F1: Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Ferries, Buses Attempt to Take the F1 Circus Home

What Happens When Volcanic Ash Takes Over the World

12:14am EST — After another cracker of a Formula1 race this past weekend (missed it? go read the On Any Sunday, These Days complete race report right now), the cloud hanging over the F1 circus’s head was one that actually hung over Northern Europe.  With the volcano in Iceland grounding planes across the UK and the Continent, flights out of Shanghai back to most of the teams’ bases in the UK were canceled, both because they couldn’t fly in Europe and because some of the planes hadn’t actually made it to Asia.  The next race is May 9th, at Jerez, Spain, but the question remains for many of the teams, drivers, and journalists: How to get back home?  After a bit of trolling cyberspace, here’s where some of those involved appear to be, or be headed.

As for the drivers, many of them seem to have been easily shuffled onto flights leaving Dubai for points westward on Emirates Air.  However, they may not be conditions the drivers are used to, with BBC 5Live’s David Croft noting, “Big news as F1 drivers head out of China. Fernando Alonso last seen sitting in economy!”  Autosport’s F1 editor Jon Noble added, “I’m told Emirates have helped a host of drivers, including Kubica, Alonso and Barichello get home.”  Mark Webber, as of this writing, was in Nice, having flown from Dubai to Rome, then France, and looking for a way further west, though he could have just waited in Australian, presumably.

Neither McLaren driver was to head directly home for the three week break before Spain, so Jenson Button is happily on holiday in Thailand while Lewis Hamilton was headed for South Africa.  Karun Chandhok flew home to India to wait for flights back to the UK to open up with family and friends, even “ask[ing] @BSenna to come along with all my engineers but they don’t have indian visas !”  Jaime Alguersuari decided to take the long route home (with Virgin test driver and fellow Spaniard Andy Soucek) by flying to Bejing, then New York, Madrid, and finally back to Barcelona.  Lucas di Grassi was floating options for his Twitter followers to help him decide, while Nico Hulkenberg looks to fly to Rome in Webber’s footsteps Tuesday.  Heikki Kovalainen and presumably Jarno Trulli were back to Kuala Lumpur with team Lotus, as they wait for AirAsia to take them back to the UK.  Having the team boss own an airline is surely a perk.

Similarly, Fernandes said that the Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, Sauber, and Toro Rosso teams would also be making use of Air Asia charters to get home.  McLaren is also said to be chartering a flight to Spain and buses back to the UK for it’s team members, though the carrier is unknown.  There is no particular word on Force India, or HRT, while Virgin Racing seems to be struggling to figure out a way home.  Wonder where Sir Richard’s planes are? Certainly not all of them are stranded in Europe.  Red Bull has said the team is flying to Italy and then crossing Europe as they can, as their driver is, while Ross Brawn and Sam Michael seem to be having a Top Gear road trip driving from Nice to a ferry (one would presume) to the UK, after flying into southern France.

Getting the drivers and team members back is one thing, but the perhaps far more important objective is getting the cars and equipment home.  Many of the teams were relying on this break to implement some updates for the cars after finally seeing the abilities of their competitors.  According to FOM’s freight and logistics manager Alan Woollard, who said, “When the airports open we’ll take them home, until that day we’ll be staying here. Hopefully we’ll get out of here by the end of the week,” in a BBC article, which also explained, “F1 freight is transported on charter flights, with six Boeing 747 ‘jumbo jets’ carrying the cars, so F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula 1 Management company are not beholden to commercial airlines’ decisions on whether to fly to Europe or not.”

The journalists seem to be the most likely to be stuck in Shanghai, likely as a result of the fact that they tend to make their own travel plans and are not part of a larger group able to make demands or pay for extra services from an airline like the teams are.  It seems that Ecclestone himself might be able to win over some detractors or at the very least make himself look far more favorable, to add the journos to the chartered freight flights or to arrange some sort of group transport.



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