Stronger by Losing

Well, people, we've got ourselves a championship battle! This weekend's Formula 1 French GP was surprisingly exciting. No safety cars, no DNFs, not even a yellow flag, and yet most of us were on the edge of our seats. After a small mistake saw Max Verstappen lose P1 to Lewis Hamilton, Max managed to successfully undercut Lewis by pitting one lap earlier and putting in one hell of an outlap. But this is LH, so we all knew this fight was far from over. Under pressure from Lewis, Max pitted again, leaving him with 19 laps to make up 18 seconds. It was Max who crossed the finish line first this time, after a truly amazing drive, overtaking Lewis with only one lap to spare. This was a massive drive by Max, but Lewis managing to match Max's lap times for quite a while on much older tyres was equally impressive.

As some of you know, I am fascinated by the dynamics of Formula 1 teams and have been studying team culture in F1 for quite a while now. Formula 1 teams operate on the absolute cutting edge of technology and human performance. Since the start of the hybrid F1 era, Mercedes has been the team to beat. Their culture is exemplary of everything businesses need for their people (and therefore business results) to thrive. Red Bull Racing have an equally impressive culture, and they have been the only ones consistently challenging Mercedes for race wins these past seasons. Now that Red Bull Racing is a serious contender for the championship, culture becomes even more essential for Mercedes. True culture becomes most visible when things are looking grim.

The Mercedes team’s race debriefs have been a great source of insights and inspiration. Yes, I’m aware that this is on camera and we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. But what you see in these race debriefs is a team showing humility and vulnerability, taking responsibility, reflecting on what went wrong and determining how to improve. Each race debrief emphasizes what they can learn from their experiences at the track.

As the incomparable Niki Lauda once said: “Winning is one thing, but out of losing I’ve always learned more. I got stronger by losing.”

Constant communication with a focus on learning is one of the essential elements of a winning culture. I have no doubt Mercedes will regroup and use this experience to come back stronger. As Toto said after the race: “The days we lose are the days our competitors should fear the most.”

Next up: a double-header at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. After watching the entire 2020 season from home, I finally get to watch a race from the grandstands at the track again. I can’t wait to see how this battle unfolds, bring on the rest of the season!