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How private jets move Formula 1 around the world


While Lewis Hamilton was sealing his Driver’s Championship title by claiming his 11th win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as well as the Constructors Championship for Mercedes, behind the scenes a jaw-dropping logistics operation was swinging into action as the business of transporting 2,000 tons of Formula 1 freight to the next race gained speed.

Getting the show on the road

Each Formula 1 Grand Prix event must be broken down, packaged and transported to the next venue, then put together again in time for the next race. Sounds simple enough, but the monster-load of equipment and large distances covered make Formula One a logistical masterpiece.

Formula 1’s official carrier, DHL, says six of its Boeing 747 aircraft clock up 132,000km during a nine-month F1 season, as they carry the paraphernalia of 10 teams and 20 drivers to five continents. That’s a hefty 50 tons on average of freight per team, 30 freight containers of hospitality equipment, 150,000kg of media equipment and 10,000kg of electronics per F1 team.

Formula 1 cars and kitchen sinks

Private jet flying in a beautiful blue and yellow sky
Private jet flying in a beautiful blue and yellow sky

Packing begins on a Sunday as the on-track drama races towards the checkered flag. Using a phased approach, one of the world’s greatest motorsport events is deconstructed over about eight hours. Within an hour, the first items are on trucks headed for the airport, where aircraft are fueled and ready for takeoff. The process may be fast, but it’s also carefully planned. Throw a spanner in the works and the wheels are likely to come off at the next Grand Prix event.

Load lists are meticulously planned weeks in advance, ensure equipment is packed onto the planes in the right order and arrives at the next venue in the correct sequence. This ensures everything can be unpacked as it’s needed.

Careful consideration also goes into transporting items by sea and land – much slower than by air, but cheaper and able to take more weight. For cheap and heavy pieces of equipment like vices or crowd control barriers, typically five duplicate sets travel by sea freight. Formula 1 cars are always transported by road or charter flight. Road transportation involves boxing up the cars and placing them inside the truck on elevated platforms in a way that cushions and stops any movement that could damage the cars. When Formula 1 travels internationally, the cars are transported in critical (chassis, engines, tires, wings and computers) and non-critical (jacks and tools) groups. Teams generally use cargo planes, chartered by Formula One Management (FOM).

Each F1 car is stripped down to its components and the engine and gearbox, front and rear wings, mirrors and suspension placed in their own foam slotted boxes – or, in the case of chassis, packed in custom-made covers that are specially designed to optimally fill the space available in the aircraft holds.

The race to go live

Three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion Niki Lauda in 1984 driving a McLaren MP4/2
Three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion Niki Lauda in 1984 driving a McLaren MP4/2

Advances in technology have placed added pressure on the Formula 1 Grand Prix set-up process, with some employees flying in on a Wednesday – a week-and-a-half before race weekend – to accommodate the complex set-up of wiring and cabling and the building of garages and motorhomes, a broadcast center and hospitality facilities.

Of course, there’s no such thing as perfect planning and as practice and qualifying sessions get underway and teams make changes to their cars, they invariably find they need a piece of equipment or a spare part they left behind at their home base. In such cases, DHL must move quickly to get it on the next jet out.

Formula 1 drivers and private jets

The love affair between F1 drivers and private jets began when three-time F1 World Drivers' Champion Niki Lauda fell in love with the freedom, convenience and cost-efficiency of private jet travel while racing for Ferrari. Now the non-executive chairman of Mercedes, Lauda set up a private air charter service in 2004 and flies around the Grand Prix circuit in his Bombardier Global 6000.

Lewis Hamilton’s fire engine red jet – a Bombardier Challenger 605 – shows up regularly at private jet airports near Formula 1 venues; while Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has said his most amazing travel experience was when boss Dietrich Mateschitz flew him back from a Grand Prix event last year in a Cessna Citation Bravo. What made the experience especially cool for Ricciardo, apart from the luxury and comfort of the flight, was that Mateschitz piloted the jet himself.

This definitely beats the experience of Ricciardo’s teammate, Max Verstappen, when he boarded a scheduled airliner after the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix. After being told his business class seat had been double-booked, he graciously took the only remaining seat next to the toilets in economy. Although the Formula 1 superstar won points for his uncomplaining humbleness, he probably had a far less uncomfortable ride home.

Fly in comfort to the next Formula 1 Grand Prix

Chartering a private jet can be more cost-effective than you might think. If you and a group of friends want to travel to the next F1 Grand Prix in comfort and style, speak to our team for a bespoke quote. A dedicated account manager will take care of all the little details, leaving you to sit back, enjoy your flight and look forward to a cracking race.

Anya Clark

If you're considering travelling to this destination, why not contact the ACS Travel & Concierge team to create your own tailor-made trip. From private jet transportation, to bespoke itineraries, no request is too big or complex. Get in touch now on +44 (0)20 8335 1070 or email travel@aircharter.co.uk

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