I believe F1 racing is a great representation of a competitive market. Innovation, hard work, tight schedule, skill, finance management, experimental studies… You can see a good example of all the challenges of a company during its lifetime, in F1 racing teams. And the good thing is, F1 teams are experiencing these challenges more than once!
Sakhir GP in 2020 had a new layout for F1 teams and drivers. 87 laps at a ~3.5km track, total of 308km high speed racing. It takes more than 90 minutes to finish the race. With new layout, track is accepted as a fast one, which F1 fans and drives like a lot.
For a quick summary of the 2020 season; Mercedes AMG Petronas team was already champion. With their favorite driver Lewis Hamilton, they looked unbreakable for last 6 seasons. Lewis was also breaking records of F1 in 2020, beat the legendary Schumacher’s championship record.
Well that’s not fun if a team is so strong and beat everyone. So as a “natural-selection”, Hamilton tested Positive for Covid-19 and lead driver’s seat became free. At the race calendar, Hamilton was not signed Mercedes contract for 2021 year, so excitement of a new driver at powerful Mercedes car, focused everyone to race. I’m not an expert of junior programs of F1 teams but there was a young prospect who were racing for Williams F1 Team, assigned to Lewis’s car for the race: George Russel
Now it’s time to analyze the situation as a company, not a F1 racing fan and tell how it is not easy to win even with the best sub-parts:
Motivated Driver (Staff)
A young, full of hope, skilled driver is just became a part of legendary, powerful team. It’s a dream of every team player of course, but you can imagine the pressure… Since F1 drivers have astonishing abilities with reflexes (well they drive, turn, brake at 300kmh+ speeds), I think George showed that a bit experienced drivers could adapt a new car very quickly. He and his car performed well and he became second fastest in Qualification, take the 2nd position for race.
That’s probably made George more motivated and hungry for the win. Since he has never won a F1 GP at his days in Williams. Driver should’ve been a bit relaxed with that great qualification result. But I guess he became more driven and ambitious for the win.
So everything seemed well set and ready to win.
Adaptation to Changes
Qualification result also showed that F1 teams have great skill when it comes to “adaptation to changes”. Their long lasting, champion team driver was absent, but even with this miss, they were in pole and 2nd position. Mercedes should be so proud with their team and skills. I probably could not explain enough about the changes they did on car, team, pit stop, crew, strategy and many more in such a short time. That’s what you expect from champion, but they deserve every compliment as a team.
At the beginning of the race, everything was going good for team. Especially their rival RedBull Racing favorite Verstappen was out in the first laps. That reduced the stress on team. It was even better than they wanted, I guess!
Nothing Beats Motivation
Every F1 driver is there for win, for the pole. Some of them young ones, waiting for a glorious team or days that they will be on podium, some of them are racing for fun (Raikkonen). But average age is very low in these days, drivers are all motivated and doing every thing for winning. Taking risks, working a lot, pushing car to limits and so much more…
One of the salient driver is the Sergio Perez from Racing Point. The team is not a brilliant one. But they are very optimized with staff and spending. Also Sergio Perez is an “experienced” driver, driving with team for a long time when compared with others. He had no win in 190+ races he made until 2020, but to be fair, he showed a great performance in 2020. His contract was also not renewed yet, he didn’t have any podium, his car was not fastest in the track so he was doing better than expected in that circumstances. Also as a Mexican driver, he have a will to show himself and represent his country in UK lead F1 sport.
F1 fans watched Perez’s ambition in previous races too. But he showed everyone how to drive like “there is no tomorrow” in Sakhir GP. He was involved a crush in first lap of race, he had to pit for replacement of parts. This pit caused him all the position that he achieved during qualification. What a loss…
Most people quit when they miss their target or get left behind. But racers don’t do that. Their position and “fate” decided with every 0.001 seconds so everything can happen. But it must be hard to be motivated after such circumstances.
So Perez didn’t quit neither. With new tires, he performed very good and had very fast laps, started to climb positions one by one.
Experience Kicks In
When we get back to Mercedes, they were performing so good. Fastest laps, P1 taken by George and P2 was the Bottas, two Mercedes were dominating. Perez was climbing to top 10, teams were analyzing speeds, track deformation, trying to decide best time to pit and so many more data…
At 47th lap; it was pit-stop time for Mercedes. A new tires would make them perform better and faster. It was a good time to pit since there was a huge second gap between Mercedes team and competitors. After pit exit, George shocked that he had no power with his car!
Quickly he noticed that “space shuttle” like wheel buttons were in wrong position and corrected it, but he lose time.
There were 30+ laps remained and Mercedes was still leader, George as a hopeful, ambitious driver was so close to his first P1 finish.
At lap 55, a car crashed and created a unsafely position on track so it was time for safety car. When there is safety car, no driver can gain position, only can lost position with pit. But since the gap become so small with the front driver, new tires will perform better so they can easily overtake. For F1 teams, pit stop strategy is the key for winning. When to pit stop, how fast, with which tires, who should pit first in team and so on…
There was another crash at lap 62 and safety car was on stage again. That seemed a good window for Mercedes to make double pit (both drivers, one after another). First George entered the pit, everything seem nice, he got out. Secondly there were Bottas, somehow pit crew put a wrong tire his left front. Quickly, pit member noticed mistake and take out the tire. Brakes was on fire, they put on the correct tire with fire. But when you compete with milliseconds, all these time loss cost a lot to Mercedes.
But that’s not all. A huge team like Mercedes make another mistake. They put Bottas’s tires to George, so he had to pit and change to his own tires if he wants speed. Disaster for George…
But he has ambition, he have to show himself to team and the fans. With best car, there are no limits for him (cannot blame car), so he pushed harder, quickly passed his teammate Bottas and gained to P2. Very impressive, very fast performance from George.
But s**t happens… The crowded monitors in Mercedes pit lane showed that George’s tire has a puncture in it. So he have to pit, again at lap 78… A nightmare, no time to regain position, no place to go fast. That was it, from heaven to the hell.
All About Teamwork
So both Mercedes cars were not at front after this team mistake and events. It might be because of a new driver, George. Since they never made a similar mistake with Hamilton. Maybe the team who organizes the tires had failure, maybe they were not motivated and prepared enough for a quick pit-stop decision. Maybe the radio guys mislead the pit crew about which driver coming to pit first, so mix-up in tires were occurred.
However, it was a huge mistake and cost Mercedes the race, George the podium…
What happened to other good team? Sergio Perez put himself on P1 after all safety cars, crashes, fast laps, pit errors. Racing Point, as a good team and with an determined driver, achieved the first pole of team and Perez. Pit crew did their best, didn’t make mistake. Driver put his best effort, with a bit of luck, he got his first F1 GP win.
As a summary; even the best teams (companies) with determined drivers (staff) could not achieve the best. Teamwork and team adaptation is always one of the first factor of winning. That’s why it takes time to establish best winning teams (companies). So; being patient, focusing on the job, having the best abilities in team, quick response to changes, having plan A-B-C in hand and giving the best effort at every area will make a winner.