F1 Teams: Smoky futures and managers focused on staying on top

F1, Red Bull Manager, Helmut Marko

They earn millions for what? There are actually several reasons that justify the seven-figure salaries (in some cases, even eight) that Formula 1 team principals earn today.

A manager called upon to oversee a company with an average of one thousand employees is mainly assigned one key role: to make decisions.

F1 has experienced periods where founders/owners were also in charge of a team’s general operations, free to make decisions without being accountable to anyone and assuming any risks themselves.

In recent years, the structures of F1 teams have evolved, establishing the figure of a managing director supported by a team principal.

This has led to a more precise division of tasks and responsibilities, meaning that today, the context where strategic decisions that determine the medium and long-term future of a team are made has become smoky.

But the most striking aspect is that the decisions themselves have dropped drastically, giving shape to a scenario in which the guiding word is “stability”.

On some fronts, firm points are essential for the growth of a team, but there are others where the benefits are far from obvious.

F1, Ferrari CEO, Benedetto Vigna
F1, Ferrari CEO, Benedetto Vigna

The drivers’ market is a very clear example, but not the only one, of how today, everyone avoids making decisions unless forced by the circumstances. 

This is because the first requirement of a manager, which also has a priority on working in the interests of the team, is not to make mistakes. It goes without saying that the fewer decisions you make, the less chance you have of making mistakes.

So here are the contracts of five or more years, and here are the confirmations of pilots who, in the end, don’t hurt, who don’t create problems by doing a good ordinary job.

Keeping going is an important goal for anyone who has a very good position; why expose yourself to risks that could jeopardize it?

No one today would expose himself to have rookie Michael Schumacher with him, as Flavio Briatore did not hesitate to do in 1991, or by deciding to make his debut in a world championship single-seater as Ron Dennis did in 2007.

There are still some exceptions, one of these being Helmut Marko, a manager who has almost independently decided the line-up of Red Bull drivers over the last fifteen years. 

But he was able to do so thanks to his ever-solid relationship with Red Bull founder Dieter Mateschitz, which protected him from the risk of compromising his professional career with his decision-making.

F1, Red Bull Manager, Helmut Marko & Red Bull Owner, Dieter Mateschitz
Red Bull, Helmut Marko & Dieter Mateschitz

For many of the managers operating in F1 today, on-track ambitions and long-term investments are secondary factors with respect to maintaining status. This is because certain privileges, that were previously linked to the achievement of ambitious goals, are now guaranteed regardless. 

Well-known paths are followed; every change is considered and must be practically risk-free.

Obviously, those at the top don’t feel the need to change things. But even among those who are proactive and search for change, everything is calm and thoughtful.

Author:  A racing enthusiast

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang