What business can learn from Fernando Alonzo’s F1 crash

What can business learn from Fernando Alonzo’s F1 crash?

Formula one racing used to be largely a make-it-up-as-you-go effort. Back in the day, Colin Chapman, head of Lotus cars was famous for his ability to “add lightness.” In both his automotive designs, and for the design of his race cars he was said to design a race car frame, and then start removing structural tubes until the frame broke and then put the last one they removed back in. That would be the best that could be done in terms of strength and lightweight.

I’m not really sure if this was how it was done but to be sure, engineering has come a long way since the 1960s and 1970s.

Contrast that with what we can see in the video footage from Fernando Alonzo’s crash at the Australian grand prix race in 2016. Through continual refinement of racetrack design, car design, race rules, and pit stop activities, not much is left to chance.

Of particular note:
-The sliver of run-off room positioned at just the right location to allow the trajectory of the car to slow before coming to a stop. This chute covered with sand was not there by accident.

-The destruction of the race car around the driver in order to dissipate energy while leaving the cockpit in tact to protect the driver

-The padding above the driver’s shoulders, strategically positions not only to limit head movement, but also to contain the driver’s arms so that in a rollover, the drivers arms are contained, preventing the reflex action of trying to reach the arms out to catch the fall.

-If all of that is not enough, just watch the speed of the pit stop mid way through the video.

Watch the video, and then jump to the bottom of this post and see if you can add any lessons to my list below:


How can we learn from this?
In the business world, it certainly seems that the pace of change has quickened. Many business teams attempt to educate the business units that they serve that they need to leave lead-time for responding to requests. They also build processes that do not allow for exceptions. Why not take lessons from formula one and instead learn to expect exceptions and plan for them?

  • Alonzo’s crash was an exception and rather than simply relying on prevention of the incident, steps were taken to think things through in advance and prepare a response (run-off room and protective devices.)
  • In addition, we can see the efficiency of the process of responding to the white car’s request for fuel. Because they had assembled all of the processes, supplies and equipment into an efficient pit stop service, the team was able to quickly take advantage of an opportunity that suddenly appeared during the race.
  • The pit crew did not insist on advanced notice and long lead times for fuel.

As an aside, note that in order to monitor race car ride-heights,

  • rather than build in some high-tech solution, these race cars just use a simple piece of plywood strapped to the bottom of the car. After the race, officials can inspect this piece of wood for scuff marks to determine if the team had broken the rules by lowering its suspension too much during the race.

Advancement and moving to work of higher value does not always require high-tech solutions but it does require forethought, process design, and a continual improvement approach to ensuring that the desired results are achieved.

Scroll down and leave a reply if you'd like to share other ideas that occurred to you while watching this video.

About Wayne McKinnon

Wayne McKinnon works with organizations to change their course of evolutions from extinct to distinct
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