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When stars collide

NEWS STORY
03/09/2014

New research suggests employing two high status drivers is a fast-track to failure.

When Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided at the Belgian Grand Prix, the championship fight between the Mercedes pair broke out into open warfare.

Their feud has revived a perennial Formula 1 dilemma - is it better to hire two drivers of the same status, or a top-performing driver with a supporting wingman?

The answer could lie in new research led by Cass Business School, part of City University London. After studying every driver in all Formula 1 races between 1981 and 2010 - noting statistical study controls for aspects such as the driver's age, former experience, family origins (whether other people in his family deal with motorsport), and injuries, as well as for aspects like each car's innovations, and the various changes to the regulations - experts found that two top drivers competing in the same team had a detrimental effect on their individual performance.

"We found that drivers who were successful in the past were more likely to perform well in the future. However, when the difference between the past performances of two team-mates decreased, so did their individual results," says the study's co-author Dr Paolo Aversa, a lecturer in strategy at Cass Business School. "In other words, it's good to hire a top-driver, but his average performance declines when his team-mate has a similar level of prior success."

According to the authors, the findings extend beyond the race track, shedding light on why star performers at one organisation fail to live up to expectations at another.

"This is a phenomenon that affects top managers at public and private organisations, leading scientists in R&D teams and even movie stars," says Dr Aversa.

"Organisations that attempt to establish the perfect team by hiring a portfolio of stars risk putting two roosters in the same henhouse, which evidence suggests can erode the individual performance of team members."

So why does individual performance decline in teams with more than one star? According to Dr Aversa, one reason is the emergence of internal team conflict as two high status employees compete for the same results.

F1 teams deal with this by either favouring one of the two drivers - in order to avoid internal conflict - or by refusing to side with either driver - thus promoting internal competition.

"None of the two options entail a positive outcome," says Dr Aversa. "The first option tends to demotivate both drivers, as the favoured driver tends to relax his rivalry, and the second loses his ambitions as he acknowledges that he will not be allowed to overtake his colleague. The intra-team rivalry of Barrichello and Schumacher at the start of the decade is a good example.

"In the second case where the team promotes internal conflict, the resulting antagonism often leads to the failing of any intra-team collaboration, and eventually triggers aggressive duels that often end with one of both cars crashing. This happened in the recent crash in Belgium."

A second reason for the decline of individual performance in teams with two top stars concerns the inefficient use of resources. When two drivers enjoy similar status, teams might decide to split the available resources equally between the two stars, even when this decision doesn't maximise the team's likelihood of winning. Furthermore, the driver's battle to co-opt the team's best resources might slow down the internal resource allocation process.

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1. Posted by Robert, 04/09/2014 18:08

"It is so great and very courageous of Nico to now admit, in his Daily Mail column and at Thursday's Press Conference that it was his fault for causing the crash with Lewis at Spa, and it was his decision to apologise, and Mercedes didn't make him do that!

So, it would now be equally great if all of Nico's fans, supporters and all those so-call journalists, such as Oliver Brown, who were so critical of Lewis, and effectively accusing him of lying, playing the victim, and having a 'persecution' complex, would all now be as courageous and admit that they were wrong about Lewis, and the whole crash incident at Spa, or at the very least accept that the collision is completely Nico's fault!

As far as this article goes, my opinion is that we don't actually have two top drivers of equal ability at Mercedes, we only have one top driver in Lewis! No doubt Nico is very, very good, but Lewis is just a little bit better in all but a few tracks on the race calendar, and the only reason Nico is currently 29 points ahead is because of Lewis's car reliability issues, inefficient pit crew, plus of course, Nico in Monaco and Spa!

What we all really need is a fair and happy ending at the end of Abu Dhabi and that's for Lewis to win this year's F1 title (if he hasn't won it before the very last race)!!!"

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2. Posted by Dreadnaught, 04/09/2014 13:39

"Sounds sensible, and then there is the financial cost of employing 2 prima donnas."

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3. Posted by FormerF1Fan, 03/09/2014 21:32 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 03/09/2014 22:11)

"This comment was removed by an administrator as it was judged to have broken the site's posting rules and etiquette."

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4. Posted by DoctosDad, 03/09/2014 17:22

"Another reason for the decline is that these 'stars' are often hired just after they've peaked.
Kimi Raikkonnen looked very impressive at Lotus and lacklustre at Ferrari. My guess is he'd have looked tired and bored if he'd stayed at Lotus. The 'star' status was just an illusion."

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5. Posted by alejandroX, 03/09/2014 17:11 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 03/09/2014 22:11)

""Two top drivers competing in the same team had a detrimental effect on their individual performance."

You don't need to be an expert to know that... "

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