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Behind-the-scenes race gets started once Montreal Grand Prix concludes

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MONTREAL - The waving of the chequered flag will signal the end of the 45th Canadian Grand Prix today. With it, a new race begins behind the scenes.

Moments after Formula One's marquee event is over, while the day's fastest drivers are still showering in champagne, the team crews are already packing up their gear, breaking down the pits and team paddocks, and dismantling their cars.

The crews work through the night and into the following morning, and the first batches of equipment are moved out as early as mid-day on Monday.

With the next race two weeks away, everything needs to be carefully packed and transported to F1's next destination. After Montreal, the drivers, crews, and all their equipment cross the ocean for the Austrian Grand Prix on June 22. The process is accelerated when only 14 days separate two races.

"People are so focused on what's happening at the track and watching the race, but getting one of these things set up is a huge logistics undertaking," said Andrew Williams, DHL's vice president of sales for the Americas. "That all happens quite quietly because the focus is on the race itself and the drivers, as it very well should be."

As Formula One's official logistics provider for the last decade, DHL co-ordinates all the distribution between races — the cars, engines, tires, special racing fuel, material for building the paddocks, and even television equipment.

Williams says DHL's F1 team has nine days to move 600 tons of freight from one country to the next. When the following race is overseas, that means filing six Boeing jets with everything from tiny engine screws to a race car's chassis. Between European destinations, where air travel is not necessary, more than 100 trucks are needed to move the equipment from race to race.

The entire operation is extremely intricate.

Before the Formula One cars themselves can be loaded for transport, all of their detachable elements must be removed — steering wheel, tires, rear view mirrors, and front and rear wings. The sides and bottom of the chassis are encased in wood panels, and padded bumpers are placed on the front and back of the vehicle. When ready for overseas transport, the car's stripped body is placed in a specially-designed crate and secured in its own hold on the plane or truck.

Everything has to be packed and secured with the utmost care, and there is little margin for error.

And then there's the fuel. F1 race cars use specific fuel, and a lot of it. Williams estimates each car requires 1,500 litres of motor fuel per race weekend. Each car also uses 70 litres of engine oil, 20 litres of gear oil, and 45 litres of engine coolants over the three-day event. The fuel is transported in 50-litre fireproof canisters.

"It's a very specific fuel that the teams use, and with most things in F1, it's very heavily governed," said Williams from Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday. "And there's an element of secrecy as well. It's a little complicated to move fuel. You have to segregate it out properly. It has to be declared correctly from a dangerous goods perspective."

All that tonnage makes clearing customs no straightforward task. Every country has different entry requirements, and DHL needs to ensure all the prerequisites are met at the border. If the entry process is delayed for one item, the entire shipment is placed on hiatus.

If all goes well, the goods reach their destination nine days before race day — just enough time for the team crews to set it all up again.

A big fan of the races themselves, Williams also loves the intricacies of everything that happens out of the public eye.

"When you really talk to people about how this all comes together, when you look at the cars and the tracks, and think that two weeks ago they were in Monaco, and how two weeks from now they're going to be in Austria, it all has to run perfectly."

Notes: This year marks the 35th running of the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. … The race gets underway Sunday afternoon with Mercedes' Nico Rosberg leading the pack after securing pole position in Saturday's qualifying session. His teammate Lewis Hamilton will be second in the starting grid.

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