When Car­los Sainz made the switch from Toro Rosso to Re­nault ahead of last year’s US Grand Prix, he found him­self sud­denly sur­rounded by a new set of me­chan­ics, engineers, me­dia staff – a whole new race crew – al­most overnight. So to get on side with his new col­leagues, he set about putting in ex­tra hours of home­work.

“The me­chan­ics are the real heroes of F1 be­cause of the amount of work they do for lit­tle re­ward,” he ex­plains. “They travel in econ­omy to Aus­tralia, get to the track at 8am ev­ery morn­ing and so on. So I de­lib­er­ately made an ef­fort to re­mem­ber their names – and I felt they ap­pre­ci­ated it. You need to think about ev­ery lit­tle de­tail you can to help the team help you – I know it’s what Michael Schu­macher used to do.”

Ac­cord­ing to those who worked with Schu­macher, he didn’t just know his me­chan­ics’ names. He would also mem­o­rise the names of their wives and chil­dren. “I don’t know if he used to rush back to the mo­torhome and make notes, but he could walk into the garage and ask his num­ber-three me­chanic how his son was get­ting on at his new school,” Pat Sy­monds re­calls. “That was stag­ger­ing, but it was also gen­uine – ev­ery­one loved him for it.”

There are re­cent ex­am­ples of drivers mo­ti­vat­ing teams, as they re­alise a to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion can have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect in such a de­mand­ing work en­vi­ron­ment. On the Sat­ur­day night of last year’s Ja­panese GP, Lewis Hamilton took his Mercedes team out ten-pin bowl­ing, while Vet­tel reg­u­larly hands out im­promptu gifts (such as signed replica mod­els and hel­mets) to mem­bers of his team. His de­ter­mi­na­tion to learn Ital­ian – reg­u­larly heard on the cool-down lap after an­other Scud­e­ria vic­tory – is an­other ex­am­ple of go­ing the ex­tra mile to win the af­fec­tion of his team. Drivers who show the right at­ti­tude, pas­sion, trust, ap­pre­ci­a­tion and can also de­liver on track will at­tract the best me­chan­ics, and engineers will want to keep work­ing with them even when they swap teams. When Schu­macher left Benet­ton for Fer­rari in 1996, such was his in­flu­ence that both tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Ross Brawn and chief de­signer Rory Byrne joined him there within 12 months.

Fol­low­ing Michael’s ex­am­ple, sim­i­lar moves hap­pen all over the sport to­day. As re­cently as July, An­drea Stella was pro­moted to per­for­mance di­rec­tor at Mclaren, while Gil de Fer­ran was an­nounced as the team’s new sport­ing di­rec­tor. Stella was for­merly Fer­nando Alonso’s en­gi­neer

at Fer­rari, while de Fer­ran was his driver coach at the Indy 500 last year. Those who most want to win will al­ways sur­round them­selves with the right peo­ple – and that modus operandi was pi­o­neered by Schu­macher at Benet­ton and Fer­rari.

Michael built a team around him, un­der­stand­ing that suc­cess does not come from one per­son alone. By mak­ing each per­son feel val­ued and im­por­tant, he got the whole team to pull in the same di­rec­tion – and the re­sult was in­vin­ci­bil­ity

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