The longest journey – Mercedes tells the story of the trip to...

The longest journey – Mercedes tells the story of the trip to Australia

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Moving a team from one country to another is never easy, but this is especially tricky when it’s a 10,500-mile journey across the globe. The daunting 24-hour trip for the Australian Grand prix is the longest on the 2018 Formula One calendar, but it definitely makes for a unique start to the new season. Mercedes tells the story of this unusual journey.

Heading to the vibrant, bustling city of Melbourne has become a familiar season-opening trip for the F1 paddock. It’s one of the most popular locations on F1’s schedule, which makes the journey a little bit easier, and there’s always a giddy sense of excitement and anticipation.

But, while it’s a great place to start the new campaign, transporting an F1 team to Melbourne is a mammoth task

In total, over 100 people from Mercedes’ Brackley and Brixworth factories will be attending the first round in Australia. This means a similar number of flights (which feature stopovers in either Abu Dhabi or Singapore) and a fleet of 25 Mercedes-Benz cars need to be organised.

Australian Grand prix, Albert parkOf course, the F1 travelling circus doesn’t just include people. An F1 team needs an array of equipment across a race weekend. And there’s also the small task of getting the new cars from one side of the world to the other, as well…

So, there are over 40 tonnes of air freight and 23 tonnes of sea freight to transport to Melbourne, from more basic items such as chairs, tables, garage walls and hospitality decorations to complicated equipment such as starter motors, the pit wall and the most intricate thing of all – the latest Mercedes F1 creation, the F1 W09 EQ Power+.

The cars and their components are part of the air freight, which departed for Melbourne last week and touched down on Sunday

Heavier items – such as tyre and grid trollies – are part of the sea freight, which obviously has a completely different schedule…

There are a number of different sets of sea freight, so they can be shipped to locations all over the world at the same time. Each race requires three 40-foot containers-worth of sea freight, which took off for Australia mid-way through January and only arrived last Friday.

“There’s a set-up team out there in Melbourne, who started offloading all the sea freight, heavy duty equipment and the garage panelling when it arrived on Friday,” explains Mark Shepherd, Freight Team Leader.

“They built the shell of the garage over the weekend and then when all the air freight reached its destination, the race team and garage technicians arrived to offload it and populate the rest of the garage with all the cars, car parts and other equipment.”

For the departments handling the transportation of team members and freight, Australia is just like any other race

Apart from the fact it takes longer for everything and everyone to get there. As Mark says, all races “have their own idiosyncrasies” but “it’s a similar process, wherever in the world” you are travelling to.

Long-distance travel takes its toll on the human body, though. Therefore, detailed preparation is vital. Those making the day-long voyage over to Melbourne have got to be in tip-top shape because not adapting to the staggering 11-hour timezone shift can impact the performance of a highly-skilled racing team.

Australian Grand prix, Albert parkThere are a number of tactics and techniques that can be deployed to make that happen. For every hour of time difference, there’s a 24-hour delay in adapting to that new location. So, for the trip from Brackley to Melbourne, it would take eleven days to properly settle into that timezone if you do nothing.

Team members have a sleeping plan to help shift their body clock across to the new time zone

Some will start to move gradually across to this in the days leading up to the flight and team members back in Brackley, who are working on Melbourne time to support from HQ, also have their own planned adjustment.

The logistics team picks the flights to Australia to fit as best they can into the sleeping plans. Obviously, the perfect scenario isn’t possible all the time. But the hope is that they can start to adapt to Melbourne time on the flight – sleeping when it’s night time in Oz and eating meals at the same time as their destination.

People stick to light food on the flight and keep a good level of hydration. After landing, light and dark exposure is also something that must be considered, as are meals, meal timings and amount of exercise (the team has a physio and coach heading out to Melbourne).

Of course, the drivers follow these plans too

They even take them to new levels in order to be as prepared as possible for the seven hours of intense track time ahead of them. They’ll only complete light exercise, as it helps speed up the acclimatisation process. They have finished all necessary training before setting foot on the plane.

While some team members may prefer the longest journey of the season to come later in the year, starting the season with the Australian Grand prix means everyone feels that bit fresher and more energised compared to the gradual fatigue that sets in.

Even though the car launch and testing period on the run-up to Melbourne is an intense time, people are in a more positive and eager frame of mind, wanting to get back on the road and racing again. They don’t have much longer to wait.

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