Ken Pas­te­nak's jour­ney in­to For­mu­la 1 be­gan when he was hi­red to de­sign a two-day se­mi­nar ba­sed on F1 with the goal of te­ac­hing bu­si­ness acu­men to in­ter­na­ti­o­nal law firm's la­wy­ers. Sin­ce then Pas­ter­nak has tra­vel­led the globe spe­a­king to au­dien­ces about the key take-awa­ys exe­cu­ti­ves can le­arn from F1 te­ams.

Fin­land has a long his­to­ry of car ra­cing da­ting back to the ear­ly 1920’s when the Au­to­mo­bi­le Club of Fin­land held ra­ces on the ice that at­t­rac­ted 10 000 spec­ta­tors. From 1932 to 1963 the Eläin­tar­ha Race was held in Hel­sin­ki. In the 1960’s Rau­no Aal­to­nen and Timo Mä­ki­nen were suc­ces­s­ful ral­ly dri­vers and Fin­land can bo­ast three mul­tip­le World Ral­ly Cham­pi­on Dri­vers win­ners - Juha Kank­ku­nen, Tom­mi Mä­ki­nen, and Mar­cus Grön­holm - bet­ween 1980-2000. But around the world Fin­land is best known as the small count­ry that has pro­du­ced great For­mu­la One (al­so known as For­mu­la 1 and F1) dri­vers.

Number one country

Fin­land’s list of F1 Dri­ver World Cham­pi­ons inc­lu­des Keke Ros­berg (1982), Mika Häk­ki­nen (1998, 1999), Kimi Räik­kö­nen (2007), and while tech­ni­cal­ly he is Ger­man, Finn’s have inc­lu­ded Keke’s son, Nico Ros­berg (2016) as well.

Ot­her Fin­nish F1 dri­vers in re­cent ti­mes inc­lu­de Valt­te­ri Bot­tas, Heik­ki Ko­va­lai­nen, and Mika Salo. Re­la­ti­ve to its po­pu­la­ti­on, Fin­land is the num­ber one count­ry in the world in mo­tors­ports dri­ver suc­cess. Just why, no one is cer­tain, but their po­dium fi­nis­hes al­wa­ys give Fin­ns a re­a­son to ce­leb­ra­te.

Interest growing in the USA

The Uni­ted Sta­tes al­so has a long his­to­ry of For­mu­la 1 ra­cing. In fact, there have been 70 F1 ra­ces in the US sin­ce 1950. The Cir­cuit of the Ame­ri­cas (COTA) a pur­po­se-built track in Aus­tin, Te­xas is the lo­ca­ti­on of the US Grand Prix sin­ce 2012.

In­te­rest in F1 is gro­wing in the USA and sin­ce Li­ber­ty Me­dia purc­ha­sed the bu­si­ness for $4,6 bil­li­on in 2017 they have been loo­king to hold a se­cond race on Ame­ri­can soil. That will now hap­pen with the an­noun­ce­ment that Mi­a­mi will host an F1 Grand Prix in the se­cond qu­ar­ter of 2022. It has ta­ken five ye­ars of plan­ning, com­mu­ni­ty di­a­lo­gue, and one chan­ge of ve­nue wor­king clo­se­ly with the city of Mi­a­mi on this ten-ye­ar ag­ree­ment. The track will be laid out around the Hard Rock Sta­dium, home of the Mi­a­mi Dolp­hins foot­ball team.

These two US ra­ces are part of a plan­ned 23-race ca­len­dar from March to No­vem­ber co­ve­ring 22 count­ries on 5 con­ti­nents. It is surp­ri­sing for many to le­arn that For­mu­la One has the lar­gest vie­wing au­dien­ce of an any an­nu­al sport with over 400 mil­li­on uni­que views in 2020. The ave­ra­ge vie­wers­hip of each grand prix last ye­ar was 88 mil­li­on.

Towards a net-zero carbon footprint

For­mu­la 1 is the pin­nac­le of tech­no­lo­gy in mo­tors­ports. Not on­ly do F1 cars re­ach speeds of close to 250 mph (=400 km/h), F1 in­no­va­ti­ons have ins­pi­red many tech­no­lo­gi­cal de­ve­lop­ments in ener­gy re­co­ve­ry sys­tems, na­vi­ga­ti­on tools and com­po­si­te ma­te­ri­als that have been adop­ted by the road car and ot­her in­dust­ries.

An im­por­tant ini­ti­a­ti­ve an­noun­ced by For­mu­la 1 in 2019 is to have a net-zero car­bon footp­rint by 2030. This drive to­wards sus­tai­na­bi­li­ty will co­ver the For­mu­la 1 cars and on-track ac­ti­vi­ty and the rest of the ope­ra­ti­ons as a sport.

My F1 journey

My jour­ney in­to For­mu­la 1 be­gan when I was hi­red by a ma­jor in­ter­na­ti­o­nal law firm ba­sed in Lon­don and te­a­med with two ex­perts, to de­sign a two-day se­mi­nar ba­sed on F1 with the goal of te­ac­hing bu­si­ness acu­men to their la­wy­ers.

We cre­a­ted a be­ha­vi­o­ral si­mu­la­ti­on where I ro­lep­la­yed the Vice Pre­si­dent of Volks­wa­gen trying to de­ter­mi­ne how we should en­ter F1 un­der the Au­di brand. The la­wy­ers were trans­for­med in­to bu­si­ness con­sul­tants whose brief was to ad­vi­se me on how it should be done.

We ran the works­hop fif­ty ti­mes, most of­ten at the Wil­li­ams F1 Con­fe­ren­ce Cent­re in the UK, for 1200 of their la­wy­ers. Af­ter three ye­ars my col­la­bo­ra­tors vi­si­ted Fin­land to ce­leb­ra­te and on a warm sum­mer af­ter­noon while sit­ting on the ter­ra­ce at our fa­mi­ly sum­mer cot­ta­ge, we de­ci­ded to write a book about what we le­ar­ned from the ex­pe­rien­ce.

“Per­for­man­ce at the Li­mit, Bu­si­ness Les­sons from For­mu­la 1 Mo­tor Ra­cing” (PATL) was pub­lis­hed by Camb­rid­ge Uni­ver­si­ty Press in 2005. Two re­vi­sed edi­ti­ons fol­lo­wed in 2009 and 2016. Al­so, in 2007 we made an 8-part se­ries with the BBC ins­pi­red by the book, tit­led “For­mu­la for Suc­cess.” PATL is al­so avai­lab­le in Ja­pa­ne­se, Tur­kish and Man­da­rin Chi­ne­se.

Sin­ce its pub­li­ca­ti­on I have tra­vel­led the globe te­ac­hing se­mi­nars and spe­a­king to au­dien­ces about the key take-awa­ys exe­cu­ti­ves can le­arn from F1 te­ams. Here are a few:

•Fo­cus, Fo­cus, Fo­cus.
When Sir Frank Wil­li­ams was run­ning the team that car­ries his name, he would ask one qu­es­ti­on of his col­le­a­gu­es when they re­qu­es­ted mo­ney for va­ri­ous pro­jects, “Will it make the car go fas­ter?” I of­ten ask exe­cu­ti­ves, “How fo­cu­sed are you on yo­ur pur­po­se? What qu­es­ti­on are you as­king when al­lo­ca­ting scar­ce re­sour­ces?”

•Make quick de­ci­si­ons and le­arn from the re­sults.
Like all bu­si­nes­ses, F1 te­ams must Plan and Imp­le­ment. But what they do bet­ter than ot­hers, is Re­view, sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly and of­ten. They are agi­le or­ga­ni­za­ti­ons, me­a­su­ring per­for­man­ce, get­ting the right pe­op­le in the room to re­view re­sults, ext­rac­ting the le­ar­nings, and ma­king de­ci­si­ons on what to do next.

• Iso­la­te the prob­lem, not the per­son.
A pits­top crew le­a­der sha­red this phrase with us when desc­ri­bing a di­sast­rous pit stop. Rat­her than put the blame on the per­son who had troub­le se­cu­re­ly fi­xing the tire, they stu­died the mis­hap to un­ders­tand what went wrong and how to pre­vent it from hap­pe­ning again. Or­ga­ni­za­ti­ons that cre­a­te a safe en­vi­ron­ment for pe­op­le to make mis­ta­kes and le­arn from them, build con­fi­den­ce, and enab­le cre­a­ti­vi­ty and in­no­va­ti­on.

• Real gains come at the boun­da­ries.
A For­mu­la 1 car is a comp­lex pie­ce of equip­ment. Its com­po­nents – po­wer unit, ae­ro­dy­na­mics, ge­ars, bra­kes, elect­ro­nics, etc. – must work in har­mo­ny to enab­le the car to at­tain its peak per­for­man­ce. This re­qui­res open and ho­nest com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on ac­ross or­ga­ni­za­ti­on boun­da­ries where col­le­a­gu­es in dif­fe­rent func­ti­ons cons­tant­ly share know­led­ge and ex­pe­rien­ce. This in cont­rast to com­pa­nies where we of­ten see wal­ls form bet­ween dif­fe­rent func­ti­ons – fi­nan­ce, mar­ke­ting, ma­nu­fac­tu­ring, etc. – which le­ads to a frac­ti­ous work en­vi­ron­ment.

I have had se­ve­ral ad­ven­tu­res at­ten­ding For­mu­la 1 Grand Prix and vi­si­ting team he­ad­qu­ar­ters. A few of these have been inc­lu­ded in my new book, “Exp­lo­ding Tur­keys and Spare Trou­sers, ad­ven­tu­res in glo­bal bu­si­ness.” The book inc­lu­des fif­ty-three sto­ries from my bu­si­ness tra­vels, and each inc­lu­des a bu­si­ness or life ta­ke­a­way.

One F1 ex­pe­rien­ce I desc­ri­bed was when I vi­si­ted Fer­ra­ri F1’s he­ad­qu­ar­ters at Ma­ra­nel­lo, Ita­ly. It was the day be­fo­re Mid­sum­mer, I was con­fi­dent that I would catch my Fin­nair flight from Mi­lan to Hel­sin­ki in time to ce­leb­ra­te with the fa­mi­ly in the eve­ning. Ho­we­ver, I did not an­ti­ci­pa­te being in­vi­ted by Fer­ra­ri to a full Ita­li­an lunch at Mic­ha­el Schu­mac­her’s fa­vo­ri­te res­tau­rant. Af­ter­ward, I had to in­vo­ke that great dri­ver’s skill to make it to the air­port on time, ar­ri­ving just as the door of the airp­la­ne was clo­sing.


Ken Pas­ter­nak has li­ved in the USA, Fran­ce, Fin­land, Uni­ted King­dom, Tur­key, and Bel­gium be­fo­re re­tur­ning per­ma­nent­ly to Hel­sin­ki in 1996. He has held le­a­ders­hip po­si­ti­ons at Ci­ti­bank and the Eu­ro­pe­an Bank for Re­const­ruc­ti­on and De­ve­lop­ment. As an aut­hor, con­sul­tant and key­no­te spe­a­ker Ken fo­cu­ses on buil­ding high per­for­man­ce or­ga­ni­za­ti­ons through vi­si­o­na­ry le­a­ders­hip, team ef­fec­ti­ve­ness, cre­a­ting a win­ning cul­tu­re, and imp­ro­ving cross-cul­tu­ral un­ders­tan­ding. He is a gra­du­a­te of Ya­le Uni­ver­si­ty and is a dual Fin­land/US ci­ti­zen.