Cars

Test driving the F8 tributo

Test driving the F8 tributo

After notching his first F2 win, in Hungary, Mick Schumacher - son of the legendary Schumi – had a special day on the Fiorano track
Words

Christian Menath

Ferrari and Schumacher are two names forever linked since the legendary German racer's five world championships for Ferrari and 72 Grand Prix victories. Now Schumi's son, Mick, has joined the Ferrari Driver Academy. “I feel drawn to this place,” he says. “It’s where I grew up and, apart from a single season, I’ve always raced for Italian teams. And it doesn’t get any better than at Ferrari.”

At the Fiorano test track a first outing in a new F8 Tributo was an emotional moment for the current F3 European champion. Sitting in the small grandstand Mick said: “This was a first for me — to be able to drive a Ferrari on this track. I was so looking forward to this. This exact spot where we’re sitting right now? I used to hang out a lot here as a kid, watching my dad drive.”

<address>Mick Schumacher, newly inducted into the Ferrari Driver Academy, happy to return to Fiorano<em> Photo: Leda Paleari</em>
Mick Schumacher, newly inducted into the Ferrari Driver Academy, happy to return to Fiorano Photo: Leda Paleari

Indeed, Fiorano holds many memories for Schumacher. “Whenever I see pictures from that time, I start reminiscing. Most were taken during winter test drives, so we’re all wearing jackets. But I’d probably been here even earlier, when I still had to be carried around.” When Mick was still a baby Fiorano was like a second home to his father.

At the time, limitations on F1 tests had not yet been introduced. “They used to test drive for many thousands of kilometres a year. It would sure be great for us to be allowed to do that,” Schumacher muses. Nowadays, test drives have been severely restricted in Formula One; nor are there many more opportunities to build up significant track experience in the junior series, apart from racing weekends.

But that doesn’t mean Schumacher hasn’t had any lap experience at Fiorano. As a kid he tried to emulate his father: “I would have been maybe 10 when I took to riding a 50cc dirt bike here,” he recalls. Not that his performance was too impressive: “I was constantly on full throttle, so I tended to choke the thing all the time. The F8 Tributo's V8 engine is an evolution of the Ferrari 488 engine that won International Engine of the Year four times in a row.

“I can accelerate out of practically any corner in third gear, whereas you’d normally have to shift down to second,” Schumacher explains. Turbochargers and emission laws are a challenge for sound engineers. Yet Maranello has designed a dedicated channel to bring that coveted V8 sound directly into the cockpit. “The Ferrari Sound has always been dynamite,” Schumacher enthuses.

He also raves about the chassis which is a full 40kg lighter than the 488. “Frankly, I’m surprised at just how much speed you’re able to drive out of any bend on, without having the car put in a lot of resistance,” he observes. The car induces confidence in drivers. “This car lets you feel you’re constantly in control, which is very nice indeed”, he says. “Whenever you open up the steering ever so slightly too much, the car will compensate.”

<address>Mick finds the F8 Tributo leaves the driver feeling constantly in control<em> Photo: Leda Paleari</em>
Mick finds the F8 Tributo leaves the driver feeling constantly in control Photo: Leda Paleari

Despite his longstanding familiarity with the Ferrari legend  Schumacher is adamant that it has lost none of its magic for him. “Even today, I still dream about Ferrari,” he admits. His first dream car was the 458 Italia - upon whose chassis today's F8 Tributo is based – a model with which his father was heavily involved.

“Really hands on, working side by side with the engineers on development.” His father's fourteen years with the Prancing Horse left their lasting legacy. “I can downright sense my father’s DNA in any Ferrari,” Mick Schumacher declares. “And that just fills me with pride.”

Ferrari