Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: Alonso Extreme Test Drive at Fiorano Race Track

How do you drive a F12 Berlinetta? We asked Fernando Alonso during an extreme test at Fiorano with the assistance of his F1 Racing Engineer, Andrea Stella.

Fernando Alonso did the last lap in a real qualifying style, in which he drives in such a way as to cover the least possible ground at the highest possible speed. Fernando takes the fast curve after the hairpin bend at a speed that should be impossible and unthinkable in a road car, and Stella wonders how they are going to get around the rest of the corner. Then, Alonso slows down, with the lightest touch on the brakes: it is a maneuver that is very much on the edge of what is advisable considering the lateral load the car is already trying to cope with.

However, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta remains totally stable: the stability and the low load transfer feel as though they belong to a racing car. Stella ponders the aerodynamic loading the F12 Berlinetta generates - 120 Kg at200 Km/h, which means that a vertical force is pushing the car towards the ground and helping it travel at a velocity that it is almost unthinkable within the remit of what we know it is possible for a conventional car.

Aerodynamics is much more than detail at Ferrari, because in Formula One it is the key to performance. A F1 car has vertical loads much greater than a ton at high speed. What it is surprising is that the same effects can be transferred to a Ferrari road GT, clothed in lines that really look as though they were designed to satisfy aesthetic requirements rather than aero ones, in complete contrast to a race car.

Stella is an engineer first and foremost, and the adventure with Alonso in the F12 Berlinetta was a wonderful experience and a special occasion. He had already seen what it meant to go at a speed nearly as fast as a F1 car when he did some laps with Alonso driving a three-seater. With the F12 Berlinetta he was able to seeing Alonso driving while sat right beside him and ask him to comment on some maneuvers which is definitely an advantage point, because Stella is usually talking to him from the pit wall while Alonso is on the track.

This was not Alonso's first experience on the F12 Berlinetta as he contributed to the development of the car. The F12 Berlinetta has a power output of 740 HP (virtually the same as a current single-seater), at 1525 kg obviously heavier (about two and a half times), acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds (not much less than a F1 car, which does it in 2.6 seconds) and a lap time in Fiorano of 1 minute and 23 seconds.

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