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The race between the races

High-performance logistics for a world class team – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Driver, Lewis Hamilton, claimed his fifth victory of the season at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The DB Schenker crews were also in full flight at the Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix

Photos: Ralf Kreuels, Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.  


The Belgian Grand Prix turned out perfect for Lewis Hamilton. Starting from pole position, the Brit was the first to see the checkered flag, narrowing the gap to the current leader in this Formula 1 season, Sebastian Vettel, even further. It was a “cool battle” against his opponent, says Lewis some two hours after the race in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport motorhome. At the same time, the DB Schenker crew stands ready. As the Official Logistics Supplier for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport at all European races, they are preparing for the race between the races.

 

A key part of this race is played by the team’s three-story motorhome to which the Drivers often retreat during the race weekends. It also serves as the venue for team management meetings, for hosting VIPs and catering for staff and journalists. The crew from DB Schenker transport the motorhome structure and interior from race to race – dismantling it into individual pieces. There they are set up in the paddock of every European Grand Prix and as soon as the race is over they must be dismantled ready for the next. The critical issue facing them here and now at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is this: while Formula 1 races are usually two or more weeks apart, this time they have only one week until the next race, in Monza, Italy.

 

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“We call this a back-to-back constellation,” says team leader Tobias Genrich. The 35-year-old and his crew usually start work on the Monday morning after the race and finish dismantling the motorhome in two days. “Here we start immediately after the race, and we have 24 hours,” says Genrich during a short break between a phone call and quick consultation with a colleague. Today the crew is made up of 63 instead of the usual 30 or so colleagues. Most of the additional personnel are drivers. This allows the 18 trucks carrying the motorhome to Monza to be driven by two-man teams.

 

But first up are the tradesmen, who have also turned up with an XL crew. While the people attending the press conference downstairs are closing their notebooks, two floors up monitors are being removed and chairs are put inside transport boxes. “Hallo Monsieur!” – calls a crew member speaking into a portable radio, prompting the crane used to dismantle the temporary building to spring into life.

High spirits in spite of a demanding job: Dennis Reck, who looks after the logistics of the motorhome for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (left) and Tobias Genrich, head of DB Schenker’s motorhome crew. Photo: Ralf Kreuels
High spirits in spite of a demanding job: Dennis Reck, who looks after the logistics of the motorhome for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (left) and Tobias Genrich, head of DB Schenker’s motorhome crew. Photo: Ralf Kreuels

Meanwhile, the Welshman, Chris Whittle, and today’s crew of 18 are also in full swing. DB Schenker’s Race Truck crew transport the most precious of all the equipment: Lewis Hamilton’s and Valtteri Bottas’ racing cars, the “Silver Arrows”, including all the associated parts and equipment. Now that the race is over, the men help the mechanics and engineers of the Formula 1 team with the handling of these marvels of automotive engineering – with the bulk of the activities having to be carried out while maintaining utmost secrecy. The sun is setting over pit lane as the Silver Arrows, cloaked in black covers, are loaded onto the truck.

 

It is the morning after the race. The truck carrying the Silver Arrows and the other Race Trucks departed during the night to travel some 1,100 kilometers to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. “We always travel in a convoy made up of six race trucks,” explains Denis Marinkovic, the man in charge of DB Schenker’s entire Formula 1 operation. During the racing weekends, two of these semi-trailers double as the Engineers Office, comprising the IT installation, a fuel lab, and the tire inventory. Here, too, the crew members provide support services.

 

The dismantling of the motorhome is proceeding at full speed, the team having worked in shifts throughout the night. The structure consists of 30 standard containers covered in external cladding, the interior fitted with bars, settees and plenty of IT equipment. Dennis Reck from Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport had taken a leading role in the motorhome’s design – making sure that it can be dismantled and re-built in the time allowed even for back-to-back racing weekends. 

double victories in the past three Formula 1 World Championships: the outstanding track record of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. In 2014 and 2015 Lewis Hamilton topped his colleague Nico Rosberg – who won the title from the Brit in 2016. With Rosberg’s Formula 1 career coming to a close, the Finn Valtteri Bottas joined the team in 2017


The cramped environment out in the paddock further adds to the difficulty. “Here we have little choice but to position the crane on the next level down,” says Tobias Genrich, the sweat beading on his brow, and not just because of the heat. Whereas at other race tracks they can make do with an 80-ton crane, here they need one with twice the lifting power.

 

All the same, the operation is proceeding as smoothly as can be. The crane lifts a 20-foot container on a hook and lowers it onto the truck below. The crew members have every move down pat: one pulls the container into position using ropes, and two others push it onto the guide rail on the loading space. A fourth climbs on top of the container and releases the safety chains at the corners with the cordless screwdriver. Another box is then placed behind the first one. A little later the cargo is secured and has disappeared from view under the tarpaulin with the DB Schenker logo.

 

And on it goes, one container after another, one truck after another – until the foundations of the motorhome are laid bare. “The so-called grid needs to get to the site first, which is why we carry it to Monza on two Mercedes-Benz Sprinters,” explains Genrich, exhausted now, but clearly more relaxed than he was earlier on. That said, the Sprinters arrive and are loaded up. Now to deal with the working tools and materials and a few odds and ends, and then it is won: the race between the races.

Boxes in suspense: the elements of the motorhome – standard containers as well as smaller pieces – are loaded by crane. DB Schenker handles the transport job using 18 trucks. Six more trucks are assigned to carry the “Silver Arrows” (the official name of the latest chassis: F1 W08 EQ Power+), the Engineers Office and much more

Photos: Ralf Kreuels



Partnership among pros

DB Schenker is the Official Logistics Supplier for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport for all European races. The partnership involving the experts from DB SCHENKERspecial and DB SCHENKERsportsevents will continue in 2018. This year they were in operation for seven races, between the middle of May and the beginning of September: in Barcelona, Monaco, Spielberg, Silverstone and at the Hungaroring, as well as in Spa-Francorchamps and Monza. During this time, the 18 motorhome trucks covered about 13,000 kilometers each. The six race trucks, including the one carrying the “Silver Arrows”, traveled further still, for example to test tracks, taking them to a total of around 20,000 kilometers. Aside from the races in Belgium and Italy, the logistics specialists had one other back-to-back constellation: between the Grand Prix of Austria in Spielberg and the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, they also had only one week to do their job.


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