Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spanish Grand Prix

While Kimi Raikonnen retired his Ferrari, the Spanish Grand Prix this past weekend was quite normal up front.

My favorite team, Toyota, saw both of its cars retire. Trulli had what he referred to as a “stupid” fuel pump problem that stalled him at the beginning of the race, forcing the field to scrap a lap of the race. Trulli started from the pit lane, but did eventually retire. Ralf Schumacher retired after some 40-odd laps due from body damage to his Toyota, which left him relatively uncompetitive.

Another disappointment was for American Scott Speed in his Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari, who did tremendously well in terms of pace all weekend long, including qualifying. Unfortunately, a tire blow-out left him to retire during Sunday’s race.

However, I must admit that there were two tremendously bright spots in the weekend. Super Aguri Honda got their first championship point with Takuma Sato’s 8th place finish. And the brightest note of all to me was Red Bull Renault’s David Coulthard finishing in a strong 5th place.

The economist has gotten the better of me. I had to sit myself down on Sunday night and realize that the comments from many internet forums may be right. The question is regarding how a team designs a car. For example, it has become popular opinion that Toyota and Honda subscribe to their own corporate ideology as to design a car using a group of engineers as a team. Now, other teams don’t disagree with this, but using Red Bull as an example, you can see that they also believe in having one person become an integral character in their car. That person for Red Bull Racing this year is Adrian Newey.

Toyota had tried a big superstar engineer two seasons ago with Mike Gascoyne. And in my opinion, it worked, but Gascoyne left at the beginning of the season last year. Why? Well, a lot of people said it was because Toyota could not keep going along with that genius-engineer-guy mentality. And if I understand the Japanese work paradigm properly, it makes sense for there to be a clash. Heck, a part of me wants to ask Ben Casnocha (whom I believe knows business methods about as well as anyone) if it is part of the Japanese work ethos to revolve around working only as a team.

In any case, does it mean that in Formula 1, to be a successful team you must subscribe to not having a good team of engineers, but rather, a superstar engineer or aerodynamicist? It seems as though the case for superstars is a hard one to compete against. Therefore, being in Formula 1, it would make sense that just being a good team and having a lot of funding would in the end not be good enough.

(picture of David Coulthard thanks to Grand and The Cahier Archive)
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