5 Lessons from Elite Motorsport that can unlock a High-Performance Culture in Business

March 15, 2022

As we look to bring our teams back together for a successful 2022, Ignition Human Performance Managing Director Nick Butcher looks at 5 short case studies from the world of Formula One, with lessons that can help us unlock a High-Performance Culture, regardless of business industry.

1. Preparation is the Key to Success - Planning to Win, Red Bull Racing

When Red Bull Racing joined Formula 1, it took them from 2005 to 2010 to build a championship winning team, but this wasn’t achieved by chance!

Upon joining the team in 2006, Chief Technical Designer Adrian Newey created a strategy that looked ahead at the major rule changes which would take place in 2009 and focused his team on where they could make maximum gains over others with this opportunity. This future planning led to them winning both the drivers and constructors championship from 2010-2013.

Lesson: Business is no different when it comes to preparation – so what is your strategy for 2022 and beyond?

Christian Horner's leadership journey is documented here via this fantastic artwork by Hannah Williams at Scribble Inc, who is available to attend our client Learning and Development courses (copyright: Scribble Inc)

2. Build a Winning Team around you - How Michael Schumacher helped build a dominant Ferrari era

When Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996, the team that hadn’t won a Championship since 1979. The first few years saw him taking time to understand who he needed around him to be successful. He was instrumental in attracting key people like Technical Director Ross Brawn, who he had worked with previously and step by step built a winning team around him.

This would lead to complete dominance in the sport between the 2000-2004 seasons!

Who do you have on your team?

Lesson: By evaluating your team’s strengths and weaknesses (this includes you!) you’ll understand the areas of development needed and the right skills to recruit for.

Michael Schumacher's championship winning Ferraris lined up at the Goodwood Festival of Speed back in 2019

3. Learn from Failure - Setbacks power Mercedes further forward

At the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari looked in control as Sebastian Vettel won the race by 11 seconds over championship rival Sir Lewis Hamilton. After the race, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said “The difficult days are the ones we progress the most…”

“Success is a lousy teacher and it is important to reflect on why failure happens.”

Toto’s formula is “Failure + Reflection = Progress”

Mercedes would go on to win 6 out of the next 8 races that season, confirming their 5th (now 8!) Drivers and Constructors Championships in a row!

Lesson: Don’t let failure set you and your team back. Instead of ignoring it, create an environment that embraces it and understands what went wrong in order to improve.

Ignition Human Performance's session at Mercedes Benz World looking at "Building Formulas for Effective Partnerships", alongside MB Partners, who manage 2 time DTM Champion Gary Paffett (race helmet pictured), who is now Sporting Director for the Mercedes Formula E team (Photo: Claudia Weaver)

4. Look after and invest in your talent - Sir Jackie Stewart and the "Staircase of Talent"

One of the most important elements of Sir Jackie Stewart’s Stewart Grand Prix team (now Red Bull Racing), was “The Staircase of Talent”, with Drivers and Team Members going through this development programme to unlock performance both on and off track.

Sir Jackie has now developed the same ethos into his latest project, Race Against Dementia (RAD). The charity was set up in 2016 following the diagnosis of his wife Lady Stewart with the disease. RAD raises and allocates funds to research. By recruiting the best early career research talent, funding innovative science and injecting learning from best practice in F1 and other high-tech organisations, RAD aims to catalyse a change in dementia research to accelerate finding a cure or prevention for dementia

Ignition Human Performance is very proud to have helped develop and deliver the Leadership and Teamwork programmes for the funded postgraduate PHD Scientific Research Fellows across the globe in Europe, America and Australia.

Lesson: Your people are your most important asset - so look after them!

Sir Jackie Stewart discussed "the Staircase of Talent" and Stewart GP with Ignition Human Performance founder Nick Butcher, during our session "The Mindset of Champions" alongside fellow World Champion Damon Hill. The event was set up to raise funds for their respective charities, Race Against Dementia and halow project

5. Be Humble in Victory - Review and Reflect

As the chequered flag falls on your year or project, is it time to celebrate and reward your team? If so, fantastic and well done! However, the one common factor when you look at High-Performance teams that have won multi championships compared to “one hit wonders”, is the time they take to review and understand how they won and what lessons can be taken from it.

Lesson: Your team is the benchmark for now - so stay humble in victory and reflect with your people what key elements made this a success. The competition will be working twice as hard to beat you moving forward - so understanding what made you successful will help you stay on top!

As you complete the lap, it’s time to start the next one…

2021 Autosport Aston Martin F1 Young Driver of the Year Finalist, Louis Foster wins at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium in 2020 whilst carrying the Ignition Human Performance brand on his race helmet and car (Photo credit: FotoSpeedy)

Bonus: Interested in finding out more about what it takes to become a World Champion?

Click here to watch the highlights from our “Mindset of a Champion” virtual session with 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill to raise funds for his charity halow

To build your bespoke Learning and Development course, using Elite Motorsport Formulas, along with a range of great venues, activities and speakers. Please click the link below:

- Ignition Human Performance: Learning and Development

Nick Butcher

Nick has been an HR & Leadership Professional for nearly 15 years and has held senior HR positions within both Corporate Multinational and SME Companies.
Get in touch >>

Nick Butcher

Nick has been an HR & Leadership Professional for nearly 15 years and has held senior HR positions within both Corporate Multinational and SME Companies.
Get in touch >>
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