Multitasking and failing at 200MPH

Formula 1’s Charles LeClerc

Multitasking and failing at 200MPH

This F1 season has not gone as we all thought. Ferrari, it was agreed before the season began, had the best engine and Charles is an incredibly talented driver, so what is going wrong? The Belgian F1 Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on August 28th was an interesting one, not least because Max Verstappen powered through from 14th on the grid to win by a country mile, but because Charles LeClerc, well, didn’t. Well, we are psychologists, not engineers, but we think the problem is a human one of leadership and management, rather than mechanical. So, the question is, why is it that the best engine with a really talented young driver, is doing so badly?

Charles has recorded ISFJ in terms of psychological type, and so he will take what he does seriously, not want to let anyone down and will be incredibly loyal. But, he will prefer to focus on one thing at a time, rather than multitask or have to make lots of quick decisions on the hoof. Yet the team seem to push decisions to him, asking him to do the thinking, and whilst driving at an incredible speed. In the same race we saw the Ferrari team tell their other driver, Carlos Sainz to “stay out,” only to change their minds and order “box-box,” but after he had gone past the entrance to the pit lane, really poor coordination and communication.

So, back to Charles on that Sunday in August. Charles, like all drivers, is singly focused on driving at speed, with a narrow vision on his instruments and trying to course through the rest of the field. His team have the wider context of what’s happening around him and the telemetry data, they can see everything, he can see the road ahead and yet, they asked him what he thought he should do. “What do you think, Charles? Should we box now or stay out for another seven laps. Or should we even do a ‘one-stop,’ carrying on to the very end on the current set of tyres?” So, many questions he is being asked to process, whilst driving at 200MPH and with none of the data or context that his team have. And he is an ISFJ who tend to prefer single track tasks, finishing one before moving onto the next. That must have been so stressful for him, how on earth could the team expect him to make such decisions, at pace, no processing time and without the data? Little wonder he looked so down and depleted, confused and emotional at the end, ultimately blaming himself for something that his team should have better managed and advised him.

Formula 1, as is always agreed, is a team game, his job is to drive, and win, and their job is to support him in that, with information, well-thought-through advice, decisions he can take quickly but with the team having done all the thinking through. Asking him so many questions is like giving him an empty car park to park in, too many choices and options, the pressure of him having to make the decisions, and stand by them. If that is the case, what is the point of having a team, it would be better to, like in the olden days, just let the driver drive the car and make the decisions, the team having done their ‘bit’ by getting the car ready for him.

It must have really blown a gasket in his head, it would have de-focused him, and then he would have felt he let everyone down by getting it wrong, yet it should not have been his decision to take. What is missing in the Ferrari team, is just that, the concept of ‘team,’ and collective responsibility, and not pushing all the accountability to an individual who does not like to take that level of responsibility, indeed who shouldn’t be expected to, and who will be self-blaming when it all goes wrong as this season it has invariably has. Charles is a real talent, and in our view, he should be better supported by his team. In their book, ‘The Wisdom of Teams,” Katzenbach and Smith defined a team as:

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to an agreed purpose, goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

Charles is the driver, not the leader, and Ferrari are running it like a committee, not really understanding that to make an individual decision, at 200MPH and being an ISFJ is abrogating their responsibility. Asking an ISFJ to take all that responsibility without having all the information or any advice, to pull it all together and make decisions, is a sure-fire way to create anxiety, ruin self-belief and bring about a losing mentality.

We wonder if an issue is that the team principle, Mattia Binotto, has recorded INTP and so may be too economic and, whilst the context is all inside his head, he may not be directive enough is just saying what should be done, rather than exploring what could be done.