National Motorsport Academy

Preventing Armageddon: What NMA Students Can Teach Toto Wolff About Process

“Armageddon” said Toto

Mercedes Team 125 year Fancy Dress

I must remind all of our readers that these are my opinions. But, with the experience I have of listening to politicospeak and Ronspeak (remember Ron Dennis?) and now Totospeak, I can’t help but think that Mr Wolff was simply talking in riddles and trying to deflect when he stated that “Armageddon” was not caused by the 125 year festivities at Mercedes’ home race back in July.

“These are the days that make us better. We’ve got to think about what went wrong today. If things come together, like with Valtteri crashing out at the end… I mean, this ends in an Armageddon weekend for us.

“And whether we are celebrating 125 years, have the board here or the Netflix guys, plays no role at all, probably we’ve given them more content than on any other normal weekend. So, we’ve got to stick the heads together tomorrow and learn.”

Was it a deadly combination of Sod’s Law, Murphy’s Law and Finagle’s Law that showed Mercedes are human? That they do make mistakes and when it goes wrong it can be epic? Wow! From 2 cars at the front to 1 in the wall and the other hanging onto the bottom of the top 10! He was right, it was a disaster!

Toto claimed that the fancy dress, parties and press attention had nothing to do with the shambolic performance of both the team and the drivers and that it was simply one of those things. Or was it? Was it a combination of not following process, changing the workflow and taking your eye of the ball, or in this case, the car?


Process Makes Perfect

Red Bull Fastest Pit Stop

We all do things repetitively, whether it is work or play and it is said that “practice makes perfect”. Evidence is probably best served by watching the wheel change practice that all the teams do. Now some are more relentless than others and not so long ago it was Williams that could not be beaten (about the only thing! Ed) but recently Red Bull have, on successive race weekends, lowered the time from 1.91 seconds (read that again just so you can digest it: one point nine one seconds!) to 1.88 seconds. By the way, this link has got some really cool stuff about the whole thing, it is called the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award.

Breaking a record which was already an example of precise teamwork has not just come from practice making perfect, it’s come from PROCESS made perfect. Looking at every piece of the action – the wheelnut, the rattle gun, the point where the driver stops, the front jack man, the traffic lights rather than a lollipop man and so on. Process is the key!


Let me tell you a little story….

Gold medalist Vincent HANCOCK (Photo by Marco Dalla Dea)

I shoot clay targets in competition. It is said by some around me that with a shotgun it must be impossible to miss, but miss I do. Most of the time it is because I lose concentration and I am not following PROCESS. I may have shot that particular type of target 10,000 times but if I get slack, lazy and don’t give it respect, (i.e. I don’t follow the prescribed process) then I miss. I would venture that this is the same in every sport. Just this morning I read something Lewis Hamilton said about the race at Hockenheim “…there was a breakdown in process….”

So why is process important to us at the NMA? For a start, we race, so we need processes for that, or we will have an “Armageddon” situation. In this specific blog though, I am thinking more about the academic side of the NMA; our students and the processes they need to succeed.

Master’s of Motorsport

Our students need processes both supplied by us and some that they come up with and used to help them in their work and on their course. Since we started the Master’s course in January, I have seen a good number of new students working at a much higher level than I’ve previously seen. That is to be expected I suppose, because a Master’s course in any subject is not easy. Infa ct it is hugely difficult, and the achievement is special and well worth the effort.

However, some of the work that is being handed in to be assessed is much better than excellent, it is phenomenal! So, I have asked these exemplars how they go about their academic work and guess what? Each and every student that has overachieved has a process to get to that stage. Processes for their time management, their research, their section headings, their layouts, their thinking. In other words, by following and trusting in a process, not using short cuts, not getting distracted, the results will come.

Needless to say, the results from both the Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix were by far an improvement on the dismal performance of the Mercedes team in Germany. Strange that there was no sign of retro race suits and gloves, no board members trailing the team in the paddock and no Netflix crew filming every move. Wolff was later quoted as saying “It shows that you shouldn’t fool around with stuff, you should concentrate on the job”. This is something our students already understand and the results are outstanding.

One last thing…

Before I go, and with the great Ron Dennis in mind, here’s some ‘Ronspeak’ from a few years ago;

ron dennis

“Focus is thought to be good, obsession is thought to be bad. But basically they’re the same thing. And then there’s ego. Ego is a core ingredient of ambition. Ambition and ego are close bed-fellows. And, like everybody I suppose, I seek happiness. It’s an uncomplicated objective. I don’t see happiness as laughing or clapping your hands. I see it as the opposite of unhappiness, the opposite of anger, of depression. If you can get into that state of mind, you’re going to be far more productive.”
In other words: I’m only happy when we’re winning.



Roger Grimshaw: NMA Tutor

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