No logistical challenge too big

Picture: Paul Fowler and Jan Lammers during the GP® in Zandvoort. Credits: Diederik van der Laan / Dutch Photo Agency

DHL is proud to be the longest-standing global partner of Formula 1®. For nearly 40 years, DHL has ensured the smooth delivery of up to 1,400 metric tons of race cars, fuel, and equipment to race venues around the world.

As Official Logistics Partner since 2004, DHL staffs a team of motorsports logistics specialists who work closely with Formula 1® Management and the teams to ensure seamless logistical support for races and official test runs. What’s more, DHL make operations as sustainable as possible. Our extensive experience in green logistics always seeks new ways to reduce F1’s carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.

We spoke with Paul Fowler, VP of Global Motorsports DHL Global Forwarding, who gives us an exclusive look behind the scenes of the fastest and biggest logistics event in the world. 

What do you do on a daily basis?
As head of DHL motorsports logistics, my main responsibility is to ensure that all of our customers’ cargo is delivered to its final destination on time and intact. In order to achieve this successfully, daily communication with my team and our vendors is of utmost importance. We are also constantly exploring ways on how to further optimize our operations with sustainability in the forefront of our decisions and plan-making.

What are some challenges you face during the busy F1 season with races all over the globe?
Back-to-back races are very challenging due to the time constraint. We need to deliver quickly and seamlessly. This year, we had quite some double headers and around Zandvoort we even have a triple header. These back-to-back races are the ultimate test of teamwork for key stakeholders: teams, suppliers, F1 management, and DHL. Like a pit stop, it requires perfect logistics planning. Entire paddocks are packed, transported to the next venue, and reassembled – all within 48 hours.  DHL has designed bespoke solutions to move cargo quickly and safely by road, sea, and air within the most demanding turnaround times.

Like a pit stop, it requires perfect logistics planning.
Paul Fowler, head of DHL motorsports logistics

Another challenge is when we deliver to a city we have not been to yet. For DHL, this means sending special scouts to identify the best routes and ensure smooth logistics despite the unfamiliar surroundings. Also, our decades of experience in motorsports logistics, allow us to plan accordingly to ensure a successful operation.

On the track as well as behind the scenes, a Grand Prix is all about speed, precision, and state-of-the art technology. Is this also true about the way DHL works to deliver its customers parcels and pallets? How so?
Both DHL and Formula 1 have a shared commitment to excellence, and this is also represented in our mission and slogan: “Excellence. Simply delivered”. We aim to deliver world-class logistics through excellent execution and standard operating procedures in a sustainable way. Ensuring exceptional quality is the promise we make to our customers.

Formula 1 is greener than many people think.
Paul Fowler, head of DHL motorsports logistics

DHL claims to ‘GoGreen’ yet sponsors a polluting sport like Formula 1? How can this be reconciled?
Formula 1 is greener than many people think. In 2019, F1 announced its sustainability strategy, with two ambitious targets: to make all Grand Prix events sustainable by 2025 (including green transport options for fans, the use of sustainable materials, and avoiding unnecessary waste) and to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 (net zero greenhouse gas emissions for everything from the racecars to the logistics). This makes Formula 1 the first motorsport series ever to commit to measurable sustainability goals. As F1 logistics partner and industry leader in green logistics, DHL plays an important role in achieving these goals.

Formula 1 is also driving innovation in the area of alternative drive systems and fuels. Their newly designed 2022 cars feature the most efficient hybrid system ever built. F1 is also intensifying their efforts to develop a 100% sustainable drop-in fuel from renewable bio-waste – a fuel that could be used by cars and trucks around the world. This is very much aligned with DPDHL’s sustainability strategy, since alternative/sustainable fuels will be key to achieving DPDHL’s climate/emissions targets. 

What is DHL’s role in making the F1 more sustainable and reaching this goal?
DHL helps Formula 1 reduce its ecological footprint and reach its own ambitious sustainability targets by providing the most efficient logistics possible, including environmentally-friendly transport services. We prioritize transport solutions that minimize environmental impact while considering the specific requirements of F1 cargo transportation. As an example, we increasingly use efficient multi-modal transport solutions, including both road and sea freight, to help minimize air-freight volumes. We are also fitting our entire fleet of F1-dedicated trucks with a GPS to monitor fuel consumption, select the most efficient routes, and lower CO2 emissions. 

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DHL Logistics on the Zandvoort track. Credits: Diederik van der Laan / Dutch Photo Agency

Does DHL transport everything of every team?
DHL is the Official Logistics Partner and preferred logistics provider of Formula 1. We provide logistics services to Formula 1 management, teams and suppliers in transporting race cars, fuel and oil, equipment for the racing teams, and transmission technology.  As independent entities, F1 teams have the possibility to select their own sponsors and suppliers for specific needs.

How many people work on the DHL team?
'We have a team of 50 international motorsports specialists, 35 of whom are exclusively involved in transporting Formula 1 around the world. The 50 specialists plan everything from building up racks and units to dismantling them. They also think about the most efficient routes to subsequent circuits and airports, so that no time is lost. Even during the race, before the chequered flag has been waved, the team starts dismantling and stowing equipment.

Are these the same people during the whole season?
The motorsports logistics team does consist of the same people during the whole season as they have the acquired the necessary expertise and experience to manage and handle F1 cargo transportation.

How many DHL planes and trucks are involved in the transportation?
Per race weekend, DHL uses in average: 
•    20 – 30 trucks (depending on hospitality equipment requirement and COVID restrictions in place) 
•    70 – 90 ocean freight containers 
•    Up to 7 airplanes 

What do you think of Season 2022 so far?
This season has been quite exciting so far, comprising of new cities, several double headers and even a triple header. These challenging elements as well as the ambitious sustainability goals constantly push us to innovate and think of new and better solutions for F1’s logistics. 

The energy from the Dutch crowd is just phenomenal.
Paul Fowler, head of DHL motorsports logistics

What do you think about the enthusiasm of the Dutch supporters?
The sea of orange on the stands is extremely impressive to see, but mostly the energy from the crowd is just phenomenal. Max Verstappen, who started racing in 2015 and won the Formula 1 in 2021, really brought back the F1 energy to the Netherlands. 

Do you have a favourite team or driver?
I entered this business in 1987 as an Import Clerk/Customer Support Agent for Honda. In 1988, they partnered with McLaren winning 15/16 events with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost behind the wheels of the Honda turbo powered McLarens. 

McLaren is also the nearest F1 team to Heathrow and our offices, so there was a very close relationship and sense of pride for McLaren and Woking, UK. This feeling has stayed with me as has my appreciation for Ayrton Senna, who was a very kind, humble and real gentleman in our sport, not to mention a real racer. So for these very old and emotional reasons, I’m still connected to McLaren.

Today, it would probably be Red Bull Racing, as they have a new and fresh outlook due to their lack of a real auto-manufacturing heritage like Mercedes and Ferrari have—which I think gives them a slight underdog mentality. They are pure racers, but hit everything openly and embrace change and new ideas, even in terms of logistics. It is quite refreshing to deal with them. 

I look forward to seeing how the season unfolds.

Watch the video Formula 1® & DHL: Fast & Furious

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