Strategic thinking

There is a joke in F1 circles which suggests that the sport is somewhat dysfunctional because it has a promoter who doesn’t promote,  a governing body that doesn’t govern, an owner who doesn’t own and a Strategy Group that seems to be without a strategy.

So, yesterday’s F1 Strategy Group meeting in Geneva was all about wind tunnel time, stewards and penalties, track limits, engine noise and the halo… Nothing to do with strategy. Perhaps this supreme body of the sport should be renamed as the F1 Minutiae Group.

Strategy is defined as a plan of action designed to achieve a clear goal. So, surely, the Strategy Group ought to be discussing things that really matter, or defining a goal for the sport. It would be serving the sport better if it were discussing the question of the inequality in the distribution of prize money; the fact that some of the teams are stretched too thin while others are stuffed with cash. There are questions about which races should and should not be on the calendar; perhaps there ought to be discussions about how to raise the TV revenues; and the need for better merchandising. And maybe even why the sport is not more engaged with different types of media: should more forms of social media be allowed to help promote the show?

Strategic questions are not track limits and wind tunnel time, but rather the question of engine stability rules, which we need if we want new manufacturers; whether we ought to have the calendars fixed years in advance in order to help the race promoters do the best job possible; whether there should be F1 offices in Hollywood and Bollywood to place the sport into films and TV, and to place film and TV stars into the sport.

And yet, these issues don’t get discussed because the racing folk have their attention diverted by unimportant details which are “spun” into issues. It seems a bit like the firecrackers and drum rolls one gets in bad magic shows. The primary skill of the magician is misdirection, to distract the audience so that they focus on unimportant things while sleight of hand is going on. There are even some people who see a connection between magic and warfare in that both rely on the same principles that one finds in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”, which argues that deception is essential to successful military action.

But then again, perhaps whoever draws up the agendas for these meetings does have a strategy: to be without a strategy. Things stay the same, people waste energy on details and only the clock moves onward…