Formula 1®

The race behind the race: F1 Logistics from Mexico to the USA in record time

Key Takeaways

  • DHL organizes the transportation of Formula 1 equipment from Mexico to the USA on back-to-back weekends within 37 hours.
  • The Mexican GP, being held prior to the US GP for the first time this season, has considerable logistics implications.
  • The time-critical delivery involves complex customs procedures and use of tracking technology.

Transporting all the Formula 1 equipment to 21 different locations around the world is a major logistical challenge. Every minute counts for the DHL Motorsport team as they service the last double-header of the 2019 season. The races in Mexico and the USA take place on back-to-back weekends and several elements have to be carefully planned to ensure a smooth and successful transport from Mexico City to Austin.

Double-headers are fairly common in Formula 1 and there have been quite a few in 2019. Nevertheless, with each origin and destination, the challenge is unique and requires specific adjustments. In 2019, the order of the Mexican Grand Prix and the US Grand Prix has been swapped around and getting equipment across the border from Mexico into the USA is more complex than previous years, when it was headed in the opposite direction. The DHL Motorsport team must manage time-critical delivery and delicate customs procedures.

Dismantling under time pressure

DHL is used to dealing with the time pressure when it comes to the logistics of Formula 1. In previous turnarounds (e.g. Singapore to Sochi), the Formula 1 freight was moved halfway around the world within a matter of days. In the case of this Mexico/USA turnaround, the 1,500-kilometer distance separating the two locations has to be covered within 37 hours. To successfully manage the transportation, DHL is using a large fleet of air and road freight. Seven chartered Boeing 747-400 and 12 x 53’ trucks are used to manage the operation. Mexico usually operates curfews for charter aircrafts and these are permitted to take off from 23:00 to 05:00 – special dispensations were obtained to operate outside of these hours.

As soon as the race is over, we start dismantling the equipment, load it into freight boxes and onto the trucks.

Paul Fowler, DHL Vice President Motorsport

The timeframe is very tight. Immediately after the race, which was hampered by driving rain on the Sunday, the paddock in Mexico City was packed up, and will be ready by the following Thursday in Austin. “As soon as the race is over, we start dismantling the equipment, load it into freight boxes and onto the trucks. It then has to pass through the customs on the Mexico/US border and travel on through US territory, all according to a strict timetable,” says DHL Vice President Motorsport, Paul Fowler. “We expect to be loading the first trucks at around four o’clock in the morning,” explains DHL Motorsports Operations Location Manager, John Williams. “The last truck is due to leave on Monday at noon.”

Special procedures at the border

The border crossing from Mexico into the USA involves very specific procedures due to strict customs regulations and opening hours for cargo checkpoints. The freight takes up to 16 hours to arrive to the border, usually after customs office closing time. The DHL team has to anticipate this eventuality and work around it with specific agreements made in advance. “We’re doing it for the first time this year”, says John. “But we are confident that we have prepared well for the customs authorities and have done everything we can to speed up the process.”

Technology for more speed & onsite coordination

The entire transportation is tracked in real-time using an innovative GPS system. These devices provide regular updates on the progress of the freight throughout its journey and visibility for further onsite planning for the DHL and  Formula 1 teams. It also prevents long waiting times at the track as the teams will be informed of the exact timing of freight arrival by DHL. 

Our staff are superbly prepared for this big challenge.

Cristina Tumiatti, Operations Manager

When the freight arrives at the paddock in Austin, there is still a lot to do for the team onsite. The layout of the Circuit of the Americas is relatively compact, which adds further complexity to the unloading and set-up process. Moreover, all the freight arriving via air and road has to be set up simultaneously. For DHL, the clock is ticking! Everything must be ready by Thursday when the Circuit of the Americas will open its doors to the public.

DHL’s experienced logistics team started preparing for the last double-header of 2019 months ago. “Our staff are superbly prepared for this big challenge and we are sure that we will succeed”, says Operations Manager, Cristina Tumiatti. All arrangements are in place to efficiently deliver Formula 1 from Mexico to the USA – and to once more, win the race before the race.


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