every race plus a giant media/sponsor centre.  These articulated monsters contain 3 complete race cars in ready to go state, at least two complete spare cars and a mountain of spares and part built cars. Most teams also take one or more giant Media and corporate centres, for the sponsors meet and greet sessions, and a couple of American motor homes.

However, the key to making this operation work over the frenetic 4 days of a Grand Prix weekend are the people, all experienced, well drilled and with a well defined job to do.

Most teams will take 40 or more mechanics, each with their own specialism, guided by a couple of dozen race engineers, computer boffins, designers and other experts. Add to this motley crew, PR people, caterers, senior managers and, of course, the drivers, and each team may have 100 or more people on hand. Multiply that collection by 11 teams, add the specialists from the engine suppliers, fuel companies and the tyre crews and the commonly used epithet of 'circus' seems very appropriate.

Clearly a circus requiring a very special kind of ringmaster. So what kind of superman, or superwoman,   does it take to create order out of this caravanserai of potential chaos?

Well much of it comes down to Bernie Ecclestone and his team because Bernie owns the planes that fly this lot around the world and aside from the cavernous cargo panes the numbers involved necessitate chartering
complete planes each time or booking virtually every seat on scheduled flights - British Airways being the preferred carrier - who will often divert or reschedule flights, such is the volume of business.

In the last few years, budgets in the F1 business have multiplied enormously, most teams now spending 30 to £40 million annually, with travel costs taking up to 10% of the total expenditure, sums of £40, 000-50, 000 each month being common.

For example, the average cost of moving a mechanic and feeding and stabling him at a full season of races is around £40, 000 aside from the cost of transporting equipment.

It's not difficult to see why Bernie no longer has any competition, the business is difficult, stressful, neither enormously glamorous or profitable and works more on trust than most, a rarity in today's business climate.

 

Article © Graham Benge 2007

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