<em>Photo: Alberto Bernasconi</em>

The incredible lightness of seating

The ground-breaking Sabelt F173 gives the SF90 Stradale the lightest-ever seat in a Ferrari road model. All made in Italy

Claire Bal

A car as revolutionary as the hybrid SF90 Stradale called for a ground-breaking new seat from Sabelt. The result marks a milestone in the company's four-decade partnership with Ferrari, one that has always been based upon cutting-edge technology, craftsmanship, and performance.

Sabelt - a contraction of the term ‘safety belt’ - was founded by brothers Piero and Giorgio Marsiaj in Italy in 1972.

Despite all the leading edge technology, creating the seat still requires meticulous craftsmanship<em> Photo: Alberto Bernasconi</em>
Despite all the leading edge technology, creating the seat still requires meticulous craftsmanship Photo: Alberto Bernasconi

After specialising in niche areas such as aerospace, it then introduced its own range of technical driver clothing and sports car seats. Its name is now recognisable worldwide due to its presence in sports cars and F1, in which it partners Ferrari.

A new chapter has now opened with the SF90 Stradale, Maranello’s first production plug-in that bears three electric motors working in synch with a 780cv V8 engine to produce an incredible 1,000cv.

Every single component in the car was developed to guarantee the kind of quality required to cope with this blistering, boundary-pushing performance. And, needless to say, the seats were no exception to this rule.

Sabelt Vice President Massimiliano Marsiaj says, “In recent months, we have worked with the Ferrari Style Centre to develop a completely new seat, based on what I would call a revolutionary principle.” Saving weight was paramount.
“So we asked ourselves what was superfluous and what we could eliminate. In the end, we carved out and contoured the backrest and seat cushion so that only the areas touched by the driver’s or passenger’s body are solid.  All the pressure points are there but we took away the rest.”

The seat weighs a mere 16.4kg, some 1.5kg lighter than the previous generation. The electric version is a full 3 kilos lighter than its predecessor, weighing 18.4kg. Aesthetics were important, and the Sabelt F173 seat is also visually very striking.

Five cushions, or pads, are contoured, inside a carbon-fibre shell, with the seat’s basic structure crafted to ensure that the surface finish is perfectly smooth, its front remaining ‘uncovered’ to increase weight reduction.

Five contoured cushions are positioned inside the carbon-fibre shell<em> Photo: Alberto Bernasconi</em>
Five contoured cushions are positioned inside the carbon-fibre shell Photo: Alberto Bernasconi

“This was no easy task,” Marsiaj explains. Conventional seats with carbon-fibre structures are simpler to make, as their shell has only one finished side with the other being covered in fabric or leather.

The actual manufacturing process marries meticulous craftsmanship and leading-edge technology.

A robotic arm applies a special adhesive to the shell with pinpoint accuracy and then the delicate process of applying each pad is done manually by a highly-skilled operator, starting with the headrest before moving on to the backrest and then the seat cushion.

The pads are then held firmly in place by air cushions and weights, ensuring that the pressure is applied absolutely evenly. The process takes 20 minutes.

Decorative casings and attachments are then fitted, with  clients choosing a three, or four-point, safety belt.

Putting the final touches. The end result: a seat that weighs a mere 16.4 kilos<em> Photo: Alberto Bernasconi</em>
Putting the final touches. The end result: a seat that weighs a mere 16.4 kilos Photo: Alberto Bernasconi

A jet of hot air is then passed over the trim to ensure that the fabric of the pads is wrinkle free. Quality control, which  includes 23 tests in all, sees technicians try every movement by hand, checking the belt's unclasping speed, fluidity of the angle-adjustment, the force required on the levers, and resistance of the guides both when the seat is empty and in use.

The final test is for sound, or rather its absence. Placed in a sound-proofed cabin known as GP12, a series of tests evaluate noisiness during movement, unclasping, and even the sound of the pad in contact with the human body.

“Working with Ferrari is an honour but it’s also a huge responsibility. The world’s most beautiful cars demand products of absolute excellence,” says Sabelt's Marsiaj, with a hint of understandable pride.


All p​hotographic and video content of the above article was created prior to the Covid-19 emergency and related Government decrees