Cars

Black fibre's masters

Black fibre's masters

Light, strong and with its roots in aerospace and Formula 1, carbon-fibre is key to Ferrari cars – and Maranello has long been a carbon pioneer
Words

Chris Rees

When it comes to cutting-edge technology, Ferrari has always been a trailblazer. No question, when it comes to body/chassis technology, the ‘holy grail’ is reducing weight while at the same time increasing strength. That’s exactly what carbon-fibre delivers – which is why Ferrari has put it at the heart of its car range.

Carbon-fibre is essentially long, thin strands of carbon atoms bonded together at a microscopic level to form an incredibly strong ‘weave’. Strength is only the first of carbon-fibre’s many advantages. It’s also much lighter than metal, while its resistance to heat, fatigue and chemical reactions is very strong.

When aiming for the lightest weight possible in Ferrari’s most extreme performance cars, like the Monza SP2, an all-carbon-fibre shell is selected
When aiming for the lightest weight possible in Ferrari’s most extreme performance cars, like the Monza SP2, an all-carbon-fibre shell is selected

Small wonder that carbon-fibre is crucial to Ferrari’s Formula 1 programme, with all-carbon monocoque construction arriving in the early 1980s.

Having explored a variety of materials technology, including bonded aluminium spaceframes, composite tubs and carbon/Kevlar panels, Ferrari was a pioneer in realising the benefits of the material in road cars. The first road-going Ferrari to make use of carbon-fibre was the GTO of 1984 which featured a composite bulkhead and bonnet.

Then in 1987, Ferrari created its ‘racer for the road’ F40 model, which became the first series production car in the world whose body was constructed almost entirely of composite materials, namely Kevlar and carbon-fibre. The F40 made a real feature of its carbon construction inside the cabin, too. The extreme purposefulness of the car was heightened by the doors, deep bucket seats and interior panels being partially revealed in beautifully exposed carbon-fibre.

The F40’s successor – the F50 of 1995 – was equally pioneering, as one of the world’s first cars ever to have a full monocoque chassis made of carbon-fibre.

Working with carbon-fibre requires highly specialised technicians, and few are as skilled and experienced as Ferrari’s <em>Photo: Paolo Pellegrin</em>
Working with carbon-fibre requires highly specialised technicians, and few are as skilled and experienced as Ferrari’s Photo: Paolo Pellegrin

Another world first arrived in 2002, when Ferrari created the very first production road car with carbon brakes. The Enzo – which also boasted a carbon-and-aluminium honeycomb chassis – was fitted with carbon-fibre-reinforced ceramic composite disc brakes. Derived directly from racing, carbon brakes offer not only peerless stopping power but also unparalleled resistance to fade during repeated use, making them ideal for track use. Carbon brakes were soon adopted on the 2003 Challenge Stradale and, by 2008, they were standard across the entire range.

Carbon technology reached a new peak in 2013 with the launch of the LaFerrari. This used no fewer than six different types of hand-laminated carbon-fibre in its construction – the same as Ferrari’s Formula 1 car, and in fact the carbon was made in exactly same production area as the Scuderia’s F1 racer.

Innovation never ceases at Ferrari. In 2018, the 488 Pista became Ferrari’s first car to be offered with an all-carbon wheel option. This is around 20% lighter than the standard forged wheel rim and features a special aerospace-developed coating to dissipate heat from the brakes.

Among the SF90 Stradale’s many innovations is an all-carbon-fibre bulkhead – both strong and light – between the cabin and engine
Among the SF90 Stradale’s many innovations is an all-carbon-fibre bulkhead – both strong and light – between the cabin and engine

Carbon innovation continues with the SF90 Stradale, with its all-carbon-fibre bulkhead between the cabin and the engine. The Monza SP1 and SP2, meanwhile, reinforce Ferrari’s tradition for all-carbon bodyshells in its most extreme performance models.

Carbon-fibre is also a tremendously popular option with clients for many reasons, from reducing weight to the undeniable aesthetic benefits. Clients can select such items as a full carbon engine bay, exterior carbon components and carbon interior upgrades. 

You can take the carbon story even further with Ferrari’s Tailor Made programme. For instance, the Scuderia collection puts carbon-fibre to the fore of your Tailor Made car, and you can choose from all kinds of colours, weaves and finishes, from gloss to matte.

 

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

Ferrari