With less than two weeks from the end of the final test in Bahrain to the first practice session in Melbourne and only a handful of days now until the freight leaves for Australia the teams are literally in a race to turnaround the test cars, parts and support equipment in time to get them to Australia and have everything in place for set-up day, writes JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.
The factories will be 100% operational right now in ensuring that the cars leave with enough spares for the first race. For example ideally one wants 6 front wings at each race, with 4 being considered the bare minimum. Typically a team may go with 2 to 3 launch specification front wings and 2 to 3 Melbourne update wings, one of which will have probably been run at Bahrain. Each front wing can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to make from scratch so if any were damaged in the last track test production will struggle to replace it in time.
This is of course on top of any correlation issues between the track and the virtual/bench testing that was done at the factory which may necessitate last minute modifications to parts. Sometimes these modifications may be minor, for instance a strake or fence update to a floor but on occasions they may be complete assembly updates, eg new turning vanes etc.
Also this year the Teams and their suppliers have to deal with clear reliability concerns, which are in part exacerbated by the complexity of the new power units. From an operational and data analysis perspective this will probably be the busiest two weeks of the year. It is imperative that the car in Australia is as optimised as possible.
Once on the road at the beginning of a fly away sequence it is very hard to recover (even logistically) from a poor start and the first race on European soil (i.e. Barcelona) can seem an awfully long way away.
F1 Teams are excellent at the logistical complexities of transporting all their equipment from one event to another and back and forth to the factory.
For every ‘fly away’ race, which is simply defined as one where it is impractical to drive the cargo too, the teams’ air and sea freight (sea freight is only for the heavier items which they typically have duplicates or even triplicates of) many tonnes of equipment including chassis, spare parts, the internal garage and pit wall structures, computer systems, radios, catering equipment, etc.
The freight deadlines are rigidly fixed and set many weeks in advance. Any alteration to these dates are sometimes impossible and always eye wateringly expensive. As a last resort team members will hand carry smaller components if needed but customs can sometimes be difficult and one is not always guaranteed to get the part into the country.