July 22, 2016
This week the FIA has released another technical directive designed to control the level of information being passed from the team to the driver. These regulations are getting increasingly detailed and will, in my view, confuse and complicate F1 racing rather than improve it. It will generate more protests and leave us with situations, as we experienced after the 2016 British Grand Prix, where fans leave the circuit still not knowing the final result of the race.
But aside from the regulatory problems, F1 is and should be the pinnacle of racing technology. We live in the era of big data. You can’t escape it and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Every organisation in the world is currently trying to work out what their digital strategy is, how they are going to maximise the use of data to improve performance. What is Formula 1 doing? It is trying to roll back the years to a time when the only communication between driver and team would be via a pit board or frantic hand signals.
Formula 1 is the most amazing exemplar of high performance. In F1 talent combines with technology to create amazing levels of performance, innovation and teamwork. And that is the point, Formula 1 is about teamwork. Drivers are the stars and we want to see them fighting on the track. But we also recognise that it is a team of hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of people that contribute to the on-track performance. We should recognise and celebrate the power of technology in F1. We should use it to the maximum to give fans more insight of what is happening in real time. I want to hear more interactions between the team and their drivers, not less.
July 21, 2016
On 5 July 2016 I took part in a panel discussion at an Inspired Leaders Network event held at the London School of Economics. I shared the stage with my co-author on ‘Performance at the Limit’, Ken Pasternak, and Williams F1 Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds. Hosted by the ILN’s own business guru René Carayol, the focus of the discussion was the learnings that organisations and leaders can take from looking at the world of Formula 1. As ever, Pat was succinct and insightful in his comments and Ken and I were able to reprise some of the key messages from the third edition of the book. You can find a review of the event and some video clips here:
July 19, 2016
I’m delighted that the third edition of our book ‘Performance at the Limit: Business Lessons from Formula 1® Motor Racing’ is now available:
It’s been a lot of hard work as this is a lot more than a simple update of previous editions. We’ve created a new structure, some new frameworks such as the ‘Performance Pyramid’ and have been able to add in a lot more content. As usual this has only been possible with the support of Formula One Management and the teams themselves. Mercedes AMG F1 were particularly helpful in providing support and interviews for the book and feature strongly in this latest edition. It was also a great honour that Mercedes AMG F1’ Non-executive chairman agreed to write the foreword. Having started a couple of international airlines from scratch and won three F1 world championships he was the perfect person to connect the world of Formula 1 to the world of business and organisations.
May 31, 2016
Although Daniel Ricciardo failed to win the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix he did secure pole position with a time of 1 minute 13.622 seconds. This equated to an average speed of 102.3933 mph. This is the first time that the 1.6 litre V6 hybrid power units introduced for the 2014 season have beaten normally aspirated engines at Monaco. In 2013 the pole lap time was 1 minute 13.876 seconds, an average speed of 102.0413 mph, however this was achieved with a 2.4 litre V8 engine.
Monaco is one of the few tracks that has changed little since the inception of the F1 Drivers’ Championship in 1950. This has enabled us to review the relative performance of Formula 1 from 1950, as shown in the attached chart.
This figure illustrates the constant improvement in performance that F1 teams have to achieve, it also provides an insight into how they respond to regulation changes. We see the effect of these changes when the curve dips and the cars are slowed down, but usually within a couple of years the cars will be going just as fast as they were before. This is exactly the phenomena we can see from 2013 to 2016, the change in power unit regulations in 2014 causes a dip in performance (and an impressive drop in fuel consumption by 35%) and yet by 2016 the cars are going just as fast as they were in 2013. In F1, regulation doesn’t stifle innovation it stimulates it.
December 16, 2015
You may be interested in a book some of my colleagues have had published by Oxford University Press. It is called ‘Embracing Complexity’ and you can find more details on the OUP website:
The reason I raise it here is that complexity theory brings some interesting ideas to help us deal with and adapt to change. One of these ideas is the concept of the ‘Tipping Point’. The term actually originates from the work of epidemiologists – those who study epidemics – and was taken by journalist Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name (more details can be found at:
essentially it is when something reaches critical mass – it could be a disease like AIDS or it could be a social phenomenon such as Facebook or Twitter. Here change is created by a number of small events which suddenly ‘tip’ the phenomena from something relatively insignificant to something of global significance.
Formula 1 remains the biggest global phenomenon in motorsport, but many within and outside of it are suggesting that the business model is out of date and that ultimately it is not sustainable economically, technologically and, most importantly, in terms of generating interest and demand from consumers. Formula E has a very different model to F1 and is currently very much a minnow in comparison to the great whale. But the announcement yesterday that global luxury car brand Jaguar are planning to enter Formula E in 2016/17 in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering may just be one of those relatively small events that we look back on as a tipping point. Time will tell.
August 25, 2015
I’ve just returned from the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. Although many of my students think that I’m off to a Grand Prix every other weekend, sadly this isn’t the case. In fact, I only tend to visit a Grand Prix when we’re working on a further edition of our book – Performance at the Limit: Business Lessons from Formula 1 Motor Racing. In these situations Mr Ecclestone has kindly supported our endeavours by permitting us access to the F1 Paddock, the essential place to be if you want to meet up with the movers and shakers in the various F1 teams.
The first time was at Imola in 2004 – ten years after that fateful weekend when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives, then we were at Barcelona in 2008 working on the second edition. Now it’s time for the third edition and, as luck would have it, this time it was the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa that fitted into our publishing schedule – it is a circuit I have always wanted to visit, one that oozes from the history of F1, where else would you find a version of the circuit which was modified in 1979 being referred to as the ‘new’ circuit?
It’s always enjoyable to attend a Grand Prix and to breathe in the real atmosphere of F1, but on the other hand this would hopefully be a fairly straightforward visit – interviewing some familiar and some new faces to update the F1 story and how it provides real insights for organisations and their managers to learn from. I’d managed to make contact with a few people prior to Spa to see if it would be OK for us to talk to them. One of these was Manor’s Graeme Lowdon, I’d never met him before, but I’d always thought he seemed to be a straight-forward and approachable kind of individual, and this was borne out when he responded positively to my Email within 50 mins – no passing me on to the media team, or his PA, just ‘yes, come and see me when you get to the race’ they don’t hang around in F1.
This was great news, our book focused on how other businesses and organisations can learn from F1, and as Manor F1 had just effectively risen from the ashes of administration to race again – I felt that there must be some real issues here that would interest a wider readership. So we met with Graeme at the Manor hospitality unit and I started with the question as to how he and the organisation had dealt with the challenges it had been facing over the last twelve months and how it had managed to make it back to the F1 grid in 2015, my thought was that this would get us into a discussion about the problems of going into administration. But Graeme started talking about the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and the dreadful accident that befell Jules Bianchi and the challenge of then going to first Russian Grand Prix at Sochi while Jules was still in a critical condition in hospital. How could I have been so crass? Why did I not anticipate that the biggest challenge the team faced was nothing to do with administration, but with the catastrophic injuries suffered by one of their drivers at the Japanese Grand Prix. Like every F1 fan I had been devastated to hear that Jules had lost his fight for life in July 2015, but somehow I had managed to separate this from the organisation and most importantly the people in that organisation. What was I thinking? Or rather why was I not thinking?
How many of us can envisage a situation where one of our colleagues dies in the course of doing his or her job? Sadly, it does happen – today we woke to the sad news that Justin Wilson had succumbed to his injuries at an Indycar race – how do we then pick ourselves up from that devastation, what can those leading the organisation do to help and support others when they themselves are grieving too? And then if you realised that your business was now in a desperate financial situation that could not be immediately resolved, wouldn’t it be easier to walk away? To decide that this was the time to do something else? Not so Graeme Lowdon and John Booth of Manor F1. They pulled Manor from the ashes or perhaps more accurately from EBay, where much of the teams equipment was due to be sold, and they put themselves back on the grid where, currently they are fighting with McLaren for position, a team with around four times the budget and people that they have.
We had a great time at Spa, many of the teams could not have been more helpful and co-operative – particularly Mercedes, McLaren, Williams and Sauber. But my abiding memory will always be Manor F1, what they’ve been through, but also the quiet commitment and resolve they have demonstrated, never giving up, when most of us would have been pleased to be able to do so. One term that is used now and again in F1 is ‘racer’ it means someone who has a passion and a commitment to go racing no matter what, it’s not about the money, it’s not about status or fame, but the joy of racing and the desire to win the next race. Teams like McLaren and Williams epitomise this approach, as do their leadership, and for me so do Manor F1. They have demonstrated a different order of commitment, one which shows who the real racers are.
September 14, 2014
The departure of Luca di Montezemolo from the role of chairman of Ferrari is undoubtedly the end of an era. For many this was perhaps necessary to get new thinking into the Scuderia, currently experiencing a period of underperformance similar to that of the early 90s prior to the ‘Schumacher era’. The irony is that the person who was responsible for turning things around back then, protecting Ferrari from Fiat’s corporate culture, and appointing Jean Todt to help build what became the most successful F1 team of all time, was Luca di Montezemolo.
With Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne now taking over as chairman and with the Scuderia being led by the former head of Ferrari’s US road car operation, Marco Mattiacci, it looks like history may be repeating itself. Back in 1988 when Enzo passed away Fiat’s stake in Ferrari shifted from 40 to 90% and resulted in one of the least successful periods in the proud history of the Scuderia. A long line of Fiat managers were parachuted in with disastrous results. You only have to look at the contrast between Jaguar Racing and Red Bull to see what a dysfunctional effect corporate management can have on entrepreneurial, fast moving F1 teams, you need racers like Christian Horner, not corporate managers to win in F1. Let’s hope Ferrari aren’t going through corporate paralysis once again – it took ten years to recover from the last time. If I was Fernando Alonso, I’d be seriously considering my options.