THIS PAST WEEKEND IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT AUDI, PART OF THE VOLKSWAGEN GROUP, WILL JOIN FORMULA 1 FROM THE 2026 SEASON AS A POWER UNIT SUPPLIER.
Twenty years ago, Prof. Mark Jenkins, Richard West and I designed and delivered a seminar for a top UK-based international law firm with the aim of providing their lawyers a concentrated dose of business acumen.
Over two days, I role-played the Vice President of Strategy for Volkswagen trying to decide how to enter F1 under the Audi brand. The lawyers, working in cross functional and multinational teams, were positioned as my business consultants to research and present a recommendation: Audi should buy an existing team, create a new team, or supply engines for an existing team. Engine supplier was most often recommended.
After the pilot program, we realized there was a need to create a more realistic atmosphere to make the simulation more believable, so when in character, I wore a Volkswagen employee shirt. VW, the firm’s client, gave permission to use their name in the simulation and for me to wear the shirt.
We ran the two-day seminar 50 times over three years. When the program concluded Mark, Richard and I wrote “Performance at the Limit, Business Lessons from Formula 1 Racing,” published by Cambridge University Press. It included over 60 interviews with people involved in the sport and business of F1. Now in its third edition (2016) and after more than 100 interviews, the book is also available in Japanese, Turkish and Mandarin Chinese. In 2007, it also inspired an 8-part television BBC series, called “Formula for Success.”
The lessons in the book about – focus, leadership, teamwork, change, transformation, continual learning, culture, communication, etc. - resonate with any organization trying to achieve high performance in increasingly challenging business environments.
So, twenty years later, it seems VW and Audi have taken the step most of our seminar teams had recommended.
And I am delighted that I can still fit into the Volkswagen shirt.