10 curious ways the hotel industry and F1 are the same

Photo credit: Serhiy Divin//Getty Images (F1)

I have been involved in the hotel industry for the past 20 years. Along the same two decades, my husband, Mark Arnall, has been working in Formula One. Over the past 10 years, I have travelled to most of the F1 races to join Mark while working on my hotel projects. Having observed what is the F1 circus, I have come to the conclusion that there are surprisingly many similarities between the hotel industry and the F1 world. Here is my Top 10.  

1) It’s All About the People 

One of the best parts about the hotel industry is that it attracts nice people. Really nice people! People who understand that success is a team effort and that the concept of team is We before Me. The same carries true for F1. There are some wonderful people in the paddock, an incredibly talented bunch who are in many ways the best and the brightest in the world; at the same time, they remain genuine and humble. Just like it is a pleasure and a privilege to work with the people in the hotel industry, it is also a joy to be around the F1 lot.

2) One Big Family

It’s a small world when you work in the hotel industry. We’ve all been there; you travel to the other end of the world, just to find your old colleague greeting you at the front desk. Or you speak to the corporate office and find your old mate from your previous job has joined them. Same faces in different places; it’s a wonderful thing about the hotel industry.

It’s the same in F1. You travel to China, just to bump into the same guys you saw in the hotel lobby in Canada the week before. And maybe you have drinks together. It's just like the Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt guys who hang out and catch up at hotel conferences.

At the track, it is a fierce competition between the teams, but outside, it is a one big family that meets up every couple of weeks in different parts of the world.      

3) Love and Passion for the Job

Most people work in hotels because they love their jobs. They are people who are genuinely passionate about hospitality. The spirit is the same in F1. To most, it is not just a job, but a true passion that comes from the heart. Some ended up in the industry accidentally, to others it was their calling in life (sound familiar?). There is pride and passion in the voice when someone says, “I work for the Four Seasons,” and it is exactly the same when someone says they work in F1.

4) Long, Hard, Unsocial Working Hours

Just as people in hotels and F1 love their jobs, these are some hard-core duties that come with it. You think you work hard in hotels? You do, but I have a suspicion that the people in F1 quite possibly work even harder.

Working days during the race weekends, which for many means from Tuesday to Monday, are intense and can easily stretch to 16-hour days. So what do they do afterwards? Sleep until the next race? No, they head straight back to the factory to work on improving the car's performance.

Knowing the long hours in hotels, I am always amazed by the energy and positivity that hotel employees so gracefully demonstrate. Knowing the hours in F1, I am surprised these guys are even awake and functioning.

5) Everyone Is a Hotel Expert

Most people in F1 stay in hotels well over 200 nights per year. 200 nights! This means that they have enormously detailed knowledge of hotels. In fact, some of the most insightful feedback I have received has come from F1 personnel and resulted in new ideas and concepts. 

Another point to note: they still come to me to ask which brand belongs to which hotel company. There is no such brand confusion in F1! So if you really want to know how your hotel ranks in terms of guest experience, invite someone from F1 to stay. These people are literally living in hotels, which leads me to my next point…

6) Or an Owner

People in F1 end up being hotel owners! Bernie Ecclestone has a hotel in Gstaad, Jarno Trulli one in Davos, David Coulthard used to own the Columbus in Monaco and Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of the Red Bull empire, has developed a sort of hotel empire with a number of hotels in Austria and a private island in the Pacific. No wonder that Liberty Media, the new owner of F1, is owned by John Malone, who just happens to own a number of hotels in Ireland!      

The Hotel Olden in Gstaad is owned by F1's Bernie Ecclestone.

7) Front-of-House Perfection, Back-of-House Scrambling

We have all been there: You walk into a hotel and you see this spectacular event taking place. Everything is perfect—oozing glitz and glamour. That is, until you step into the back-of-house. There it looks very different with people manically rushing, bumping into each other, drinks being spilled in the process. Well, sometimes it’s the same in F1. The 2.4-second pit-stop might look smooth, practiced-to-perfection. What you do not see is the sheer mad panic that sometimes takes place to get everything ready. Showing stress in our business is for amateurs and we are all professionals after all.

8) When It’s Good, It’s Really Good. When It’s Bad, It’s Really Bad

Sometimes you just get it right. You have the best concept, the best product, the best set-up, the best people, the best execution and the timing is just right. Just ask Richard Branson, who was sponsoring the Brawn F1 team that took the championship in 2009—the only year they competed. There are hotels that pay back their construction cost as quick as a Ferrari pit stop (ok, not quite) but then there are those that never stop struggling.

There is a joke in F1 which goes: “How do you become a millionaire?” The answer: “Simple, start as a billionaire and buy an F1 team.” The same can be said about some hotels and their owners.  

9) When You Are Done, You. Are. Done. Until You Come Back.

Life in hotels can be a little intense. The same goes for F1. Many times I have received emails from hotel executives saying, “It’s time for me to step aside...” just to receive another email a few months or years later, saying, “I am back!”

It’s the same in F1. The genius minds of Ross Brawn, Adrian Newey and Rory Byrne all needed a break. So did Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkonen, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell. But, just like in the hotel world, the passion is sometimes just too much to resist.    

10) Work Hard, Play Hard

We know how to party in the hotel industry. In fact, we excel at that; we are practically professional party organizers. We work hard and nobody parties better than us. That’s what I thought until I met some of the F1 mechanics rolling out of the Amber Lounge on a Monday morning following a race weekend, just in time to catch the hotel breakfast, which was about to close at 11 am. Nico Rosberg carried on until much later that day. And Kimi Räikkonen until the following day. Ok, on this one I have to hand it to the people at the paddock.

We in the hotel industry know how to throw a party, but it is the people in F1 who know how to enjoy one!

Tea Ros is the Managing Director of Strategic Hotel Consulting, an international management consulting firm specializing in hotel investments. The company provides advice to owners, investors, developers and operators on how to optimize project investment, enhance asset value and maximize profitability.