The F12berlinetta, which marries the characteristics of a Formula One car with the most pleasing aspects of a road car, comes face to face with images of feminine strength and harmony in this special story. We also took the opportunity to ask Dario Benuzzi, Raffaele de Simone and Luca Badoer, three of the test drivers who developed the car, to describe the emotions and sensations they felt behind the wheel
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Dario Benuzzi: It gives you just as much confidence and security as fun
I’m lucky because I drive the new Ferrari models before anyone else. I can tell you that you can feel the potential of every car at once, from the very start. Afterwards, there’s development work, but you can immediately understand what the character of a model is going to be.
With regards to the F12berlinetta, what I have to say is that you feel it on you immediately, exactly your size; it’s extremely compact, short and light. That’s it, I mean you have it in your hands straight off. You might think, ‘Hell, 740hp, goodness knows how hard it will be to drive,’ and yet you are at your ease at once, even if it feels like a racing car in terms of behaviour and performance. I’ve had the experience of driving the 333 SP endurance racer and various F1 cars, but the F12 is just fantastic, with that magnificent sound produced by intake and exhaust, with the number of revs you can climb up to and torque that thrusts you forward. And the best of it is that it makes you feel that it’s all easy and you are safe. This isn’t only a feeling. It’s the car itself that helps you to drive well. I say this because not everyone is able to exploit the performance of our cars to the full, but in this case, even if it seems incredible, this car enables even the least expert driver to get the very best out of it, nearly touching the limit without any special difficulties. Take the example of the acceleration: going up to almost 9,000rpm might sound hard. But we’ve created a perfectly balanced ratio that, together with the rapidity of the F1 double clutch gearbox, lets you rev up to the maximum, even in low gear, without upsetting the car or giving you the sensation that it is slipping away from you.
It really does gives you goose pimples. The same holds true for the brakes, which are another strong point of the F12berlinetta. For one thing, with the system of the vanes that only open when you have to step up the cooling, the aerodynamic performance is excellent. Then, and this I’ve done more than once during testing, even when you hit the brakes at 340km/h, the car doesn’t turn a hair and stays straight, giving the driver a feeling of absolute mastery. The most sensational thing, however, is its behaviour even when you brake at high speed on a bend; the car’s ride height doesn’t change and it keeps its trajectory perfectly. There are a lot of reasons for all this excellence, starting from its low centre of gravity, its compact dimensions and a system of integrated electronic controls regulated by the manettino dials that you use to make it perform at its best in any driving, road or surface conditions. I must conclude by saying that the F12berlinetta amazed even me: I didn’t think you could get as high as this. We’ve done a good job…
Raffaele de Simone: It feels just like you are driving in a Formula One car
Our special weapon, the one thing that makes us so different from all the others, is the electronic differential. The F12berlinetta is just the same as the F1 differential, which works like a fuse. It handles the excess torque that could not otherwise have been transmitted to the road surface by the wheels. This distribution is carried out instantaneously according to what the driver is doing. Torque is transferred to the inside wheel, which, at that point, corrects ride height, providing stability and greater speed coming out of a bend. With this system you understand what it means to have 740hp without ever having to worry about all the other things that could have caused problems for the person at the wheel. All this happens in the space of hundredths of a second and you don’t notice a thing. I’m sure that if we blindfolded the passenger they would think it was a mid-engined car from the response times, the way it enters bends and its agility on mixed surfaces. You also have that feeling in the interior, when you’re at the wheel: the dashboard is low, the driving position comfortable, the controls placed exactly where they have to be and the visibility perfect. The view ahead is perfect too, you can’t see the bonnet and you have the idea that the car is much smaller than it really is.
It seems like a toy: every time you ask for a response it gives it to you with the utmost precision and surprising timing, whether it’s a question of the gears, the brakes or the steering wheel. And don’t think that it only behaves like this in dry road or track conditions. During the entire development process, we carried out parallel trialson wet and dry surfaces in order to achieve the same behaviour in both cases. In other words, the car doesn’t change, and this is very important for the driver. There is maximum performance even when there is low grip, and driving is just as easy. The electronic differential isn’t the only component that operates to get this result; there is also the combination of integrated systems working together. Obviously the person at the wheel must choose the manettino dial position that is most suitable for the conditions they are facing and the type of performance they actually want to obtain. Another feature of the F12berlinetta is the brakes. A word of caution first of all. Brakes must never be ill-treated on any car. You have to brake decisively, but not stamp down on the brakeswithout having any control over what you’re doing. If you brake hard but with the right amount of control, a fair slice of speed will be reduced already. Then you have to modulate your braking to go into a bend as well as possible. This holds good if it rains too, because the F12berlinetta is programmed to react in exactly the same way also when it brakes in wet weather. It’s not in my nature to go into rhapsodies: working at Ferrari, I’ve learned that, always looking for new frontiers to cross, one comes up against walls that seem impossible to climb over. Then, however, we always manage. In this case we created a 12-cylinder front-engined Berlinetta that has a level of performance, on track too, previously unheard of. The figures speak for themselves and I’m glad that I was able to contribute to it all.
Luca Badoer: For me, it’s the best car in the world
It’s certainly the best car on the face of the Earth! It gives you an incredible feeling of security. It’s a challenge, but then that’s normal with all that power. It’s also actually very simple to drive. It’s staggering, but in a positive sense: it’s the only road car that is able to give you a true idea of what an F1 car is. In so many years of testing and racing at the wheel of an F1 car, I have come to know perfectly well how these single-seaters combine precision driving, stability, effective acceleration and braking taken to the highest level. F1 cars don’t roll and this makes driving much more efficacious. The F12berlinetta is like that. It doesn’t even roll on the track: it holds the surface wonderfully and gives you perfect control, even when you’re asking for power. To have a result of this kind, the car has to be perfectly in order before electronics stepin. In other words, electronics must serve to improve performance and give security, not to correct design faults.
With the F12berlinetta, the design is already perfect in itself: chassis, suspension and tyres give their best thanks to the short wheelbase, the steering ratio that provides great precision and the engine with its power and consistent torque. Electronics is added to all this, enhancing all this content by supplying the help and security that a 740hp car needs. You get proof of all this when the road surface is slippery with rain: the F12berlinetta is a car that is at the top of its game on a dry road and exactly the same on a wet one. Of course you have to use the manettino settings, because when there is not much grip the car has to be more docile, with a power output that then makes sure it is still safe. You get the same feeling of security on a straight at high speed: it holds the road perfectly, you can let it go and it goes along on its own. A lot of work has been done on the brakes too: braking is very powerful, you feel the benefit of the car’s lightness and it is very stable and well-balanced. The good thing about the braking system is that you can control how much force to use, even if you’re in the position of having to brake hard to go into a tight bend. It’s the same if you have to come to a halt: the car isn’t bothered, it stays on its four wheels and you can feel that it’s going to stop. Above all the F12berlinetta is great fun to drive, on track and, above all, on the hilly lanes around Maranello. They’re narrow and winding and you have a wonderful time because it takes bends perfectly, absorbs bumps quietly and has the agility of an eight-cylinder mid-engined car. And all this with 740hp! I’m convinced that there’s no other car that can truly compare with an F1 car in the way that the F12berlinetta does.
Published on The Official Ferrari Magazine 17 issue May 2012