Management Lessons from Bahrain F1 2010

What an exciting race at Bahrain to being the 2010 F1 season.  As usual, this Sunday was made waiting for the race to being and then following each and every moment of it. This time, I decided to analyze the race from a management point of view and was surprised how much we can learn from a race.

For simplicity purposes, lets think of the entire F1 as an organisation, the F1 race administration as the organisation’s management, racing teams as the departments and the race drivers as the leaders or managers of the departments. Below is a summary of what I learnt.

The best leader is not always the winner.
The excellent performance in the qualifying races gave Vettel his pole position. In the second place was Massa followed by his teammate Alonso. During the final race, for 35 of the 49 laps, Alonso and Massa followed Vettel trying desperately to overtake him but couldn’t even reach near.  An exhaust problem in Vettel’s car forced him to slow down and that’s how Alonso won the race.  Vettel was the leader throughout but the winner who got the trophy was Alonso, not because of his own performance but because of the leader’s inability to cross the line before his follower.

A good leader makes winners  out of others.

Alonso closely followed Vettel from the beginning of the race. The desire to overtake him made him push himself and his car so that they were as close to the leader as possible.  In F1, races are won with differences of split seconds. When Alonso finally won, he had a clear 16 seconds lead ahead of his competitor. Even though Vettel as a leader could not win, he gave this gift to his follower.

To win, you have to keep trying

For the entire 35 Laps, Alonso never gave up and kept chasing Vettel. Under pressure, Vettel kept the speed constantly high, maybe it was this pressure that caused the exhaust problem in Vettel’s car ultimately giving Alonso a chance to win. Even after overtaking him, Alonso kept trying to increase the distance between him and his teammate. Suppose there was a problem in Alonso’s car in the last few laps that required him to take a pit stop, he would still have won because of the 16 sec gap he had created.

Management rewards winners, not leaders

After the race, the trophy and the usual champagne bottle were handed out to Alonso. In the press conference, everyone wanted to ask questions to Alonso about the victory, Vettel was all but forgotten.  Despite the exhaust problem and the engine losing power, Vettel kept the car going and managed to get a decent 4th position earning 12 championship points, however the reward was for Alonso who got 25 points.  There are many leaders but management seeks out and rewards winners.


The team cannot win without winners

Vettel’s Red Bull Racing team equally supported his excellent performance. Vettel recorded the fastest pit stop, he was stationery for under 4 secs while the tyre’s were changed. This would have motivated him to perform better. However, the technical problem can be attributed to a part of his team not delivering. The team’s second driver, Webber only stood 8th, giving the team a total of 16 points.

For the Ferrari team that won both the top spots, the reward is 43 points it accumulated.  The second position by Massa earned the team 18 of the 43 points, more than the total points of Red Bull Racing.  The flawless performance by the Ferrari drivers was mostly due to the perfect work done by the team.

In a team, everyone needs to perform for the team to win. However, the team cannot win without the leaders becoming winners.

Management policies take the organisation forward

The decision to do away with refueling during the race has made it so much more fun to watch for the audience. For the teams, the cost of operations has come down, it’s safer now and the whole hassle has been done away with.

By changing the scoring pattern such that it rewards more points to those who win, the management has ensured that competitive spirits are kept high. These policy changes ( make F1 an even more interesting sport to watch, resulting in higher profits for the organisation.

I could go on and on, analyzing various other events, teams etc but I don’t want to convert what was an exciting race into a boring management lecture.

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