The Logistics of Bringing F1 to Las Vegas
Formula 1 returns to Las Vegas in an entirely new Grand Prix set for November 16-18. The next-to-last stop on F1’s globetrotting 23-race 2023 calendar marks the city’s first major F1 event since 1982.
With 20 countries hosting this year’s race events across five continents, the logistical inner workings of the world’s fastest-growing professional sport have sparked interest in precision high-value transport across the globe. More specifically, it has people asking how exactly teams manage to ship race cars worth upwards of $15M apiece from Sao Paulo, Brazil to the Mojave Desert in just a few weeks’ time.
Here’s how they did it:
The Race Between Races: Behind the Scenes of F1 Shipping
Between each event (generally 1-2 weeks time depending on the international race schedule), Formula1 packs and ships millions of dollars worth of tools, spare parts, safety equipment, team gear and racecars to each new locale. F1 drivers themselves also require efficient international transport, as do each team’s traveling crew members (numbering approximately 75 per team for each of F1’s ten constructors).
This cross-continental move is a massive operation. As soon as an event formally concludes and a winner is crowned, the entire sport begins its carefully choreographed 8-hour dismantling process. Once post-race inspections are performed, every F1 car is systematically disassembled piece by piece; engines, transmissions, wings and suspensions are each slotted into their own custom-fitted, disaster-proof cases lined with foam (and sometimes even enforced with bubble wrap)for good measure.
Once every car part, computer cable, power tool and oil can is safely packed, the sport loads up for transport. As is the case with any industry, air transport provides fast but expensive shipping, while chartered sea or road (or rail) transport tends to carry more weight at the cost of longer transit times. In most cases F1 sends its fleet of trucks laden with ten teams’ worth of tires, fuel and state-of-the-art car parts to an airstrip where seven jumbo jets prepare to move the bulk of the sport’s critical equipment.
The order in which items are loaded is of particular importance; F1 often traverses multiple time zones between races spaced just a week apart, and only the most precise loading processes will facilitate optimal setup times at the next event. Even then, each race presents its own set of quirks (like customs requirements or a race track’s proximity to the airport), altering the setup ever so slightly throughout the sport’s 200-day season.
The process takes a full year of meticulous planning — all to get teams packed and moving in under six hours.
Transforming the Vegas Strip Into an F1 Spectacle
For any city to host an F1 race, it must obtain a Grade 1 license issued by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the world motorsport authority. Once granted, the license is valid for three years from the circuit’s inspection date.
Host venues and tracks must conform to extensive FIA regulations governing track layout and the requirements of all available facilities, subject to exhaustive inspection to ensure driver and spectator safety. A substantial fee is also required (the cost of hosting an F1 race might be a discussion for another day).
Vegas’ efforts to host a major F1 event for the first time in nearly 40 years originated in 2018, just one year removed from the NHL’s and WNBA’s commitment to convert the self-proclaimed entertainment capital of the world into a home for professional sports. The Strip’s iconic backdrop and the growing interest among several other professional sports leagues and associations served as its main selling point to F1 officials.
Of course, the rest is history. The city won its bid to host this weekend’s Grand Prix, carefulling preparing an all-new circuit featuring 1.18 miles of track with a straight expected to see cars exceed 215 MPH at full-throttle — all while boasting a bit of local Vegas flair.
The city spent an estimated $560 million repaving streets, constructing permanent pit and paddock areas and installing temporary bridges and grandstands, though officials are adamant any short-term disruptions will be well worth it in the long run and represent an investment in the decade-long deal with the FIA to bring motorsports to the Vegas strip.
Though the aggressive project drew the ire of some tourists (and many tax-paying locals) due to extensive construction bottlenecks along the city’s major thoroughfare over the past year, repaving one of the world’s most recognizable stretches of road in preparation for an F1 event is exactly the sort of spectacle for which America’s Playground earned its reputation — and which solidifies Formula 1’s status as a one-of-a-kind logistical marvel.
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