Is Change being Managed in F1?

on Mon 25 Jul


The current disharmony with F1.


There would seem to be a number of drivers who have become slightly disenchanted with the rules in Formula One. This is leading to some strong statements from them (the drivers) in the race and afterwards to the media. (Links below) So what's happening? There have been many recent rule changes.  New track limits, defensive race weaving etc. but, it is the radio communication changes which I would like to consider today.


According F1 there have been some 'minor tweaks' to the rules for 2016.  It has been added to the regulations that a driver should drive the car 'alone and unaided' in the race. Therefore they will not be able to be coached from the pit wall by the team.


However, safety will always be a priority and therefore there are exceptions which allow a call to be made for safety reasons - something which, in my opinion, has now happened twice and yet a penalty was given to the drivers/team. 


Firstly, we have a situation where Nico Rosberg is racing and suffers a loss of his gearbox functionality, and is told by the team which mode will overcome the problem.  Then, however, there is information passed informing him how the car is to be controlled afterwards - he finishes the race but has a ten second time penalty added to his race time.  


Then, in the next race, the recent Hungarian Grand Prix, Jenson Button suffered a loss of hydraulic pressure following the critical failure of a sensor on board his car.  The team supplied information to override this failure and as a consequence this passed information incurred the wrath of the Stewards of the race.  The penalty was a drive-through which added time and loss of track position. So, what exactly is the issue?  In past races, the technical team on the pit wall have told the drivers where time can be made up, how to approach a corner, which buttons to press and which modes make the car the most effective and competitive.  I think that most drivers agree with the understanding and the spirit/feeling behind the rule changes here, but it's strange when a team can now tell the driver where he is in relation to his team mate, yet, when a drivers brakes fade then this becomes an issue of a rule break. 


“It makes it more challenging for us out on track” Nico Rosberg


In both these incidents, potential accidents have been avoided by the intervention of the team.  Brake failure at these speeds or gearbox lock ups could well place the driver into the wall with a lot of energy at the time of impact.


Whilst I agree that as a result the car has remained in the race having overcome the problem in the first instance a catastrophic failure was avoided.  It would be fair to suggest that a driver should understand what the controls on the car actually do and how they affect the car, and maybe the teams will redesign the button and wheel layouts as a result, but, the fact remains that there was an immediate safety concern which the teams acted upon.  Mercedes and McLaren, to me should be praised in having the courage to tell the drivers of the issue before an accident happened rather than the award of sanctions which now only makes teams less willing to provide information which could result in an accident.  


"radio ban has gone too far" Martin Brundle


This rule isn't the only one under scrutiny - track limits, overtaking and weaving are all topical at the moment. So what is going on in F1 and how does this relate to my work as a coach and therapist.  There has always been a desire to improve the show and often has been an internal power struggle between the FIA, the F1 rule makers and the F1 Teams.  Changes have been quickly brought in without listening to the experts – the teams and drivers – remember the qualifying changes at the start of the season!


What’s the message here, what is the takeaway?  Of course change is seen as painful and yet it really doesn’t have to be if handled correctly.  Without talking to the experts, changes have been made without a full understanding of what the outcomes could be – change options needed to be discussed and to be fully considered before acceptance and implementation.  The outcome of such is now top drivers and pundits are complaining, and rightly so, this is showing the sport in a bad light in the public arena.  Have they forgotten basic business or change principles, about focus groups and collaboration with those who rules affect?  This change was done for the right reasons, but just poorly design and hastily implemented. 


If you want change, baseline and understand where you are; explore the proposed changes in a safe environment and ‘see’ how they will affect those most influenced by them [the change]; feedback their comments and make amendments as necessary having gained their buy-in; finally, address the barriers to change further through engagement.    



Links to the most popular information on the recent radio issues: NR’s Radio Message            JB “Race from Hell...” - KR suggest rules are a joke

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