Book reviews

Book review: Total Competition: Lesson in strategy from Formula 1 by Ross Brawn

Total competition cover

Ross Brawn is an intelligent man, he has made the journey of thinking about HOW to do things.

It is very obvious that it’s not a fluke or coincidence that have made this man so successful. In his book Total Competition: Lessons in strategy from Formula 1 he gives his accounts on the history of his work in the form of an interview with Adam Parr.
Myself being a McLaren and Williams fan during the period 1992-2009, this man was a pain. I remember the bargeboard-gate of 1999, where I at the time thought that it was clearly illegal. The incident and the FIA hearing put this man in the cheater’s column in my book. From 1999-2004 the Ferrari team led by Ross Brawn had the success that had up to that point never been seen.
With an older, soberer and more technical approach to things, I can have more appreciation and admiration for what he accomplished and also lift him out of the cheater’s column. All teams, all designers and all racers try and interpret the rulebook to gain an advantage. If you don´t you will never win. A rulebook is full of grey areas, the tone of grey may vary but if you’re not at least trying to maximize the white parts you will be slower then the teams who do.  That’s at least the undertone of what Ross is saying in this book.
The lesson in strategy is more of a philosophy and a way of dealing with people and politics. I think that Formula 1 is always overselling what they are doing. Sports and business can have elements and experiences that can be transferred but it’s not going to replace business strategy or being this overwhelmingly different to what companies are already doing, at least those who have some knowledge. Formula 1 is a very unique sport. Highlighted best maybe by Toyotas Formula 1 bid. Taking the quality inspired approach and Japanese work culture and ethics that have built many successful companies and products, into Formula 1 was a disaster and a waste of so much money.
As a Formula 1 and motorsport fan, I really enjoyed this book. If you cut away some of the hype building and some of Ross ego trips it would have been a certain full bag of points. If you are a business trying to learn I think this book has some good pointers but I would not recommend it. Maybe the most value this book has to give is somebody who is trying to build a racing team or racing career.
Score: 8 out of 10

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