Whilst everybody in the tech world has their eye on Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in a few weeks, there is in fact something else going on in the city around the same time; the 2019 Formula One World Championship shifts into gear with pre-season testing. This season brings with it many changes in driver lineups and many interesting potential crises depending on how well the team mates get on.
Formula One is a unique sport. Drivers race as team mates, yet are benchmarked against each other, often making inter-team battles quite damaging to relationships. Just ask Nico Rosberg how well his relationship with childhood friend and now ex-colleague Lewis Hamilton is after their years battling for championships as Mercedes team mates. When one of the drivers isn’t willing to play second fiddle, fireworks are usually not far behind. With millions of dollars on the line in sponsorships and potential prize money, team principals face a herculean task in trying to keep their drivers in line.
Can Sebastien Vettel maintain his cool at Ferrari if youngster Charles Leclerc gets the better of him? Will Ferrari lose one of the drivers if they can’t manage both drivers well enough both publicly and behind closed doors? Will Sergio Perez play nice with Lance Stroll if it looks like team owner and father to Lance, Lawrence Stroll is favouring his kin? How will McLaren handle its two new drivers following its 2018 switch from Honda to Renault engines? Red Bull losing Daniel Ricciardo to Renault after what appears to have been prioritisation of young talent and hotly-tipped future F1 champion Max Verstappen showcased what can happen when communications fail. Likewise, Ferrari’s ousting of team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, a figure known for his disengaged approach to comms, highlighted a team trying to move with the times.
Everywhere you look, there are potential minefields aplenty. Balancing driver egos, investors, sponsors, partners and team members will require strategic communication of the highest order. Teams must uphold their corporate responsibilities whilst maintaining ethical codes of conduct and practice with media without losing fan interest. Liberty Media, F1’s new owners, have made clear their plans to expand F1’s global footprint by pushing into new markets and improving the spectacle, the success of which will ultimately be determined by audience engagement. It’s up to the teams to keep all parties happy, including F1 fans, who delight in seeing team mates battle it out on track without orders from on high.
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"Arrivabene was a sullen sort of figure, one who pointedly refused to engage with the media in the paddock, a process that became increasingly alienating in the Liberty era, in which F1 seeks to become more inclusive." - GQ