The Indian GP has a lot of firsts associated with it. Starting from the first ever F1 race in India, to a first time for the organisers, sponsors and even fans. It will also be the first time we will see some of the world's most followed F1 teams like Ferrari, Mclaren, Red Bull and India's very own Sahara Force India, race in India.
So, how do F1 teams deal with racing on a new circuit in a new country altogether? There's some precise planning involved. Here's how
Flights: F1 teams travel every other week and so do their flight bookings via agencies specialising in F1-related travel. Travel is pre-planned, as soon as the FIA confirms the race calendar. This means that most teams blocked their flights to Delhi as early as November- December last year. Case in point, the Sahara Force India F1 team confirmed their air tickets to Delhi seven months ago!
Visas: Since F1 personnel travel across the world throughout the season, most of them have a second passport to help them secure valid visas for travel. While there are cases of a few team finding it difficult to procure visas for India, most Sahara Force India team members got their India visas as early as August.
Hotels: Teams prefer to stay as close to the circuit as possible. They send a representative to pre-select hotels accordingly. A team typically travels to every race with 60 members and all prefer to stay in the same hotel. So, here too, bookings are done several months in advance. Sahara Force India did their Delhi hotel bookings 10 months before, in January.
Racing at a new venue poses extra challenges for every F1 team. Factors like track layout and direction, track surface and weather conditions need to be studied. So, teams will arrive in India with simulation data and will work on that.
The three free practice sessions (Friday & Saturday) will be crucial. Teams will start their sessions with a base set-up and then change settings as per driver preferences. A brief chat with Dominic Harlow, Director of Circuit Engineering, Sahara Force India team, indicated that understanding the interaction of tyres with the track surface and their behavior around the lap, accurately simulating bumps and kerbs will be crucial.
Finally, teams are very particular about their food, and hence have their catering and hospitality staff travel with them around the world.