The 2022 F1 season has introduced a new array of aerodynamic rules. The cars look and behave vastly differently compared to last year’s and that poses both challenges and opportunities for Formula teams.
One of the biggest revelations at the beginning of the season was the car design Ferrari had come up with. The sidepods (the air intake covers on both sides of the car) look like a heavy object fell onto it and left a big dent. The genius thing about these regulation changes and F1 teams is that the masterminds behind the teams will push every little edge they can find to get the most extreme out of it to pull a competitive edge towards them.
As the image above demonstrates, the sidepods of the Ferrari (left) and the McLaren (right) look very different from each other. Usually, the top cover is plain and straight. A few eyebrows were raised, until the first race. After the season-opening event, it was clear to everyone: Ferrari just might have a championship-winning car in their hands. The engine speed has improved tremendously compared to last year’s challenger and the aerodynamics seem to work just as hoped.
Championship already decided? Weeeeeell…
The best product will only get you so far
The F1 season just went into its well-deserved summer break. And if there is anything standing out to me (outside of the latest controversy, funny as hell if you ask me) is how much the Scuderia Ferrari team has managed to shoot itself in the foot.
Again, they arguably have the fastest car on track, and with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc two of the fastest drives on the grid. Yet they're flunking down in the order, are currently second behind the Red Bull team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get caught up by Mercedes.
So what happened? If they have the fastest car, great aerodynamics, and two world-class drivers, what is going on?
This, kids, is where we get to the learning part. I can stress the next point enough:
The best product will not grant success if you fail in the strategy department
Even the best tool in the world will fail if the choices made with it are bad. The latest example of bad strategy calls by the Ferrari team was the last race in Hungary. Formula 1 team can choose from three different compound tires:
Put simply, the soft tire will make the car go around the track faster, but deteriorates quicker and needs change faster. The hardest compound will go way less fast than the soft compound but will manage the longest. As you’ve probably guessed, the medium goes in between the two. A number of factors are influencing these variables, like weather conditions, the temperature of the track, time spent closely behind other cars, and the aggressiveness of driving style to name a few.
The weather in Hungary was relatively mild and it had been raining quite a bit during the weekend. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez from the Red Bull team already notified their teams that even the softest tire compound provided little grip, and advised not to use the hardest compound. Something that their chief strategist Hanna Schmitz took to heart.
And even though other teams in lower rankings opted for the hard tire, and dropped more pace than anticipated, Ferrari’s strategist still decided to put on the hard compound. Both drivers had a great starting position (2nd and 3d), but due to poor decision-making, they fell back to ultimately finish 4th and 6th while Max Verstappen (who started 10th) won the race, followed by 2021 title competitor Lewis Hamilton (who started 7th).
Look at outcomes and effect
And this was not a single-race event. The whole year has been filled with poor strategy decisions, driver errors, and failing car components. The effect so far is they lost a comfortable positive margin of roughly 40 points for Charles Leclerc to a deficit of currently 80 points on Max Verstappen, who leads the championship. Also, the manufacturer's championship was very close and Ferrari had the upper hand, but Ferrari now is in second place with 334 points compared to Red Bull’s 431 points.
Ferrari partially blames it on their data suggesting different strategies and focusing on that, rather than looking at what is happening on track. The same happens to Scrum Team too, in my experience.
Even when Scrum Teams build the absolute best product available, it’s not going to work without a proper strategy. That starts with understanding your users. Why are they using it? How does it make their lives easier or what problem does it solve for them? If you properly understand that, a strategy can follow. Inspect whether that strategy works and what effect it sorts. Does it match expectations? Yes? Great! It does not? Investigate why it doesn’t work and what to do to improve.
If the strategy fails once, or maybe twice, that can happen. But if it doesn’t work out numerous times, maybe it’s time to have a good, hard look at what’s going on within your team (looking at you, prancing horse).
More examples of great products with bad strategies are here. Please share your experience of a great (or bad) strategy you’ve experienced.
Join the Mastering Agility Discord, and get connected with hundreds of other agilists around the world!