Be like a Formula One team
I’m a huge fan of automotive racing.
It wasn’t always that way. Growing up in West Virginia, I was surrounded by legions of Nascar fans. However, in my household, racing was looked down upon. “Why would I want to spend that much time and money to drink beer and watch people drive in circles?”
Little did I know at the time, automotive racing is so much more than drinking beer and turning left. As an adult, I discovered the world of Formula One - the pinnacle of automotive racing and technology. The innovation, high level of performance, and team coordination are just a few of the many lessons from the racing world that can be applied to any industry. Let’s take a look at a few of these valuable takeaways from the world of motorsport.
Many people think of a race team as the driver and a few people in the pit crew. What they don’t see are the hundreds of people whose hard work and dedication go into bringing the car to the paddocks each season and race. The average Formula One team is in fact about 600 people deep. From the factory, engineering, race strategists, marketing and promotions, human resources, to the drivers, each member of the team plays a vital role. Any weak point in the chain can become near fatal, both literally and figuratively, in an activity where races are often won by margins of hundredths of seconds at speeds upwards of 200mph. When every member of your team performs their specific job at the highest possible level, amazing feats can be achieved (such as this world record pit stop set by Williams Racing at the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe in Azerbaijan clocking in at a blistering 1.9 seconds).
Regenerative braking. Paddle shifters. Adaptive suspension. These are just a few of the innovations found today in everyday cars that were developed by “The automotive NASA, the unofficial collective home of the research and development for the motor industry.” For many of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, including Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, and McLaren, Formula One serves as its R&D proving grounds, pushing the limits of performance and safety technology. It may not make sense at first glance for some of these teams to spend upwards of $300M each year between two cars, but when you take into account that “...tucked inside each car is around 1.25 kilometers of wiring and around 200 sensors, some of which give readings up to 1,000 times per second” and many of these technologies make their way to the vast fleets of production road cars each year, making cars safer and more efficient, the costs begin to make sense. Be a leader. Innovate. But don’t be like the many smaller teams who have spent themselves into obscurity - it is still a game of scale. Innovate where you can, and know that the return comes with implementation at scale.
World Class Performance
Formula One is widely regarded as the pinnacle of motorsport. It’s the height for drivers, and the height for manufacturers (along with annual endurance race 24 Hours of Le Mans). Only around 20 cars run in the F1 grid each year, and more often than not each driver has been honing their skills since childhood, with many drivers holding titles in various karting and open wheel circuits (here’s some crazy footage of Max Verstappen, who finished 4th the 2018 F1 driver’s championship shredding in a karting race when he was 12 years old). The highest reward comes to the highest performers no matter their field, and more and more often those top performers have a lifetime of development under their belts. If that seems intimidating - it should be. That’s what you’re up against. Whether you’ve been at your craft for two days or twenty years, you should always be striving to put your best foot forward and perform at your best, because that’s what you’re up against. In racing it’s about being best - as Ricky Bobby once said, “If you’re not first, you’re last”, but in day to day life the important thing is to keep your eye on the prize and see it through to the checkered flag, whether you’re at the front of the pack or last one across the line - even the driver who comes in last is still ahead of the millions who never made it to lights out.