Night mission: the installation team from DB Schenker worked in shifts until the next morning. The mobile headquarters of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport was put together in just 24 hours
Photos: Matthias Aletsee
The flashes of light from the yellow rotating beacons are clearly visible under the dark sky. Another semitrailer rolls up. The crane’s motor springs to life. Shouted commands can be heard through the lashing rain: “Steady the load! Carry on! And stop!” Few words are needed in this team that runs like a well-oiled machine. Michael Schick and his colleagues from DB Schenker are on the job at all the Formula One™ races in Europe. Over the next 24 hours, they will be setting up the Motorhome for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. This structure, consisting of 30 container modules, is the mobile headquarters for the racing team. “By tomorrow evening it must all be completed,” says Schick, one of the two operational team leaders.
DB Schenker, as “Official Logistics Supplier”, have been managing the transportation and setting up of the Motorhome of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport since the 2015 racing season. For the year 2018, the racing calendar held a very special situation in store: “This is our first ever triple back-to-back,” says Michael Schick: three races, at three venues, on three successive weekends. Usually there is a weekend off between two Grand Prix races. But not at Spielberg: the race at Le Castellet in the south of France, more than 1,100 kilometers away, was held last Sunday, and now it is Tuesday evening. And from there they will immediately move on to Silverstone in the UK. If the usual setting up job counts as a marathon, then what they are into this time is an “Iron Man”.
The triple header is a first in the history of Formula One™ racing. An added factor is that nine races are scheduled between May and September 2018, compared with seven in the same period last year. The only way to succeed in this task is if everyone works as part of the team. “The ability to work in a team is what matters most. We have no use for lone wolf operators here,” says Schick. The experience gained over recent years is a definite advantage for the DB Schenker team.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
What is the major difference between regular race weekends and back-to-back events?
The biggest challenge with regard to back-to-back and particularly triple-back-to-back events is the lack of time to dismantle the pit garage and the race trucks as well as the motorhome after
the first race and then be operational at the second race venue by Tuesday evening. It’s a massive logistical challenge for all the personnel involved.
What does this mean for the people involved?
From a human perspective, it is non-stop work for 22 days, which is very tiring from a physical and mental standpoint. The mental pressure of a race weekend can take its toll on the body and the brain as you are always trying to deliver a perfect performance. However we endeavor to create an environment to fully support this. Our team and the DB Schenker crew never lack motivation and we take measures to ensure everyone is well looked after and able to function at top level.
What is DB Schenker’s role within this operation?
DB Schenker is one of our key partners setting up and moving the motorhome. They are basically the heart of the overall operation and are responsible for the complete set up and logistics.
Furthermore, they do the running support during the event to ensure the highest standard throughout. Our partnership is based on a long-term relationship
and trust. The DB Schenker Team knows everything around the motorhome and there is nothing that they cannot fix.
The truck carrying the next 20-foot container comes to a stop; the workers quickly open the roller tarpaulins on the sides and roof of the trailer, release the transportation locking devices and attach the crane lifting ropes. Schick raises an index finger, and the crane driver gets going. Another section of the Motorhome floats up into the cloudy evening sky. 26 more to go. For Schick and his team this, too, is a race – a race against the clock. And a battle against nature: a steady rain has started falling.
During this triple back-to-back phase, the size of the core team is increased, from usually 20 to about 50 people. “In particular, we need additional drivers for hauling the modules to the next racetrack,” says Sören Hell, Project Manager for DB SCHENKERsportsevents. With two drivers on each truck, the distances can be covered without the need for lengthy breaks.
The “grid”, i.e. the metal frame that forms the foundations of the Motorhome, poses a special challenge. Being the foundations, it is of course the very last component to be loaded after a race. And yet, it is also the first component needed at the next location. For this reason, the steel structure was transported from Le Castellet to Spielberg on four pickup trucks. “The race here marks the mid-season point – a good time for DB Schenker to conduct a half-time analysis,” says Hell. Does everything come up to the customer’s expectations? Are there any requirements that have changed?
“From the movements of cranes right through to the deployment of outside craftsmen – everything has to be coordinated down to the tiniest increments”
Sören Hell, Project Manager DB SCHENKERsportsevents
It is also half-time in setting up the Motorhome. The time is half past nine on Wednesday morning. On what was an empty parking lot only yesterday, a Formula One™ village has taken shape overnight. Forklift trucks are buzzing back and forth, and there is drilling and hammering going on all around. Trucks repeatedly maneuver through the narrow alley ways between the camps of the various racing teams. Space is at a premium alongside racetracks, and coordinating the different trades and services is a demanding task. “From the movements of cranes and trucks right through to the deployment of catering, cleaning services and outside craftsmen – everything has to be coordinated down to the tiniest increments,” says project manager Hell. The goods news is that at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, all the containers have already been set up. Working through the rainy night has been worth it.
The team members are taking a mini-break for a quick breakfast on the ground floor of the Motorhome. Michael Schick takes a large gulp of coffee. “Next we are going to do the roof terrace, then we will start on the interior fittings.” Electrical outlets, heating and air-conditioning all need to be connected. The more delicate parts of the job start now. “By this evening everything must be shipshape,” says Schick, puts down his coffee mug and walks up the stairs to the roof – to put railings in place and lay floor tiles.
Everyone pitches in during the completion of the interior, including the truck drivers who are part of the core team. Michael Merz is one of them. Together with a second driver, he drove across the Alps. “15 hours, 17 minutes,” he states, “a real precision landing.” Now it’s all about putting things together. “The variety of tasks is fun. The more often you put something like this together, the more you can see how some things could be done even more quickly. And then there’s the competition, to show the others who’s the quickest.”
On Wednesday evening, everything is ready for the handover to the customer. During the following days of practice, qualification and racing, team meetings and press conferences will be held, VIPs entertained and crews fed on the three floors of the Motorhome. During this period, DB Schenker will handle security for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. And Michael Schick and his colleagues can recuperate from their very own 24-hour race at Spielberg. Until Sunday evening, at least. Because the route to Silverstone in the UK will be quite a bit longer still.
Speedy partnership: In the Formula One™ season of 2018, DB Schenker was “Official Logistics Provider” for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport for all Europe-based races for the fourth time. Experts from DB SCHENKERspecial and DB SCHENKERsportsevents were all involved in the operation. They joined the action for nine races between the middle of May and the beginning of September. During this time, the 18 Motorhome trucks covered about 16,000 kilometers each
Photos: Matthias Aletsee / Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
E-mobility: For e-trucks to be used reliably, intelligent route planning is called for. As part of
the iHub project, an IT platform is currently being developed for this very purpose. One of the test objects is an electrically powered 12-ton truck from DB Schenker.