The ensuing travel chaos caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull has continued to dominate the agenda throughout the Shanghai paddock.
The majority of Europe’s airports have remained closed, as the volcano continues to emit ash into the atmosphere. As a result, Formula One’s teams have now been plunged into travel chaos with many unsure when their equipment or personnel can return.
Autosport reports that many flights out of Shanghai have been cancelled, for the next 48 hours and that airlines have warned that teams may even have to wait until early May for a next available seat.
This has prompted a number of the sport’s leading figures into action, in a bid to find a way back to Europe. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has suggested that the teams look to use the Tran-Siberian Railway, if all else fails.
“It will be a challenge, but we’ll find a way, even if it is the trans-Siberian railway,” he said.
“We are not so much worried about the people because we will find a way home, but we have got to get the cars back, and we haven’t had any word yet from the freight.”
Even if the Formula One World manages to return to Europe in time, there are some concerns that the delays will prove to be a a major inconvenience to the teams in their preparations for the next Grand Prix in Barcelona.
“I think if we lose three or four days we can live with it, if we lose it for a week or beyond then it becomes challenging.” Whitmarsh told Autosport. “Again, we will find a way but that is a bigger concern than getting people home we will get there.”
Following this, F1 commentator Jonathan Legard has stated that McLaren will fly to Spain en-route back to the United Kingdom.
“Mclaren chartering flight to Spain for team on wednesday. Coaches back to UK. Other teams could join them to beat the cloud” he wrote on his Twitter.
The delays may hit the smaller teams the hardest, however, with Virgin’s Nick Wirth admitting that the delay could seriously complicate the team’s plans to introduce a new fuel tank on their cars.
“We don’t know when the freight is coming back,” Wirth also told Autosport. “We plan to convert the cars to the new specification for Barcelona, but we are very well advanced with one of them because we don’t have the spare chassis here as that is being converted back in the UK.
“But we’ve got the issue of how the freight gets back from here and a very short amount of timescale.”
“I haven’t got the schedule in front of me, but I know everyone is very worried about it. It is going to be a big push to get it done we have the crash tests and extra things to do next week. We have the bits in the UK, so that is not affected, but it is getting the second car done which is going to be the issue.”
FOM’s travel company has also not yet managed to sort out any solution for the teams.
Alan Woollard, who runs the operation, told the BBC: “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.”