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Roddy Graham's blog: 19 March 2010 - The return of F1

Date: 19 March 2010

Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo

With all the talk of the sheer boredom of last Sunday's opening F1 race, it's still worth looking at some of the positives.

Besides the return of seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher, the renaissance of Ferrari, the fielding of the two most recent World Champions - both British - in one team, there is much that can be taken away in the form of management lessons.

Firstly, let's look at brand reputations. Michael Schumacher is undoubtedly a great driver but his past dubious driving tactics have tarnished his reputation. Will his comeback tarnish his reputation further? The jury is still out but, last weekend, he was on average half a second slower than his young teammate, Nico Rosberg, who has yet to score his first win. Have no doubt however that every lap he spent behind him will be carefully analysed and worked on. While I think he will find his original race pace, more worrying still was his continued attitude. To be so indirectly dismissive of Fernando Alonso's two titles by writing off his last two seasons as being unrepresentative of his talent because he was so tired beggar's belief. Humility remains his weakest point. Brand reputations take time to build but can be destroyed overnight - just ask Gerald Ratner!

By comparison, the attitudes of his former and current boss, Ross Brawn, and his former teammate Felipe Massa are in sharp contrast. The way the former acknowledged the huge contribution his sacked colleagues made to the Brawn effort over the 2008/09 winter, immediately after securing both the driver's and constructor's titles in Brazil, demonstrated what a big man the 'Big Bear' is! Felipe Massa's conduct immediately after losing the world championship driver's title the year before, seconds after winning the last race of the season, has to be the benchmark for all professional sportsmen and women. His competitive return to Grand Prix racing after his horrific accident last year was indeed a highlight of last weekend. Being nice and behaving with professionalism and dignity in all circumstances still has its place. Nice people don't have to be losers!

There was a lot of comment on the three new teams - some good, some bad. The Lotus F1 team, while not the fastest in qualifying, beaten by Glock in the Virgin Racing car, saw both cars finish, thus fulfilling its initial objective and at the same time being the 'best of the rest'. While Lotus, Virgin and Campos, now called Hispania, made the grid in Bahrain, the USF1 team significantly failed to make it, and may never see the light of day. Although the first of the entrants to be confirmed for 2010, and way ahead at the time of their new rivals, they did not build a car and complained of the tightness of deadlines. Lack of sufficient sponsorship didn't help the cause either but Campos managed to resolve that one. By contrast, the Lotus F1 team did not start on the design of its car until September, the last to do so. By employing Mike Gascoyne as technical chief, who in turn attracted many from the defunct Toyota team and past colleagues at Renault and Jordan, Malaysian boss Tony Fernandes played a masterstroke. Gascoyne said Lotus would be a professional team, it would turn up, it would be ready and it would be reliable. Clearly outlined objectives fulfilled. Now, it can work on the performance side and home in on some of the slower established teams. So what's the lesson here? Several, really. First, you need to identify and recruit key talent and let them get on with it. 'Impossible' and 'never' are not words in the business language. From scratch, in six months, Lotus F1 designed and built two cars that finished their first Grand Prix. There just is no substitute for application and hard work. Whinging, as did USF1, is just not an option. As a famous advertising slogan goes, just do it!

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