✔ What I learned about productivity, perseverance and long-term thinking from Jenson Button’s win in F1 2011 Canada GP

First off, this article is about productivity. You don’t have to know anything about F1. So stay with me. Before we start, I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and every year I’m watching most of the ~20 Grand Prix races. I’m also a triathlete. That’s why I really like Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula 1 champion. He’s also competing in triathlons and he’s a really good driver. This season he’s not having the best of luck as he’s racing in an uncompetitive McLaren Honda, but I remember some really great races he’s done in the past and there was one particular race which Jenson himself calls “the best of his career”. He won that race… even though he was last in the middle of the race! There’s so much we can learn from this story:

Jenson Button

Formula 1 Grand Prix Canada, 2011

Jenson is 7th on the start. Far away from Sebastian Vettel who is most likely to win the race, being 1st on the start. There’s rain, so the cars start behind the safety car.

When racing began, Jenson Button makes some mistakes and on lap 8 he hits his teammate Lewis Hamilton and has to do a pit stop. He comes back to the race at position 12. But it doesn’t get any better. Turns out he was speeding in pit lane, so has a “drive through penalty” which means, he has to drive slowly through pit lane and lose even more time… and positions. Now he’s 15th… and it’s not getting any better:

Heavy rain and more trouble

Jenson is racing to get his positions back. He overtakes, fights… and gets to the 8th position. Unfortunately there’s a safety car deployed again due to heavy rain. No more fighting for now… Eventually Jenson has to visit pit stop again and rejoins the race at position 15. Far away from Sebastian Vettel who’s calmly leading the race at position 1.

Last but not least…

Jenson is fighting again, now on lap 37 he’s crashing with Fernando Alonso and his tyre is flat. He drives an entire lap on a flat tyre, goes to pits and changes for a new one and rejoins… at position 21. He’s last!

Never give up, just do it!

Jenson doesn’t give up. Two crashes, so many pit stops, position 21 at lap 40… what is he thinking?

Well, he’s fighting. In just 10 laps he overtakes as many people as he can and reaches position 8 at lap 50. But he has to visit the pit stop again, he rejoins at position 10 on lap 52. The race is ending in less than 20 laps and he loses whopping 45 seconds to the leader!

He keeps pushing! In just 2 laps he goes from position 10 to 6. And then in 2 more laps he gets to position 4. Really. Position 4 up from the last, 21st in just 14 laps! Where does he get all this power from!?

Mistakes other drivers make…

Don’t get me wrong, 4th position is not that bad. Jenson started the race from 7th, was last at some point… and now he’s 4th. He should be happy, right? Well, maybe. But he keeps pushing. Eventually Mark Webber in front of him makes a mistake and Jenson overtakes him at lap 65. Then on lap 66 Jenson overtakes again and is already on position 2! With 4 laps to go!

He pushes hard. Because he made so many pit stops, he has pretty fresh tyres so he manages to gain 2 seconds per lap on Sebastian Vettel who is first. 2 laps to go. 1 lap to go. Final lap… Jenson is right behind Vettel and keeps pushing. Up until now Sebastian Vettel had a perfect race. Without any problems he was leading the entire race.

Jenson is right behind him… and Vettel makes a mistake! Jenson overtakes Sebastian Vettel on the final lap and wins 2011 GP Canada! He wins!!!

Perseverance pays off!

When can we learn from Jenson? Lots of things:

  • Resting is important - Jenson visited pit stops lots more than other drivers. He had bad luck, but he turned it around by having fresh tyres at the finishing laps. He was “rested” at the end and he won! Lesson learned: sleeping is important, people think if they sleep less, they'll have more time to get things done… but are they really productive when not rested?
  • Endurance is key - Jenson is a triathlete. He knows endurance. He knows the race is 70 laps long. He didn’t give up at lap 40 when he was last. He knew anything could happen in the next 30 laps. I bet he didn’t expect to win, though! Lesson learned: life is long, small drawbacks and problems are not the end of the world, we can still win, let’s think long-term!
  • Don’t let bad things cloud your judgement - I was wondering what was going through Jenson’s head. So much bad luck! So-so qualifying, heavy rain, two crashes during the race, last position at one point… yet he didn’t give up on himself. He kept pushing. He was thinking like a winner. And he won. Lesson learned: think like a winner and you will become one.

And a bonus lesson from Sebastian Vettel:

  • Perfection doesn’t guarantee success - Sebastian won the pole position, he was 1st at the race and was leading the entire race. He was first the entire time. Everything went according to plan. The race was his. Until the final lap. There’s no guarantee for success.

Question: Did you have a similar “race story” in your life?

Posted on Friday, July 31, 2015 (f1)

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