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The Business of Winning: Lessons from Formula One

6 November 2019

Formula One (F1) is a unique mix of business and sport, where strong leadership, efficient teamwork, split-second decision making and a clear focus on delivery are required to compete at the highest levels.

There’s a lot we can learn from some of the most successful teams and individuals in the sport today. Opinions aside, Lewis Hamilton is currently the most successful Formula One driver on the track with his monumental 83rd career win on Sunday – but why is he so successful at what he does? The quick answer is that he has a world-class leader and team around him.

So, what concepts can you learn from Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport to adapt in business?

Formula One: Mercedes AMG-Petronas F1 team


Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is a lot more similar to your business than you might think. Business highs are often the result of someone or a team trying to do something “extraordinary.” Many people have commented that the success of Mercedes-AMG Petronas is down to Toto Wolff, who is the team’s leader and has been called “the best person for managing a business” by Lewis Hamilton himself. Wolff describes the team’s success to “permanent scepticism” and says that the team has a “relentless pursuit for excellence.”

Managers today can follow this pursuit of embedded excellence within their teams by promoting learning and development opportunities for them which will creating a high performing, winning culture.

Setting the right objectives

Toto Wolff has said that the teams secret to success is framing targets that keep motivation high throughout the organisation. The right objectives will help to keep your team motivated and energised which can be difficult in an ever changing, uncertain and volatile world.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team set their long-term goals together, focusing on what they as a team truly want to achieve. The leadership team then crafts the operations needed behind achieving these goals and feed the actions needed to the whole team.


There’s one thing that’s for sure even if you’re not the world’s biggest Formula 1 fan, you will have heard of and seen the impressive pitstops that are undergone by the teams. There are very few things in life that can better demonstrate high-performance than this. With an average pitstop time being under 2.5 seconds, the timing of this can be the difference between a win or a lose. During those 2.5 seconds there is zero room for error from any individual in the team and each member of the team has to have an exact idea of their function and what the impact is.

We’re all well aware of how important teamwork is in business, but what use is a great team if each individual isn’t striving for the same result? Returning to the pit stop analogy, each pit team member has a different task to complete, but they all share the same timely goal of completing the task by 2.5 seconds. The success or demise of this operation will result in either a win or lose for the Formula 1 team.

Strategy and tactics

F1 teams have to encounter dealing with fast change, adopting new strategies, and systematic thinking to adapt to the rapid pace of change, which applies to situations on and off the track. With their usual head engineer, Bonnington, unable to attend due to medical reasons, Mercedes were expected by many to struggle but Lewis Hamilton’s most recent Championship win was all down to strategy. Hamilton delivered a controlled, flawless drive, exploiting a race strategy called to perfection by the Mercedes team. Today’s businesses require a constant flow of good decision making from executives as well as detailed strategic planning.

Mercedes are a high-performing F1 team who continue to thrive under pressure because of the winning attitude which is engrained within everyone in the team by their leader – does your team have the same outlook?