An article i wrote awhile back. Thought i’d reproduce it here.
Thursday, 24 Sep 2009
Over the last week, I have had one question continuously directed at me. “How is a Malaysian F1 Team possible?” Its an exasperating question, as I constantly find I have to bite my tongue as it would be very easy to be miss quoted. Its a complicated with too many variables to give a clear yes or no. It’s possible but in reality very, very difficult unless certain attitudes within Malaysia are able to change.
Now before you get on your high horse, let me try and qualify these oversimplified answers.
Lets start with an easier question. Why do we want a F1 team? Well the obvious answer is to show what we Malaysians are capable of. Ok, so how do we measure that? Is the answer to that, just to be in F1? Well, no problem, we are there. In fact you could argue we are already there with the Petronas sponsorship of BMW. But what if you want more? What if you want to actually own a team and be successful? To win races and challenge for championships… wow, what a step. Well then, you go out and buy the best team on the market, a team like BMW or Williams and leave them to it (like Force India has done).
But then is it Malaysian, you ask? It may say 1 Malaysia on the side but is it really malaysian? Well, the answer is no isn’t it? Its an English (Or swiss if you bought BMW) team, based in their own countries with their own countrymen running it. If you really want to call it Malaysian, then it has to be based here, with a good percentage of Malaysians working in it. A bit like A1 Team Malaysia, or more relevantly like what Tony Fernandez is trying to do with the launch of our own Malaysian F1 team.
His plan is for our Malaysian F1 team to eventually be based here at Sepang. At first there would be a base in Norfork, UK to build and run the cars before building a centre here to eventually take over. A grand idea, as it then means we have a proper Malaysian team. An if we actually won a race and the Negara Ku played out over the prize giving ceremony, it will actually mean something. But can we have success with Malaysians running a Malaysian centre in Malaysia? That is where this thought exercise get infinitely more complicated.
Lets eventually get to attitudes and to compare what the differences are between motorsports in Malaysia and F1. But first lets look at two case studies, Toyota and Honda. Both are from companies with their base in Asia, looking to have genuine success in Formula One. And to do that, they have decided that their teams need to be based in Europe. Not only because all the infrastructure is there, but because the best people are there too. And everyone knows its people that make success, not just money. Even with the most money, without the best people, you will never have success, ala Toyota. The interesting thing about this, is that both Toyota and Honda toyed with the idea of basing their teams in Japan but decided against it. Now Japan has a huge motorsports industry, that is only second to the UK and perhaps the US. So with a fully developed motorsports industry in their own countries, they still decided to be based in Europe.
Now we do have one certain advantage over Honda and Toyota, which is that our government is completely behind us. Willing to do anything for our own Formula 1 team to help them in their quest for glory. I think.
It’s difficult to quantify how much support the Malaysian government will eventually give the team, because that depends on you. When i say you, i mean the person reading this article. If you can make a difference and say that you support a Malaysian F1 team and enough of you say it, the government will listen and hopefully throw their might behind our efforts. I say “our” because it will involve everyone on some sort of level.
Ok, now for attitudes. In Formula One, only the best are hired. From the driver, to the guy who cleans the toilets back at the factory, they will look for the best that they can attract (money and working environment being important factors in obtaining personal). Also the people in Formula One don’t just hire the smartest people they can find, self motivation and a huge curiosity to improve are vitally crucial too (education while important is not enough). An ability to question and seek improvements for the betterment of the team are also important. An employee who comes up after a failure on the car and says that he could have done it better would get sacked in a formula one team. To know a solution and keep it to yourself is not someone who lasts long in this industry.
Does this sound like an environment that would work here? I’m not going to state the obvious, either you get it or you don’t.
If we want a Malaysian Formula One team to be successful and not just run around at the back of the grid, then it needs to adopt the mentality of a country at war. No quarter given, no compromises on quality allowed. Results are all that matter.
I applaud Tony and his partners vision in trying to do this. It’s the sort of vision that will allow Malaysia to make big strides in becoming a 1st world country. Malaysia is a beautiful country and i’m sure Tony will be able to attract very good people. Mike Gascoyne as technical director is a very good step forward.
Tony now needs to attract the best Malaysians that he can find to join him. For example, if an engineer that is hired to do a specific job needs to be told twice to do something, he or she becomes a liability.
Standards cannot be compromised to teach people who cannot learn quickly. Mark Webber once said “Formula One is not a finishing school” and that applies to everyone within the the team, not just the drivers.
F1 Malaysia needs to hire the best people on merit, regardless of your background or who you happen to know. Over the years Malaysia has had a big brain drain as a lot of our smartest people leave to find better opportunities elsewhere. We need to get them back, because there is a place for them here.
There will be growing pains, and it will not be smooth, but as long as our F1 team maintains the standards it sets without compromise, then i believe we will succeed. It wont be easy, but anything worth doing well, rarely is.