This weekend two Ferrari drivers were ordered to swap positions rather than race against each other – in the interest of the Ferrari Team. The decision to put the Team first, rather than the spectators or the sport (this behaviour is outlawed) has created an outcry as has the limp response of the sports governing body in handing Ferrari a token fine.
Apologists for Ferrari’s actions suggest that without the Ferrari brand and Ferrari’s money, we would not have the Formula One spectacle and they are therefore Ferrari are entitled to do as they will. This certainly seemed to be the message from Ferrari as they smiled to the cameras after the race.
There are a number of instances of large corporations doing as they will recently, BP being the most topical. If you rely on the arguments that your Brand and your capitalisation allow you to behave as you like then sooner or later you will run into a brick wall…the spectators, the shareholders and in BP’s case the citizens of the US.
Rules are rules, we may not like them but we need to obey them whether they are set by the FIA, the FSA, the EU or by that amorphous but powerful lobby called the public.
There is a space in society for the maverick who exists at the fringes of legality. Historically the dissenting voice has had to be marginalised. Dylan’s dictum “to live outside the law you must be honest” could have been re-written “to be honest , you need to live outside the law”.
Mavericks inform on society like the Fool in Lear or Dylan or William Blake or the satirists at Private Eye. They exist to keep society honest but they are not of mainstream society – at least when they become so, they lose their point.
In immature democracies this is how it has to be.
Western Society is now informed by thousands of people who can now express their opinions by writing blogs, posting comments on forums, exercising voting rights or lobbying governments by physical demonstration. The freedom of expression we enjoy in Britain to speak freely about these things should be very precious to us as it allows us to directly inform on the governance of the society in which we exist.
While our spokespeople will continue to be the most eloquent and dynamic commentators, we all have a right to voice our opinions and forums for those opinions to be heard. I have no doubt that Ferrari will have to bow to the pressure of the spectators who demand “racing” not team orders. Senior Executives who forget their wider stakeholders would do well to learn that the media in which their decisions are judged is now truly “social”.