DB Schenker manages the logistics of the Silver Arrows
Economics & Logistics
This year, DB Schenker took over responsibility for transporting the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 team. To ensure the job gets done properly, the logistics experts rely on a fleet of Actros trucks.
There's a smile on Lewis Hamilton's face as he crosses the driver's paddock at Silverstone. The race is over, and he won. After the victory presentation and interviews, he autographs a youngster's cap and finds time to share a few words and some high fives with older fans. 25 metres away, dance music pounds from the loudspeakers. In the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS team box the clear-up work has begun. The mood is relaxed. The sound of spanners clattering into toolboxes merges with the beat of the music. Within minutes, the strut-supported structures under which the Silver Arrows park are gone. A couple of empty champagne bottles lie on the ground. A sort of proof that the Formula 1 Grand Prix victory was also celebrated here in the pit area as well as on the podium. Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate Nico Rosberg achieved a 1-2 finish. And it doesn't come much better than that. The crew grab something to eat as they work – sandwiches and ice lollies take up place among the tool trolleys, laptops and tyres.
As ever, things need to move fast. After all, the race to the next race has already started. “We always listen to music while we pack up. Of course, after a win like this one today it's even louder than usual,” says Markus Kotkowski. He is the project manager at DB SCHENKERsportsevents and is the interface between the Formula 1 team and the logistics providers during the days spent at the racetrack. He has been present at every Grand Prix since the beginning of the season. The racing team has contracted its logistics services out to DB Schenker until December 2018.
DB Schenker uses a fleet of Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks to transport all of the equipment of the F1 world champions from their team HQ in Brackley, England to the various Grand Prix circuits across Europe. That's a total of seven races: Barcelona, Monaco, Spielberg, Silverstone, Budapest, Spa and Monza. Without perfect logistics there can be no pole position and no victory. “We have to remain 100 percent on-schedule. There's no room for tardiness in Formula 1,” says Kotkowski. “The processes involved in getting all of the equipment and the two cars to the tests and the Grand Prix venues on time have to be perfectly timed. The client should be able to focus fully on their technical know-how and on the race. We take care of everything else.”
The DB Schenker team involved in the Formula 1 project comprises 30 colleagues. Ten of them work for the race trucks. In five silver semitrailers pulled by five Mercedes-Benz Actros 1845 tractor units they carry the race cars, spare parts, the workshop and the engineers' office – including a fuel lab and rooms for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to relax in. Every vehicle in the fleet is equipped with a GPS transmitter so the client can always see where the equipment is. But the job involves more than just transport. During the days spent at the circuit, the logistics crew helps the Formula 1 team wherever possible, including supplying security services for Nico Rosberg.
“Formula 1 demands the highest levels of professionalism and precision. The same goes for our logistics services,” says Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Toto Wolff. “In DB Schenker we have a partner that provides excellent service and is able to respond to changing circumstances with the necessary flexibility and speed.”
One of the ten race truck drivers is Christopher Neil Pearson, known by everyone here at the Silverstone circuit simply as Chris. In the 1980s the Welshman moved to Germany whilst serving with the British Army. He now lives in Bielefeld with his family. “I've only spent five weeks at home this year, though,” says Pearson. The race truck drivers often sleep in their vehicles. “We have the GigaSpace cabs, which is obviously an advantage for us.” Whilst enjoying his work, Pearson concedes that it is very intensive. It demands a good level of fitness. There's one more race, in Hungary, then Formula 1 takes a break for the summer. Time for everyone to catch their breath. He's covered 19,000 kilometres in his Actros since the start of the project. The distances between the races account for over 7000 kilometres of this total. On top of that there are the trips to Brackley, to test drives and to the airports from where the cars and equipment are flown out for the overseas races. “This is a completely new challenge for me,” says the 44-year-old Pearson. “Every race is different. For example, in Monaco the circuit is very tight and it's right in the centre of the city. You can't tell if you need 45 minutes or two hours to get there from the outskirts.” Pearson acknowledges that not much can be done about that though. It's no wonder then that he and his colleagues need to be able to rely fully on their equipment. “Our trucks have to be reliable and have plenty of power. That's important for our work here.”
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It's now around two hours since the chequered flag was waved, and Pearson has no time to talk. An Actros parks in the pit lane. The mechanics have dismantled as many of the 3000 parts making up each of the two Silver Arrows as are necessary to enable their transport. They have to be moved the few miles from the Silverstone circuit to Brackley for testing and diagnostics as quickly as possible. On the Actros trailer, the ramp is ready to receive the two 702-kilogram F1 racing cars. Mercedes mechanics and DB Schenker staff join forces to push the cars into the trailer. Slowly but surely, the Mercedes pit area is emptied. That said, the work goes on until late in the evening.
Another key member of the DB SCHENKERsportsevents team for the Formula 1 mission is Sören Hell. He manages the project from the company headquarters in Kelsterbach. “The special thing about this contract is that it's not just about transporting the equipment: we actually build a house here for each race.” The “house” is the motor home, a three-storey mobile building in which MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS can receive visitors in the paddock and hold meetings on a race-by-race basis. It boasts a large kitchen, counter, conference room, offices, and a roof terrace with barbecue. On the ground floor alone there are enough TVs fixed to the walls for every visitor to have a good view of the circuit at all times. Putting up and dismantling the mobile home, which is constructed from a total of 28 containers, is a highly complex affair. Once assembled they form a perfect whole. No scratches, no gaps. As much care as possible has to go into the assembly work, transportation and packing up. The motor home team features 20 DB Schenker employees. Like everything else, the building is transported by a fleet of Actros trucks.
One day after the race, the dismantling work is well under way. A crane lifts a dishwasher up off the roof terrace. “The upstairs kitchen alone weighs 1.3 tonnes,” says Kotkowski. Specially constructed trailers with roofs that open right up are used to transport the motor home.
The side walls are flexible, giving added width to the load platform for loading and unloading to prevent scratches or other damage from occurring. Unlike the two Silver Arrows, the motor home arrives at the circuit a week ahead of the race start. “We hand over the motor home to the client on the Wednesday before the Sunday of the race,” says Kotkowski. “By then it has to be in perfect condition.”
One day after the race, the building is back on the trucks. The Formula 1 cavalry moves on, with the Grand Prix heading to Hungary via Hagen. Kotkowski laughs and says: “In Budapest the whole thing starts again from scratch.”
Photos: Matthias Aletsee and MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS