The Impossible F1 Dream
The first Las Vegas Grand Prix since the early 1980’s took place this week. After a literally bumpy start during the first practice session when action had to be halted due to one of the Ferrari's hitting a drain cover that had come loose, it turned out to be an exciting night race. The race had 82 overtakes, second most in the season, making for a thrilling battle to the end.
This weekend I watched another exciting story, Disney+’s four-part series, “Brawn, The Impossible Formula 1 Story.” When I met with Ross Brawn in his London office 18 months ago I smirked when he told me that Keanu Reeves was acting as producer, interviewer, and commentator for the series. In fact, Reeves does a good job as a kind of ‘everyman’ exploring the events of that year. The documentary covers the incredible and sometimes improbable developments during the 2009 Formula 1 season.
As with my “Performance at the Limit, Business Lessons from Formula 1” activities, the story is as much about the business of Formula 1 as it is about racing. We see an entrepreneurial organization struggling to stay alive. It is a story about achieving high performance under challenging conditions; business alliances and shaky partnerships; regulatory power struggles and industry upheaval; and at the end of the day, leadership. We also get a peek into the rivalry between drivers on the same team and the mental stress F1 drivers are under when they must perform.
The documentary mixes race action with behind-the-scenes clips and interviews with a many of the people who were involved in the story; including the key protagonists Ross Brawn and Nick Fry who led the BrawnF1 team, Luca de Montezemolo at Ferrari, and Bernie Ecclestone the man who held F1 in his hands. Both of BrawnF1’s drivers, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello share their candid thoughts about each other and their quest for the Drivers’ Championship.
Who knew that in August 2008 while interviewing Ross Brawn in his motor home when he was Technical Director for the HondaF1 Racing that one year later, as leader of BrawnF1, they would be fighting for the Constructors and Driver’s Championship.
It is a great tale, well told. F1 fans will learn more about what goes on behind the racing itself; and non-fans will find the personalities and business story intriguing.