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Interview — Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone

Interview — Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone

Dejan Jovanovic 4 months ago
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Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone tells Motormouth about the best job in the world, the new 488 Pista, the Nürburgring, and more…

The simulator

I start with the highest expectations. I start looking at different solutions – and sometimes they are very different to each other – different architecture, different set-ups, very extreme compared to each other that physically would be very difficult to create…

And so I have the advantage to create a parallel world, which would be very expensive in real life, or take too much time. So let me say, the simulator doesn’t tell you what’s good, but for sure it tells you very well what is bad.

You fall in love knowing that you are driving such a car…

The electronics

This is my first goal, to keep you alive – if I do a proper job, I manage the power of my colleague from the powertrain department, and the lightweight construction of my colleague at chassis design, to work together with vehicle dynamics control and maintain the natural feeling of driving sports cars, but, to be fast. Faster than the past. Definitely faster than the past… But with natural senses of what to do in the right moment, to have something that is instinctive. I have to play a lot with physiology and the human interaction to create the most powerful but drivable cars in the world.

The electronics work one top of a job that’s already done, the physical job, and the electronics are a way to prevent a crash. but not to dictate the feel of the car. Sometimes I have to play with the mechanical set-up, which may be aggressive compared to the past, knowing that I can also play with electronic tools and active and semi-active systems to calm down the car.

The feeling

I divide my role in three categories. One is track. So to me Formula 1 is still on top of what car engineering can do. Then there are two different worlds: the naturally aspirated V12, and the turbocharged V8.

The V12, maybe, has the advantage of harmonics, and the power… It’s a platonic love – it’s something that you can exploit, and you fall in love knowing that you are driving such a car. With a V8, it’s more physical, it’s more wild, and you are using the car more.

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With a V12, maybe you have to think what to do before, because it’s really powerful and heavier than the more balanced rear-mid-engined V8. You have to know this, and it’s part fo the fun knowing that you have to respect the car, like the F12tdf. The V8 mid-engined car is smarter, and I think it’s for another use.

The challenge

What is the hardest part? The expectation. You are Ferrari…

The Nürburgring

We go to the Nürburgring, but we don’t use it as a marketing thing. We use it as a technical location to set-up the car and for durability. For the brakes, the Nürburgring is not so hard, so maybe Fiorano it still the best. If you have no problem at Fiorano with the brakes, you never have problems.

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But the Nürburgring is still hard for chassis and suspension, and low grip conditions. It’s unique, the Nürburgring, that’s why we also trust it’s not supposed to be the main stream of developing our ideas. It’s maybe 10 percent, no more. But people believe that the Nürburgring is the only track in the world….

The details

Confidence in a car like the Pista starts with the brakes, and I think I asked the engineers to really invent something new. First of all, you get a solid and low-stroke, short-travel feeling.

Then, also there is the fact that braking is the only thing that is boring in the driving experience  for me, because you have nothing to do, just wait. So I said to the guys to try and invent something, and we did with the gearbox. We reproduced the feeling of a racing gearbox with a dual-clutch seven-speed, and we have additional over-braking because the next gear is aggressively over-torqueing the powertrain which gives the driver a great feeling, and you get a connection with the car even during braking moments.

The LaFerrari

The LaFerrari is the fastest road car around Fiorano. But I would say that the Pista is not built only to be close to LaFerrari, as close as possible. The point was to make the car consistent.

With LaFerrari you do three hot laps. Then, you have to manage the side effects of one thousand horsepower. My idea was to develop tyres to give consistent lap times over two days of driving, because the customer normally is ready to push on the second day, after he learns the track. So that’s why the Pista can lap Fiorano in the morning with the same lap time in the evening.

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