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How did process lead Ferrari to lose in Monza?
With two cars on the front row, the best car in a race that took place on the team’s home turf, and the fact Mercedes had been a couple of tenths slower all weekend, everything was in Ferrari’s favour. And yet against all odds, Mercedes took the victory on the podium.
In a world where everything is focused on hitting the top of your game, process is the cornerstone of Formula 1. Just take a look at the Sporting Regulations. There’s a procedure for everything, with hundreds of pages of legislation governing the competitors’ every moves.
And that’s before you get to the cars themselves. For decades the competing teams have engineered the most technologically advanced vehicles to gain the edge and take pole position. Amazingly, these cars are designed, tested and built from scratch every single year, so the teams need to know what they’ve done previously, and how to continuously improve to take the lead.
Process is fundamentally important to success
Whether it’s procedures on how to set the car up, how the cars arrive at the race, how the drivers get into the car, or how the tyres are wrapped, warmed and cared for prior to the race, process flows through everything the team does on a race weekend. And before they even get to the race, each team has to essentially pack up its business and move it to another country within a week. It’s a huge logistical undertaking that simply wouldn’t be possible without process and checklists.
When process fails
During the latest race, Ferrari had brought only one additional set of soft tyres. Mistake number one.
Raikkonen was then asked to push hard on the new set of soft tyres after his pit stop. After five or six laps, he’d damaged the tyres, and created an opportunity for Mercedes to take the lead, and eventually the win. Mistake number two.
Things should have been very different
On the Thursday before the race, competitors are invited to the practice sessions to test the track and their tyres so they can make any necessary adjustments before the race. But as Ferrari only bought one additional set of tyres, it couldn’t perform the testing needed to see how far it could push the tyres before they failed.
But prior to this, a few months ahead of the trip, the team would be planning what it needed to take for the race in Monza. It’s here they decided to only pack one additional set of tyres – but why? Perhaps because that’s the way it’s always been done?
Back in April, Ferrari only took one additional set of soft tyres to the race in Azerbaijan. In practice the team only pushed the tyres as far as 17 laps, and the most anyone expected the tyres to complete was 32 laps, which meant the intermediary 22 laps were a complete unknown. On that occasion, they were lucky and the tyres held out until the end, but Mercedes, again, emerged victorious. Following the race, they didn’t update their process to consider what they could change to get a different result next time.
Then in May, Pirelli reduced the thickness of its tyres for for the Spanish Grand Prix by 0.4 millimetres. This small change made the compounds harder, which led to a different driving experience. Failing to perform adequate test runs left Ferrari sitting in 4th and 17th place. Perhaps if they’d taken extra tyres they could have performed more test circuits and produced a different result (it couldn’t have been much worse!)
But what if…
What if Ferrari had learned from its past mistakes?
What if they’d updated their process?
What if they had packed a second set of spare tyres?
What if they’d spent more time testing their tyres in the practice sessions?
Would Raikkonen have ended his 100 race drought to finally take the top spot on the podium?
Time to take the lead
If you’re looking for that competitive edge, whether you’re a Formula 1 team or a CEO directing your business, the key to success lies in process. If you know what your processes are, and everyone’s collaborating on them and searching for better ways of doing things, you’re always going to be continuously improving.
So don’t make the same mistake as Ferrari and insist you continue to do something because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’. Take the lead, make a change and see where you end up next time – what have you got to lose?