The logistics of binging the formula one to Melbourne are staggering. Photo: Joe Armao
The most important person for the Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park this weekend is not any of the drivers, the designers, engineers – not even F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone.
It’s Bill Gibson, the Sydney-sider whose freight company moves every race-related item in and out of the grand prix mini village at Albert Park. If he doesn’t do his job of unloading all the freight, having it cleared through customs and then delivered to the right place at Albert Park in the right order, there’d be no race.
It not only includes all the race cars and parts but all the measuring equipment for scrutineering, the turnstiles that govern who goes where in the pit, paddock and media areas, all the time keeping equipment – everything that makes the whole travelling circus work.
This is Gibson’s 30th year of doing it for Formula One Management (FOM). In that time F1 freight has grown from filling one-and-a-half Boeing 747 freighters to six, with a total load capacity of 720 tonnes.
On top of that are 35 forty foot shipping containers that bring the team garage fit-outs, their hospitality chalets and kitchens. They go straight from here to Montreal in Canada, ready for round nine of the Championship in June.
The air freight has come from the last test at Bahrain but due to the development challenges of the new-for-2014 F1 machines Gibson expects another 40 tonnes of freight to come on scheduled services.
“But that’s not the end of it,” said Gibson. “They’ll have 10 or so senior team people bringing accompanied baggage – hand carry – as late as Saturday morning. This could be anything up to an engine.
“As long as they tell us exactly what it is, we prepare customs so that the carrier just ticks ‘something to declare’, presents their passport, details the items and they’re soon on their way, possibly to get their team out of trouble.”
However the highest priority freight was not race equipment but TV equipment that left from England’s East Midlands airport.
“That takes a lot of time to set up so it arrived on Tuesday a week ago and was at the circuit on Wednesday.
“We received a movement plan a month ago but as late as last weekend, of four aircraft scheduled, three changed their arrival time, so we’re always ready to adjust.”
Oh yes, there is one other fairly important matter: tyres.
“That’s a smaller charter (one 767) arranged by Pirelli,” said Gibson. “It came in last week. The tyres got to the track on Monday.”
But getting all the equipment in is only half the problem.
“A condition of the race is that the circuit becomes a public road again less than 30 hours after the race finishes, at midnight on Monday. So we have to get up to 80 truckloads of equipment on its way back to Avalon airport by then.”
It means that Gibson and his team will work almost without break from when the race finishes.
When he was packing up World Superbikes at Phillip Island a few weeks ago, Gibson was relaxed.
“This is small, we’ll be finished by around 10.00 tonight,” he said at the time. “They have about 120 tonnes of bikes and equipment, enough for one 747 freighter.
“MotoGP is much bigger, about 350 tonnes – three 747s.”
Then there’s V8 Supercars, which is also custom cleared and freighted by Gibson.
“They want more overseas events, so that may build up. Their cars are bigger and heavier than F1 cars but they have nothing like the same level of equipment.”
“The people who set the standard are F1. They know exactly what they want and how it’s to be done. As long as we do it the way their system requires, it all goes like clockwork. It’s lovely working with them,” GIbson said.