7 people management lessons from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

English: Formula One Circuit Yas Island


This post is dedicated to my friend Aroop, who is a big fan from my previous Formula One post. I hope you enjoy this one too !

On Sunday the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix took place. The race was eventful, and like last year, some of its aspects made me think of HR and management. I’ll keep it short and let you think of how that applies to your organisation :

1 – Compete but keep your heart – while leading the race, behind the safety car, Lewis Hamilton enquired about the 2 drivers who had just been in an accident.

2 – Success is never guaranteed – Lewis Hamilton made a brilliant qualification, started in pole and consistently led the race – until some mechanical problems forced him to abandon at lap 20, while he had a clear lead of over 3 seconds over Raikonnen.

3 – Constant feedback is essential for best performance – why do you think the drivers are constantly connected with their team by radio ?

4 – And constant corrective action is necessary too – of course they perform thorough debriefs and analysis after the event, but the teams don’t wait for the end of the race to make required changes as they are needed. Hence the pit stops being strategically used.

5 – The past does not always predict the present – No two events are the same : even though they are both F1Grand Prix and held within a few days, the India Grand Prix was sleepy, while this one was full of surprises and a demonstration of the know-how and expertise of some of the best professionals in their industry.

6 – The stars don’t exist without a team – At pit stops, the team changes tyres and performs minor repairs within a few seconds, and in the control room, monitoring and driving strategy help the driver make the most of the race. Without this superbly rehearsed and concerted team effort, the drivers would not be able to cross the finish line – literally. They know it : on the podium, Kimi Raikonnen thanked the team.

7 – …. Yet an individual/ talent does have an influence on the end result no matter the circumstances – Of course, Vettel made a fantastic come back from last to 3rd during the race. And Alonso, my personal favourite, played fantastic. His car was deemed unworthy at the beginning of the season and he was predicted to a poor season, yet he drove from 7th on the starting grid to runner up (on a circuit that is notorious for providing few opportunities to overtake) and is the only other contender for the Championship with Vettel this year. If that is not overcoming circumstances through sheer talent !

Finally, and this has nothing to do with HR or management. The Yas Viceroy was beautiful in its purple dress of light. Every year since moving back to the UAE I attend The Walk promoting awareness of diabetes at Yas Circuit and I can’t wait to peruse the circuit again this November !


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  1. Sandrine,
    Very enjoyable article and great observation. I would love to use this insight for for my students.
    Wish organizations could embrace this spirit for managing performance. Most of them do the exact opposite unfortunately…
    For performers to have a big heart, to be competitive and humane at the same time… is a great lesson too… though it would need a very supportive organizational culture.

    • Dear Ayesha,
      Thanks for your comment – don’t hesitate to send your students to the blog and encourage them to subscribe 😉 !
      I agree that organisational culture is important, but I also believe that we make the world we live in. Taking our human side into account is a personal decision on how we wish to behave at work. As managers, we have to lead by example and we can’t always wait for the environment to be perfect…
      I will spare you the Gandhi quote on being the change we want to see in the world, and will instead bring this one up from the movie Pay It Forward with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment 🙂 :

      I guess it’s hard for people who are so used to things the way they are – even if they’re bad – to change. ‘Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses.

  2. For point number 3, I think Kimi was a tad bit bothered by the constant feedback telling his race engineer to leave him alone and he knew what he was doing 😀 Iceman strikes again.

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