All photos have been taken by the HR Strategy Pro Ignition team on their travels, please do not use without permission.

3. Create an Honest and Transparent Culture

The areas covered in point 2 lead us nicely onto part 3 and how the best Formula 1 teams have a “Brutally Honest and Transparent Culture” within their team.

Toto Wolff again talked about this in the most detail (as discussed in our blog about him) but we can also see from the Red Bull Racing case study that when Adrian Newey and Christian Horner joined their was a massive blame culture within the team and in some places it was still being referred to as Jaguar Racing (the team Red Bull had purchased back in 2004).

What they did well at Red Bull was to acknowledge there was a blame culture but not to get dragged in and instead take clear steps to get rid of it (which we cover in our Building a High-Performance team blog). Mercedes have also adopted a no blame culture and instead “See it, Say it, Fix it”. They encourage people to say if they see something wrong and instead of continued complaining about the issue they sort it and fix it. When we talk about a no blame culture, I’m sure they have processes in place for consistent low performers but that's a different area to people trying things out and making genuine mistakes off the back of it.

The area that Jean Todt and Ferrari got right was creating an environment where everyone within the team was protected from the outside. Schumacher also showed that by engaging with the team on things that were important such as family, you got the best out of them.

Having a “Brutally Honest and Transparent Culture” is something a handful of businesses actually achieve with office politics engulfing the best of us! However, when achieved it’s a hugely powerful culture to have that encourages people to take risks.  In order to achieve this though, businesses must have a proper structure and people strategy that allows employees to know the limits whilst allowing them to flourish.

4. Always look ahead for Opportunities

This is the key message when we look at each of the eras of dominance that we witnessed with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, it didn’t happen over night and this applies to businesses looking to succeed as well.

Jean Todt started managing the Ferrari team in 1993, employed Michael Schumacher in 1996, Ross Brawn in 1997 and won the first of their four Drivers Championships in 2000.

Red Bull took over the Jaguar Racing team in 2004, Christian Horner joined in 2005, Adrian Newey in 2006 and they won the first of their four Drivers and Constructors Championships in 2010.

Mercedes purchased the Brawn GP team in 2010, Toto Wolff joined in 2013 as did Lewis Hamilton and they won their first Championship in 2014.

Where both Red Bull and Mercedes excelled was looking ahead at the rule changes that were coming up in 2009 and 2014 respectively. Adrian Newey especially talked about this being one of the key areas where he focused the minds of his team on 2009 when he joined Red Bull in 2006, making the changes needed to maximum the opportunity. 2007 and 2008 passed with not much difference but then they were in position to take full advantage of regulation changes and became a winning team. Do you think Red Bull now reflect on 07 and 08 as failures as they didn’t win? Probably not as they knew they were building something and it was part of the process to success.

In the business world this is something that I’m always trying to get my clients to focus on – what opportunities lie ahead and what can we do now to make maximum effect, rather than waiting to see what happens! If changes need to be made do them now – don’t wait and let issues drag on because they’ll just get worse, harder to fix and ultimately nothing will change! This point goes back to the Mercedes mantra “Say it, See it, Fix it!”

The Secrets to Sustainable Success in Formula One Blog 

4 Key Takeaways from the Mercedes AMG F1, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari blogs

By Nick Butcher - HRSP Ignition, Co-founder

Over the past 7 weeks we have focused on the lessons from top flight motorsport when it comes to Leadership, Teamwork and Performance in our blog series “The Secrets to Sustainable Success in F1”. The series has looked in particular at the periods of success of Mercedes AMG F1 2014 – current day, Red Bull Racing 2010-2013 and Ferrari 1999 – 2004. Last week we then looked at how HR Strategy Pro are bringing these lessons into junior Formulas with Ignition and our work with F3 and F4 team Double R Racing.

Each blog can be found here:

Mercedes AMG F1 – Building a Leadership Culture to Win

Red Bull Racing – Building a High-Performance Team

Ferrari – How Michael Schumacher Engaged with his team to Unlock Ultimate Performance

Double R Racing – Creating Team Values

Thank you to everyone who has taken time out to read the blogs, the feedback has been fantastic and we have been really pleased to hear that people have been taking lessons back into their business.

It was also very encouraging last week to talk to a senior member of one of the F1 teams that we featured.

The key take-away I took from that conversation is that the key to creating a successful culture within your business when it comes to your people is to embed it from the very start and carry it through the employee journey. Make sure you employ people who truly believe in your values and fit the business culture you are trying to maintain or achieve. Welcome them and make them feel part of something special. Even if they are current employees make sure you build the vision with them to get buy in and understanding of where the business is heading.

With this in mind what key messages can we take away from the blogs that we have written about Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari over the past few weeks to support this mind set. 

Photos: HRSP's Nick Butcher in the Red Bull Racing reception with all their trophies and our Team Values session with Double R Racing

4 Key Cross Overs and Takeaways

1. Lead by Example

In all 3 blogs the teams all had a management team and key individuals that led from the front and set examples of how conduct yourself within the team. When it came to Leadership Style we looked particularly at Mercedes AMG F1’s Toto Wolff but in all examples the same dynamic can be said for Christian Horner and Adrian Newey at Red Bull Racing or Jean Todt at Ferrari. We also saw some fantastic examples of how Michael Schumacher conducted and engaged with his team as a driver, truly understanding that if he put the extra effort in as a driver that the team would follow.

They all had a vision for the team to be successful and understood this started from the top.

2. Understand yourself and People within your Team

All three blogs confirm that in order to lead or be part of a team you must first understand yourself what you can offer your team and then what people within that team can offer also.

What are your own key strengths and where do you need help with your weaknesses? Is their someone in your team who can compliment your weaknesses with their strengths and vice versa.

A good piece of advice I once got to start really analysing this is very simple. Write down on a piece of paper all your key strengths and then write down your weaknesses/areas you feel need improving.

Then if you manage a team write down their names along with their strengths and weaknesses. Suddenly in front of you there will be a simple but none the less key step to understanding collectively who you are and who you have working for you. You can then take this a step further and analysis it, do you see any areas all members of the team need support with. If so, that will be something to look for when recruiting a new member of the team.

In all the examples we looked at whether it was Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari the leaders understood what they currently had and what they needed in order to change it and bring success.

At Ferrari for example we saw Jean Todt, seeing that they needed a driver who he felt would be beyond reproach, someone the team would respect and not second guess. So, he got in Michael Schumacher, a key first step to the success they would later have. What would have happened if he just kept the same drivers, we’ll never know but my bet would be he’d have got the same results as previous years.

This is one of the areas Christian Horner spoke about when he first joined Red Bull and talked about the lack of trust between departments and how it was about getting the right people in the right positions in order to succeed.

In many cases its not about getting everyone out of the business and starting again but knowing who you have in your team and where they best fit to do the best job for you. People develop over the years, so having them in the job you employed them for 5 years ago might not be the right role for them now. The question is - where can you use them to get the best out of them? This isn’t just saying that if someone has been with you for a while you must promote them into a management position, far from it, there are plenty of different areas people can go into and bring expertise from other departments without being promoted. In fact, I’ve seen some of the best Sales people (for example) turn into the worst sales managers and then a by-product of that is that the business then loses its best sales person! The best businesses know their people’s key strengths and weaknesses well and the career paths that will add value to the business - it might not be an obvious one, so you have to analysis this time and time again.

As we looked at within the Mercedes part of the blog, Toto Wolff talks about how powerful it is to be self-reflective and allows a team to move forward much quicker.  

In conclusion:

There is so much beyond what we have discussed in our blogs over the last few weeks, that we can learn from the successful eras of Mercedes AMG F1, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari. Like with all successful sports teams there are many fantastic examples of Leadership, Teamwork and Performance which can be used and integrated into business. This was just a small snapshot!

Again, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time out to message or let me know that have taken something out of the content of the last few weeks. Its very kind, makes it all worthwhile and I’m glad to know they have helped!

Back to the drawing board for a week or so but plenty more content and blogs to come as I’ve been busy researching many areas of High-Performance across many sports and how it can help teams and leaders in business. I look forward to sharing them with you.

In the meantime, do let me know if there are any particular examples you can think of that you’d like me to explore more.


Nick Butcher

Co-founder and Director of HRSP Ignition

Photos: Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes AMG F1 and HRSP's Nick Butcher presents in the content of his research at Mercedes Benz World (photo by Claudia Weaver Photography)

To find out more about HR Strategy Pro ‘Ignition’ and how we are #UnlockingPeoplePerformance across business and sport using #OurMotorsportDNA, please click here.​