For fans, a short week separated the Mexico City Grand Prix from the São Paulo Grand Prix. But for the teams, this period was even shorter since it was necessary to install the equipment of the garage and assemble the single-seaters before Thursday evening, because the FIA carried out checks during this day and established a curfew during which the mechanics had the ban on touching cars until Friday morning.
But due to thick fog, three planes containing cargo did not leave Mexico City until late. As a result, the teams were not able to complete their preparations within the usual timeframe. McLaren, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas were particularly affected by the backlog of parts while Mercedes and Aston Martin were able to assemble their cars … without the engine.
Faced with this delay, the FIA had no choice but to lift the Thursday night curfew and postpone the technical control preceding the first free practice session. The last trucks from São Paulo airport arrived at Interlagos on Thursday at noon and the teams set off in a race against time to complete their work before the action began on the track 24 hours later.
« The Mexico City airport closed for five or six hours because of the fog, which obviously upset the whole program », Steve Nielsen, F1 sporting director, told Motorsport.com. “Some planes couldn’t land and some couldn’t take off. The flights were then diverted and couldn’t land directly here. What happened next was that he ran out of hours. ‘crew. »
Ferrari was one of the last teams to receive its parts
“Cargo flights have their crew on board, these are not airlines where you can just call in another crew from one airport, you have to find staff elsewhere. The mix of hijacking and excess hours of work for the crew resulted in a 24-hour delay. things. »
Nielsen added that all teams received priority freight on time. However, only they choose the items that are part of this freight: “Everyone got their priority freight. I think it’s three pallets each. [Les équipes] can choose what they want. I’m sure most put their chassis there, the things they needed right away. We do not dictate the content of this freight, it is up to the teams to choose. But we tell them how many pallets are available. I’m sure after this weekend they will question the content of priority freight. «
“But some teams have been hit hard by the secondary thefts, especially the engine suppliers who received their material late. Normally, the cargo comes in trickles. When everything is there, we distribute it to everyone. this time we couldn’t do it. We had to take a pragmatic approach and say, those who have it can start, and those who don’t, we’ll do what we can. «
« You can’t take off and land all the planes at the same time, so you have to prioritize. When you get to the airport, you empty one plane, then another and another. Unfortunately, there is always a priority. The teams know it and accept it. «
Regarding the teams most affected by this delay – McLaren, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas – Nielsen commented: « They had less than they normally should have had, absolutely. That’s why they had to work so late. [jeudi soir] so we had to remove the curfew to allow them to reduce their delay. «
“Everyone accepted this change, it’s great. Even some teams that were less impacted lent their carts and other tools to other teams. It was a collective effort and it was good to see the teams collaborate to help others recover faster. «
McLaren director Andreas Seidl admitted that the delay had been difficult to cope with. « On our side, the main freight was missing so we had neither a car nor an engine », he revealed. « Which means we only started rebuilding the cars [jeudi], in the afternoon. With the freight arriving shortly after lunch time we were fortunately still able to finish around midnight thanks to a great effort from the whole team. «
A delay in the transport of material can happen and, generally, the teams have a certain margin of maneuver. However, when it comes to double-header, that is to say two Grands Prix in a row, the slightest grain of sand has important consequences, especially when thousands of kilometers separate the two circuits.
Still agitated by the Interlagos affair, Formula 1 will now try to find a solution to mitigate the consequences when a new delay of this type occurs. « Of course, we will take a full assessment of what happened and try to learn from it. », Nielsen insisted. “But these are the limits of the real world that cannot be circumvented. It is not without precedent, it had happened in Melbourne some time ago and the last flights had landed very late, but it wasn’t unprecedented. ‘does not happen often. «
« Normally everything goes smoothly in our freight department and Mike Negline [responsable de ce département, ndlr] did a great job. But sometimes things do happen. As I said, we are going to take a full assessment: who has been affected, to what extent and why, what lessons can we learn? ”.
« It is true that not everyone has been affected in the same way, some much more than others, some very slightly or even not at all. It is an unpleasant situation because [la F1] is a sport and we want everyone to be on an equal footing. But in this specific case, it was not possible due to the limitations of the real world. «