PERSPECTIVE: The Horse Whisperer gets in a strop

Ferrari. The most iconic of automotive brands and the most revered team in the Formula One paddock. It’s often said that Ferrari could exist without Formula One, but Formula One could never continue without Ferrari and whilst you or I would be flattered by such acknowledgement, in Ferrari’s case this adulation often goes straight to their heads. The case in point is ably demonstrated by Ferrari’s ‘The Horse Whisperer’ blog.

If you’re new to all this Horse Whisper malarkey then let me bring you up to speed.

quote open Indiscretion.
Maranello, 4th August 2009 – Guess who opposed the test with the F60? A team that hasn’t won anything for years and yet didn’t pass over the opportunity to demonstrate once more a lack of spirit of fair play. Just for the record, the Scuderia Ferrari had given its approval to let Alguersuari test, but it seems even in this instance someone decided to stick to the precise quote open wording of the regulations..

Back in August 2009 Ferrari took a swipe at Williams F1 for opposing their impromptu test of Michael Schumacher (following Felipe Massa’s accident) – Ferrari tried to bend the rules and got all sniffy when Williams cried foul. Then in February of this year The Horse Whisperer published the now infamous post entitled “For whom the bell tolls” in which Scuderia Ferrari heaped vitriol on the new teams struggling to enter F1 – singling out USF1, Stefan GP and Campos for a particularly astringent tounge lashing.

Last week we heard The Horse Whisperer speak up again after double Ferrari World Champion Niki Lauda dared to criticise the team in light of the Hungarian GP team-orders incident. This time THW showed complete disdain for a driver whose skill and determination helped build their reputation – who almost lost his life driving one of their cars, in a post they entitled “Moralists with short memories”:

“After events in Hockenheim, a wave of hypocrisy swept through the paddock, with so many pundits, young and old, keen to have their say: some were promptly brought back into line by his master’s voice, while others continue to pronounce sentence willy-nilly. The lastest missive comes from Austria, from a person, who having hung up his helmet, has never missed out on a chance to dispense opinions left and right, even if, on more than one occasion, he has had to indulge in some verbal acrobatics to reposition himself in line with the prevailing wind. This time, good old Niki has missed out on a fine opportunity to keep his mouth shut, given that, when he was a Scuderia driver, the supposed Ferrari driver management policy suited him perfectly…That aside, where was all his moral fury when, over the past years, so many have been guilty of more or less overt hypocritical actions? As for any predictions regarding a possible decision from the FIA World Council on 8 September, time will tell: in this sort of situation, the best policy is to respect and to trust in the highest level of the sport’s governing body.”

Rightly or wrongly, Ferrari clearly see themselves as being beyond reproach – certainly by a mere ex-driver, but it’s the pettinness and lack of decorum that sticks in my throat. You get the feeling that Ferrari are unable to understand how ‘they’ could bring the sport into disrepute – since Ferrari are F1 and therefore by all accounts an attack on Ferrari must also be seen as an attack on F1.

When I buy a car, I like to feel a connection with the brand – something within the brand that I can either relate to or aspire to and just over 5 years ago I took that step with Ferrari by signing on the dotted line for a F430 Berlinetta. At the time I felt a reverence for the brand that positively echoed with the legacy of heroes such as Lauda, Villeneuve, Scheckter and Fangio.

The qualities which Scuderia Ferrari exhibits today of arrogance, pettiness, spineless jibing and a lack of respect for the fans and other F1 teams leaves me asking “what exactly is the substance behind the Ferrari brand in 2010?” Sure, Enzo Ferrari was far from being a saint but I do wonder if his legacy is being spent without being adequetly replenished.

Pete Wadsworth Written by Pete Wadsworth

on Thursday, August 26, 2010.

I’m going to come to the defence of Ferrari… not because they need the support of a sometime columnist on a motoring website, but because I can see some virtue in their behavior.

The Horse Whisperer column on Ferrari’s website has expressed some, erm, interesting opinions since it started, taking a pop at some of the sport’s leading lights and to be completely honest, displaying a distinct lack of diplomacy, objectivity and tact.

But is that such a bad thing?

I think not. In an increasingly sanitised sport, where the emphasis is very much on toeing a corporate-friendly, guarded line, I like the fact that there’s still at least one team who is willing to disregard all that for the sake of, essentially, throwing all its toys out of the pram and having a tantrum.

I would never defend the position they take, but I am glad they take it.

Who wasn’t excited when Michael Schumacher stormed down the Spa pitlane, intent on knocking DC’s considerable block off at Spa in ‘98? How about Piquet and Salzar’s big-girl fight at the German GP? Or even Pascal Maimon’s Basil Fawlty-style strop on the Safari rally? Yes, on those occasions the behaviour of those involved was poor at best, but at least they were showing the capacity to get properly pissed off about something. These days you’re lucky to see a driver display any emotion at all other than being pleased when all goes well (and even that seems too much to ask sometimes – Ed).

We can all tell when a driver or team is genuinely irritated by something, and I for one would much rather they just came out with it.

Emotion is, for me, an important part of sport. I want the competitors to care. I want to see backflips on the podium and cars kicked when the engine pops two laps from the end when the driver was in the lead. As Ian Wright said after England’s defeat at the hands of Northern Ireland, “We should be as annoyed about losing as they are pleased about winning.”

Yes, it’s naive of Ferrari to assume that they can go around having a go at whomever they please without fear of retribution – especially for it not to impact sales of their cars – but at least they have the cajones that appear to be sadly absent from many other teams on the grid.

Counterpoint