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Behind the scenes at Ferrari – A day at the wheel at Fiorano
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Behind the scenes at Ferrari – A day at the wheel at Fiorano
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Jun 2011   |  6:20 pm GMT  |  112 comments

The second day of my visit to Ferrari at Maranello was spent at the Fiorano test track driving 458 Italia cars with the Corse Clienti staff.

Meet the gang - Ferrari driving instructors with 458 Italias


As you can imagine it was an amazing day – the first time I’ve had a chance to drive on the Fiorano test track which sits right next to the Ferrari F1 factory. I’ve been to Fiorano many times, but there was always an F1 car pounding around testing. Those days are gone now.

Instead the circuit is used for things like the Ferrari Driver Academy, which brings on young drivers using two year old F1 cars. Interestingly, one of the things I have learned while here is that Sergio Perez was part of that programme last year and is very well regarded at Ferrari as a consequence.

There have been rumours about him as a possible replacement for Felipe Massa one day. It also means that Kamui Kobayashi is going up against a known Ferrari quantity. I don’t see Kobayashi being the kind of driver they would go for, I think they’d be much more likely to try to woo Jenson Button from McLaren, but you never know.

458 Italia at speed


Fiorano is also used nowadays for training customers and for days like today – which was organised by Shell to illustrate that their relationship with Ferrari extends to developing V Power fuels in conjunction with the Ferrari test drivers.

We were very lucky to have on hand Raffaele De Simone, the chief test and development driver of Ferrari road cars and a skilled team of driver instructors. I’ll post a video soon of how I got on, so you can all have a good laugh.

JA at the wheel with Fausto the instructor


But in short the programme is very scientific, helping you to understand the art of steering, using the throttle and braking. I was alright at the first two, as you can see from the telemetry traces, below, but not so great at braking. But the more you go around working on areas of your technique the faster you get.

We had it explained to us about different lines, there’s the standard racing line, but then there is another line whereby you sacrifice some time on the entry to a corner like a Esses or a hairpin, which lead to a straight, but the payback is you get the power down early and are much faster as a consequence.

There are some quite tricky technical corners at Fiorano and it’s very enjoyable in a car like the 458 Italia, which is very forgiving, but which has some drive modes which really allow you to push, even for someone who’s nothing special behind the wheel, such as me. It’s a tight circuit but we were hitting over 200km/h on the main straight.

The correct line for a hairpin


So much time is spent braking on a lap of a track like Fiorano. This has got me thinking about the importance of braking in F1; for example 13% of the lap at Melbourne is spent braking – that’s almost 11 seconds. It’s a huge part of being fast, ironic as that sounds.

Now I understand clearly how crucial it is to lap time, it’s something I come away from here determined to go deeper into with F1 engineers and drivers and to find out which drivers are best at it.

Below is my telemetry sheet from an early outing. Numbers across the top are the corners (map of Fiorano is at bottom of sheet)

It shows my performance in red and the benchmark driver in blue. You can see how I brake at the right moment, but not hard enough initially and then don’t release the brake quickly enough.

Steering (bottom trace) is pretty good, but I put the power on too early out of corners “Too aggressive” I was told.

By the end of the day I had fixed most of my problems except releasing the brake into the corners. But then if it was easy, we’d all be doing it!

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112 Comments
  1. irish con says:

    james any chance we can swop lives for a week u jammy so an so lol. love to do that for a day.

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      Yep! I am officially JEAJOUS! :-)

  2. Carl Craven says:

    James I can’t see you putting up with the job of motorsport journalist for much longer if this is what you have to do to make ends meet.

    Two Questions.
    Do you own a Ferrari?

    Who is considered to be the best ‘braker’ in F1 or if unknown, do you have an opinion.

    1. irish con says:

      i remember in 2008 in tracks were braking was important robert kubica was always closer to the top 2 than at most other tracks, whether or not that was the bmw or kubica im not soo sure.

      1. James Allen says:

        I think that is a very good observation. I also think Hamilton derives a lot of his speed from braking, as did Kimi. But as I said I need to check this. It’s been a real eye opener for me..

      2. Rubinho's Keyfob says:

        James Allen said: “I also think Hamilton derives a lot of his speed from braking”

        That’s an interesting comment. Much has been made of Jenson’s “smoothness” and how his nursing of the tyres benefits him.

        However, being harder on the brakes is also harder on the tyres – so your observations imply that perhaps “smoothness” is not always the best strategy, despite what people have been saying …

      3. James Allen says:

        It’s an impression I got when he was in GP2, but as I said, as a result of this experience I plan to look into who’s the best at braking in F1

      4. Michael says:

        I once so telemtry of Schumacher and Herbert, back in the Benneton days, of their qualifying drives (forgot which circuit). Herbert would consistently brake later and harder than Schumacher, resulting in exactly the same entry speed for the corner. The difference between them was that Herbert would show a smooth gas graph throughout the corner and Schumacher’s graph was extremely spiky throughout the cornes. It was explained as Herbert driving according to “the book” whereas Schumacher would be balancing the car throught the corner using the throttle resulting in a slightly higher exit speed.

        The end result was that Schumacher was over half a second faster.

      5. Andy C says:

        You’d have to say that Kobayashi must be pretty decent on the brakes with the number of banzai moves he pulls.

        I think he plays the “chicken” game. Wait till the other guy blinks, then sort out the consequences… :-)

    2. Not bad at all, James! Your throttle inputs in the second half of the lap are nice and affirmative, the kind of on/off that engineers like to see, barring the little false starts when you’re slightly eager. Braking is a difficult thing to get the hang of, especially if you’ve learned how to brake in a road car, because race braking is kind of the other way around. Instead of applying the brake progressively and then lifting straight off once you’re at the desired speed, in a race car you need to apply it abruptly and then ease off. In karting we were taught to stamp on the brakes until you get a little ‘chirp’ from the tyres, then let the pedal out as you cornered. Which is great fun when you’re 12!

      As for which drivers are ‘best’ at braking, from what I understand there is a lot of potential for variation between drivers. I was shown an overlay of Button vs. Barrichello by a friend at Honda, either in the 06 or 07 car, and in general they braked at exactly the same point for the same length of time, but Rubens was braking noticeably harder than Jenson. I asked if Jenson was braking earlier than he needed to but the engineer said not necessarily, because he was faster than Rubens at the apex. If Jenson had braked later, the car might not have been balanced enough to turn in at that speed. If I recall correctly, Rubens tended to be more aggressive with the throttle and around the whole lap there was barely a tenth in it.

      Telemetry data is really interesting and there’s so much an enthusiast could pore over, especially when it’s comparing teammates like that. It’s a shame it isn’t more readily accessible, although I can understand why teams wouldn’t want that kind of data in the public domain.

      1. James Allen says:

        Great stuff thanks

      2. Lalit says:

        James -

        Another excellent and insightful article. (Although I hope to see more on this line of thought .. once you are done researching within F1 circles).

        Interesting comment also in these comments by ‘Michael’.

        This was also the exact details that Ross Brawn was quoted as saying when explaining Schumacher’s speed differential over others in your book “Schumacher: Edge of Greatness”…

        I am by the way, a big fan of this book.

        Anyway.. excellent article.. I can only imagine how big your grin was when you were driving and when you hoped out of the car.. (Pic please? :D)

      3. Martin says:

        Hi Kenny,

        One perception that I had with braking in F1 cars compared to karts was that the drivers had to be aware of the pitch sensitivity reducing the downforce if the driver just went onto the brakes with a light switch approach. The drivers have to then reduce the brake pressure as the downforce reduces with speed.

        I remember reading about Rubens arriving at BAR-Honda and discovering that the traction control intervened much less than the Ferrari. I the Ferrari the drivers could just give the car 100% throttle once they were at their apex point and the software would ensure the car wouldn’t wheelspin.

        Cheers,

        Martin

      4. That’s interesting, it hadn’t thought about how braking technique could influence downforce levels. I don’t think I drove anything with a meaningful amount of aero, bar a couple of sessions with an ARP F3 team in the 90s.

        It’s a good illustration of how pitch sensitivity affects F1 cars, which is particularly relevant after the difficulties McLaren faced last year with the MP4-25. Could be an article in it for James.

  3. Malcolm says:

    James, you look good behind the wheel of one of those jewels from Maranello.

    Damn…that must have been fun.

  4. Mahek Mody says:

    Wow! This is quite interesting. I did not know the Fiorano track was used for anything other then high end top secret Ferrari development.

  5. . says:

    “I’ll post a video soon of how I got on, so you can all have a good laugh.”

    Your blinding yellow shirt already provided that opportunity, haha.

    Nice to see you had lots of fun, many people would want to be in your shoes this week. You deserve it after all the hard work over the years dedicating yourself to this sport we all feel passionate about. Cheers.

  6. Jo Torrent says:

    I hope Malcolm can comment James performances but they look pretty decent even impressive…

    James, you didn’t say if your lap was done relying on some Traction or Stability control or if everything was off.

    From your telemetry we see that either you or the official driver barely exceed 7500 RPM while the 458 is renowned for its record 9000 RPM. Why ?

    1. NOTE!!! What I am going to write about is a very advanced technique that not all cars are set up for, and can be difficult to do in even the best of cars. Please don’t read this and then take your road car out to a track and try these techniques. As with any form of racing instruction, you need to take little steps to avoid crashing your car as you gradually increase speed and improve your technique. If you want to try this technique, please do so after discussing it with, and under the supervision of a qualified racing instructor or coach.

      ———————————

      Another aspect of braking that isn’t explicitly mentioned is trail-braking, and while that is difficult to do in road cars, a common substitute is coasting into the apex.

      The basic rule of thumb is this: “if you get back on the throttle before the apex, you entered the corner too slowly.”

      There is using a technique that is often taught to beginners, which was the de facto technique back in the 1950′s. This technique is to brake entirely in a straight line to roughly your apex speed, and then enter the corner on partial throttle to maintain your speed from turn-in to apex. After the apex, you feed in the throttle as you unwind the wheel. This is slower, because the time between turn-in and apex is taken at roughly the same speed.

      James is part way between the classic technique, and the more advanced technique.

      The more advanced technique, used by the pro driver, can be seen from the speed traces. The pro driver is braking and then easing off the brakes to coast into each corner, and there is a distinct gap between where he fully releases the brakes, and where he picks up the throttle (James does not have that gap, which shows that he is over-braking for the corner). While James is trail-braking into the corner, he is over braking and needs to compensate by getting on the throttle too early, before the apex.

      The pro driver is only braking as much as he needs to, and then coasting into the rest of the corner, using the natural friction of ever-so-slightly drifting the car into the corner to continue slowing the car (a technique Senna used in an exaggerated manner that confused the simulation models of the day, which thought sideways = slow, but didn’t realize that it’s a different story on turn-in).

      If you look at the speed traces, where the speeds are at their minimum for each corner, you’ll notice the pro driver’s speed goes from decreasing at one rate to decreasing at a lesser rate (the angle of the speed trace gets shallower). This lines up with where he releases the brakes, and begins coasting into the corner. The curve that you want to see in the speed trace for each corner is as close to a parabola as you can get.

      With a road car, you are limited in the ability to make a car do what you want it to do, in terms of trail-braking to the apex and immediately getting back on the throttle, so you have to approximate it by combining trail-braking and coasting to the apex. If we could get a trace of an F1 car and driver, you would see a much smoother transition from braking to accelerating in a corner in the speed trace, as the car is as close to perfectly engineered for a corner as we’ll ever see in reality.

      This is further backed up by noting that the pro driver is turning in earlier, using more of a parabolic/hyperbolic line, rather than a constant-radius arc. He is gradually building up the turning forces on the tire while the gradually decreases the braking forces on the tire. It is this gradual shift from longitudinal forces to lateral forces that makes a great driver faster than a good driver.

      Sorry for pointing this one out, but James is also showing a lack of confidence between corners, by not fully getting on the throttle. This is common among drivers with less track experience and less formal training. As James is exiting the corner, he is starting to think about the next corner and forgetting or not feeling comfortable enough to accelerate toward his braking point. I have had many students where I have needed to keep saying “gas! gas! gas! gas! BRAKE!”, for them to realize the difference it makes to accelerate at full throttle between corners. It’s just a little mental hurdle that needs to be crossed before it quickly becomes second-nature.

      Lastly, the “corner after the last corner”, a sweeper just coming up to the bridge, you can see where the pro driver has tons of confidence. He carries much more speed through the sweeper than James. If you solely look at the throttle trace, they look the same, but when you realize that the pro driver exited corner 8 significantly quicker letting off at the same point of the track as James shows how confident he is (he goes through the corner about 20 km/h faster). This probably gives him the biggest chunk of time over James, as that 20-25 km/h difference extends down the entire straight, where James brakes at 175 km/h and the pro driver brakes at 200 km/h. Again, this shows the difference between James and the pro driver, as they are braking at the same point despite the pro being 20-25 km/h faster at that point.

      Overall, James did a good job, and I am impressed that he was confident enough to trail-brake into corners. My tips to him would be to ease off the brakes earlier, coast a little more to the apex, and then be confident enough (or remember) that on even the short straights, he needs to get to full throttle.

      PS. I usually charge for this type of analysis, but I like your site, James, so you get this one for free! ;-)

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaoh !!!!!!!

      2. Stevie P says:

        Ha ha, my thoughts too Jo; really nice stuff there malcolm – thanks for sharing :-)

      3. Andy c says:

        Malcolm,
        If you’re in the uk one day I’ll take you up on a days driver training. Although how I could improve is beyond me ;-)

      4. First tip: vision is huge. Look to your turn-in point, just before you get there, look to your apex, and just before you get there, look to your exit point. Put your eyes in the right place and your brain does the rest for you.

        Everyone can improve at least a little!

      5. Martin says:

        Hi Malcolm,

        Thanks for sharing that. I was aware of theory, but I don’t have the practical experience that you do.

        I’ll be so bold as to add a couple of points.

        With F1 cars the braking distance from the point of minimum corner speed is such that the corner entry takes up a large proportion of this distance. Turn 1 at China is probably the most extreme case on the F1 calendar. This means that the old school brake in a straight line technique would be extremely slow by racing car driver standards.

        The F1 car braking acceleration performance is such that maximising corner apex speed is less important than in touring cars. Jenson Button takes an approach that will favour high apex speeds, which while being smooth, increases the load on the tyres at this point.

        Other drivers will gain time by driving a shorter distance, making the corner more of a V-shape. Sliding the back end out as you described with Senna, and as Hamilton more frequently did in his early F1 career, is one way of driving less distance on the track to save time. This technique helps to compensate for an early turn-in as without sliding, the car still has to turn through a greater angle post the early apex.

        A late apex is generally recommended for brisk road driving for a number of reasons. Firstly, the entry speed is slightly reduced, so if the driver misjudges the corner, turning in a bit earlier is a way to compensate for too much speed. Next as you pointed out, it helps with visibility in some situations. Finally, as James mentioned, road cars tend to be relatively power limited so maximising the exit speed tends to be key to overall performance.

        Cheers,

        Martin

      6. Wow, that’s a comprehensive and very informed response!

        One question, Malcolm. You say that if you’re getting back on the throttle before the apex you’re slowing down too much, but if I’m driving something RWD then I try and maximise my time on the throttle because the back end steps out if I don’t have at least some throttle on.

        I’m left wondering if I’m doing something fundamentally wrong, now!

      7. That’s what I was referring to when I said not all cars are set up for it. When coaching one driver, I spent almost two hours with him adjusting the car and testing it in order to get it to handle properly so he could enter a corner without massive oversteer.

        If you want to try techniques like this, work slowly at it and adjust your car to suit. Most road cars will behave like yours if you try this (which makes them easier to do big drifts!).

      8. Last thing, remember, trail-braking is about balancing forward force versus side force. When you start to turn the wheel, you need to ease off the brake. If you don’t, you will slide or spin. Takes a lot of practice to get it right!

      9. Stevie P says:

        Comment of the season! I’ll bet 95% of us (JA readers) will be booking a track day or getting down the kart track now… ;-)

  7. Ahmed says:

    Sounds like great fun. Glad you enjoyed it.

    I did a track day at Rockingham in a 911 Turbo and the instructor kept shouting at me to brake harder. Eventually I gave up on finesse and started stamping on the brakes – but the ABS would kick in, so he would shout even harder! Everything else seemed easy enough though – so agreed, braking correctly is really tough.

    I seem to remember that Jackie Stewart was citing braking as Jan Magnesson’s problem in adapting to F1 cars – apparently he just didn’t have the finesse.

  8. mo kahn says:

    OH AN ENVIABLE FERRARI IMMERSION… WAY TO GO JAMES :)

  9. Mike21 says:

    Thanks for this article. Looks like an interesting track, when are they opening it to the public on weekends as Ferrari World II? Or is it Bring-Your-Own-Ferrari only?

  10. Michael Prestia says:

    You are a very lucky man Mr. Allen! I am extremely jealous.

  11. Paul says:

    Hey, that speed trace isn’t at all bad, presuming the other trace from October is someone who is tidy. I’ve seen far far worse ;)

  12. Born 1950 says:

    In my experience it’s not braking that’s the difficult bit in a race car — it’s deciding exactly the split second when to stand on the brake.

    You know you’ve got it wrong when you’ve lost too much speed when you start to turn the wheel into the corner (or vice versa — you run wide because you’re still going too fast). As always, practice makes perfect. It does make you realise just how good F1 drivers are that they can do it precisely lap after lap.

  13. Dave Carlin says:

    Interesting! Love the graph. How many laps did you get to do? And which lap number is the graph from? Your first or last?

  14. mark says:

    Wow, this is great!

  15. d.h. says:

    Slow in, fast out, then stove it into the wall! Sounds like fun, nearest i’ve been to driving a Ferrari was on my ps3.
    Your gas trace, looks like you gained confidence as the lap unfolded, from being 50% compared to the pro, you were matching him at the end.

  16. D. says:

    James, it would be the understatement of all time if I said “you have the best job on the planet” ! (which is true).

    A friend of mine spent 3 days in Fiorano a couple of years ago, she had won a prize from one of the promotions, and she loved every minute of it. Got to drive one of the Ferrari models and the whole enchilada.

    Now tell us who wins in Montreal :)

    1. James Allen says:

      No, Raffaele has the best job on the planet – he’s the development driver for Ferrari. I run a website, but I love it too

      1. d.h. says:

        ‘I just run a website’, understatement of the year!

  17. Colinzeal says:

    While there are no doubt many reasons for his dominance of the WRC in recent year a substantial amount of Sebastian Loeb’s time was being found in the braking zones.

  18. Nic Maennling says:

    This is being typed in green !

    I was once piloted around Donington in a Ferrari 348 many years ago by none other than Mike Salmon, former Jaguar works team driver. He used to fly up from Jersey where he lived for the annual Ferrari owners day out. I chatted up the woman in charge of who went next ! It was one of the major highlights of my life. I know a tiny bit about how you must have felt.

    It could not have happened to a nicer bloke.

  19. Jose - Perth says:

    James,

    Thank you for sharing your fantastic life with us, mere mortals

    1. James Allen says:

      I take it you are being sarcastic…anyway, there is something to be learned from it, as I said, so I wanted to share

      1. I think it was likely just a joke, not a sarcastic comment. Being invited to drive a Ferrari at Fiorano is not something that happens to just anyone. It is fantastic, and it is great that you can share that experience with those of us who aren’t invited to have such an experience.

      2. Jose - Perth says:

        Hi James,

        Please do not take me wrong and I apologise you feel I was being sarcastic. Not a sarcastic comment at all!!! I thought I was being complimentary..it is an heartfelt thank you for bloging your adventures (that’s what they feel to me) and thus sharing with us.
        Perhaps it is the fact that English is not my mother tongue,it didn’t come across right.
        Thx Malcolm you got it! And not just Fiorano…

  20. nando says:

    The top gear track beckons! :)

  21. I knew it!

    Ferrari’s driver lineup for 2012:
    Fernando Alonso
    James Allen

    1. James Allen says:

      LOL! Don’t rule out Perez for the future though..

      1. Hahahaha. I’m actually surprised you didn’t know that because I’d heard it in the intro to a grand prix or somewhere that Perez was a Ferrari academy driver.

        Say they decided to drop Massa, who do you think Ferrari would bring in? Bianchi, Perez or someone like Hamilton?

        And why are top teams reluctant to go for Kobiyashi? Does it have to do with him not performing as well in the lower formulas?

      2. I think James is on the money about Jenson Button being the next Ferrari driver. I don’t see Ferrari developing young drivers at the Scuderia itself. Just like Felipe Massa, they have identified a talented young driver that they like in Perez and once again they will use their engine deal with Sauber to get him a few seasons there where he can adapt to F1 and mature as a driver. Then at some point they will sign him themselves.

        I’m increasingly certain that Ferrari are lining up Button when his McLaren deal ends after 2012. They have long been admirers of his and have made attempts to sign him in the past. They want someone quick and consistent, who’ll score them lots of points to help dominate the WCC and is capable of picking up the pieces should Alonso suffer a bad weekend.

        Mark my words, Ferrari will stick with Alonso and Massa for 2012, then it will be Alonso and Button for 2013 and 2014, with Perez taking over in 2015 after Button (probably) retires. Remember, you heard it here first!

      3. Doc-ric says:

        I thought Ferrari wanted to sign Kubica for 2012, when Massa’s contract ended. It’s the first time I read these Button rumors. (of course with Robert’s forced stop things are likely going to be different. Massa was confirmed for 2012.)

      4. James Allen says:

        THey are not rumours, just what I would do if I were Ferrari

      5. nick says:

        as your teammate, once you’ve seen off that Spanish amateur?

    2. ikkida says:

      Imagine the radio conversation between Alonso and his race engineer if that happens — “Fernaando, James is faster than you. Please confirm you understand the message” ;-)

      1. James b says:

        This website would collapse!!

  22. Tim B says:

    Great stuff – props to Ferrari for giving journalists the opportunity, and to you for sharing.

    I marvel at the brake modulation skills of F1 drivers. With so little suspension movement and all that downforce and sticky rubber it must be incredibly hard to feel when the lockup point is approaching. And then there are the bumps (as Sergio Perez demonstrated on the weekend)…

    I have a 40 year old small sports car that I occasionally take on the track, and even in that, which is very forgiving and has a relatively low grip threshold, it’s very hard to consistently brake on the limit. By comparison, finding the threshold for lateral grip is relatively easy.

    1. James Allen says:

      Good point – and throw in the aero effect too, which is a critical factor in braking as well as KERS…

  23. zombie says:

    Looks like you had a lot of fun,James. What’s your impression of the F458 ? And any news when they’ll be launching the ‘challenge stradale’ version of it ? It is unbelievable what science and engineering has done to automobiles. Just 2 decades ago,who could’ve imagined that 562 bhp can be produced from a 4.5 ltr naturally aspirated v8 ?

    Also, in the first pic, i couldnt help but notice ‘Michael Schumacher boulevard’ sign! Good that Ferrari has not changed the name of the street despite Schumi changing his loyalties.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s a wonderful car, but as I am not an expert on cars of this category and have nothing to compare it too, I cannot say if it is better or worse than its rivals, But it’s very driveable and forgiving as well as extremely fast!

  24. Snowy says:

    So James, what was the difference between your lap-time and the reference, and how much did it improve over the course of the day?

    1. James Allen says:

      We didn’t do lap times on this occasion, because there are a few of us here and it tends to promote a “red mist” if you are looking for tenths – that’s when you crash. It was more about ironing out problems. Basically as I went along I got closer to the traces of the blue driver and the speed line became more similar. I was flat in seventh on the straight by the end, but still giving away some speed in turn 1 particularly, which has a tough entry, braking in a left kink before a tight right turn.

      1. Snowy says:

        Interesting stuff. Thanks James.

  25. Amritraj says:

    I can guess Alonso would be perhaps the best driver on brakes in an F1 car. The reason to back this claim is the fact that he is always super at Monza, which really tests the limits of late and perfect braking. I am looking forward to the analysis.
    Great post, James. And I feel good to be posting after a long time.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for your comment

    2. For sure says:

      Good point, the chicane at the turn 1 is very tough.

    3. James b says:

      Or why Hamilton is the king of Montreal? The 2 main circuits that rely on braking. Also remember monza 08 where vetted was king (admittedly in the rain)

      1. Amritraj says:

        Agreed. Hamilton is also obviously very good at braking; no denying this. But I think braking in F1 is also about managing tyres. Alonso has this almost supernatural ability to manage the peak performance of his tyres while extracting thye best lap times. I think Vettel is exceptional at braking too.

      2. James Allen says:

        Quick straw poll of F1 engineers – Hamilton is the best apparently. I’ll dig deeper

      3. james b says:

        It is true. I always remember that Alonso said (Martin Brundle said it at Monza last year) that he felt he wasn’t the fastest driver. What he meant is that he was the most complete so this would prove it maybe not the best but so close that he also has the benefit of looking after his tyres. I would agree on his analysis and I summarise it like this. If I had to win the title next year I would have Alonso if I had to build a team that was to dominate in 5 years I would chose Hamilton. Don’t ask me where Vettel fits!!!!

  26. Mark says:

    James,

    Thanks for your story, I loved it! I’m a HUGE tifosi, so I was absolutely in awe of your whole “Maranello” experience. I know I’m going to get made fun of for this, but I’ve been searching everywhere for those “Corso Pilota” shirts that are only available to those who take the course. Did you get any extra stuff? Let me know! Thanks again for sharing both stories of your time at Ferrari, thoroughly enjoyed them both. Grazie mille.

    Mark

  27. For sure says:

    Great stuff James, I was wandering if you thought about becoming a part time racer at some other series?
    Did you do trail braking and stuff like that?

    1. James Allen says:

      Nobim not very good. Don’t let this article make you think otherwise!!

    2. He did trail-brake. You can see that in the graph, how his braking continued into the section of the graph that shows where the corners are (the parts in red on the track layout line up with the lines coming down from the numbered corner sections at the top of the graph).

      It’s a bit of a puzzle to decode, but once you get it, you can infer a LOT of facts from those few bits of data.

  28. nsx says:

    Nice article James.
    I would agree that braking is very important. It was the braking difference with a KERS car that Fisi found so difficult when he moved from Force India to Ferrari in 2009. I wonder whether that is the reason why Webber is having problems. The last two years he was the equal of Vettel, so it is very strange that all of a sudden he is not at the same pace.

    1. iceman says:

      And don’t forget Rubens failing to make the most of the dominant Brawn in the first half of 2009, largely because he didn’t get on with the brakes I believe.

  29. Ricardo Consulini says:

    Great Stuff James.
    You’ve got to love Ferrari.
    The speed, the passion, the history.
    Grande Ferrari.

  30. theothercoldone says:

    Have not posted here for a while, but been a consistent reader of both posts and comments. This was fantastic, James, and must surely mean that, through experiences like these, you can bring us ‘back seat’ drivers closer to the whys, wherefores, and magic of the art of driving on the limit. Can’t wait to see who is the best/most consistent at the braking – this is surely an area where having confidence in the car is a must. From my limited experience of karting, I seem to remember that finding the right point consistently for braking was the great challenge, and also knowing how hard you could stamp on them with different grip levels, and levels of warmth in the tyre & brakes etc. Not easy.

    BTW – who is the ‘Benchmark’ driver? – you’re pretty close!

  31. Just like the rest of the crowd, I’m all in green, but happy and smiling at the same time – I’ve always enjoyed the backstage reports. Glad you had fun in Italy, James, looking forward for more of such interesting pieces that really make the difference.

    I hope I can get at least one F430 to drive someday (I’ve been in the cockpit of F430 Scuderia, but I wasn’t allowed to drive it, it’s a great feeling nevertheless.) Maybe a 458, who knows, though they look a bit expensive at the moment, perhaps I should wait for good second-hand deal :))))

  32. Robert says:

    I seem to remember reading a long time ago that Jackie Stewart once said ‘the last thing any racing driver learns to do well is brake. specifically the hardest thing to learn is actually how to come OFF the brake pedal’

    If I recall correctly, it was from a brilliant book written by Carroll Smith called ‘Drive to Win. I’d recommend it as a good read to anyone interested in learning more about driving racing cars.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for sharing that info

    2. Very true, and if you look at the braking traces, you can see where the pro driver releases the brake a little earlier and coasts into the corner with no throttle or brake. He carries more speed into the corner than James, probably giving 2-4 tenths per corner where he has the experience to pull off such a maneuver whereas James has a little to work on.

      That’s definitely a very advanced driving technique, and difficult to learn, especially in one day!

  33. Allan says:

    Thanks for that James. I’ve always found braking, and the differences between drivers fascinating.

    It could be worth your while talking to Barrichello. I read that he still right foot brakes – surely that can’t be faster – everyone else uses their left foot! Didn’t he also seriously compromise the start of his 2009 championship because he didn’t use the same brake material until halfway through the season – at which point he was then always faster than Jenson.

    I also recall a clip showing Hamilton’s Dad spotting braking points for all the other karters at a track – then telling Lewis to brake well beyond that!

  34. Stevie P says:

    Out of the whole article – which is great and of course, we’d all like a go on that Ferrari test track etc, etc – this jumped out the most for me… “I don’t see Kobayashi being the kind of driver they would go for, I think they’d be much more likely to try to woo Jenson Button from McLaren”. Really? What makes you say this James?

    1. James Allen says:

      Just a feeling. But Rosberg is also talked about a lot. Is it real or a red herring to throw people off the scent of the real target? Either would be great for the team if they can get them

      1. Andy C says:

        It might be a bit of a red herring to get merc to sign him up for 60m euros to 2016 ;-)

        I really like Nico and think he has potential, but it smacks of desperation that they are considering signing him for so long having yet to prove himself a consistent top performer.

      2. Stevie P says:

        Oh sure, I appreciate “it’s a feeling” :-) And cheers for the response. I feel…

        Perez will go there when Massa’s contract runs out. He has funds behind him, his tie-up with Sauber gives him exposure to a Ferrari engine, he can learn from Fernando, be strong (collecting valuable constructor points) and competitive (but not enough for Alonso to get the hump) and Ferrari already like the look of him (as you say in the article) – it gives them evolution.

        Rosberg has put his eggs in the Merc basket – can’t see him moving from there for a time, as he’ll be main man when Schumi retires (again).

        Button won’t move again, he’ll stay at Macca.

        That’s how I see\feel it anyhow :-)

      3. James Allen says:

        You may well be right

      4. Stole the words right out of my brain. I think I agree on all points!

      5. nando says:

        Why would Button go to Ferrari? He gest equal treatment at Mclaren and that would never happen at Ferrari. Are Ferrari happy for the no 2 driver to go his own way on strategy?
        Mclaren seem happy with Button.

    2. Ian H says:

      how much of an input do you think Alonso will have on any future driver choices at Ferrari?

      Would Alonso prefer to see a driver like Button (or Webber for that matter) – a driver who he knows/has raced against/beaten, and who may be approaching the ‘twilight’ years of their F1 racing careers and who will be capable of consistently bringing home the car in the points – compared to likes of Rosberg/Perez, young drivers still with a lot to prove/achieve and who haven’t yet had the championship winning car available (we all know Alonso has been there before with McLaren), would Alonso be pushing for a team mate who he feels he can beat, but who also will also be able to finish in the points

      1. Stevie P says:

        Ian, I think Fernando (for the next few years) will have a significant input into who drives “beside” him. Ferrari have really backed him to be their “man”, to lead and to push them forward.

        Or were you asking James A and not me? ;-)

  35. Mike Budden says:

    …think they’d be much more likely to try to woo Jenson Button from McLaren…any more thoughts/insight on that comment!

  36. Anton says:

    Hi James,

    Did you film any on board videos of your laps?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, coming up soon!

  37. Antonio Palmiotto says:

    Funny “the perfect line for a hairpin”. Doesn’tlook like the one massa took atloews, isn’t it??? Regards

  38. James b says:

    James, thanks for this it has made my Friday morning far more bearable. Great to dig deeper and understand why a driver may differ.

    1. Franko says:

      Adelaide I thank you.
      Now I can understand some time certain
      things are better the sex .

    2. iceman says:

      That’s a great video… reminds me a bit of the classic one of Ricardo Patrese taking his wife round Jerez in a Honda Civic:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIhGJyLR6TI

  39. Paul Mc says:

    Wow James that’s amazing, that’s something out of my dreams right there. To drive a 458 around Fiorano must be incredible. Those guys have the best job in the world.

    Thanks for posting.

  40. Andy C says:

    Its interesting you mention JB in relation to Ferrari, as I recalled hearing (well before he went to McLaren) they had seriously considered him previously.

    Do you think its fair to say that Jenson has impressed in comparison to Lewis at McLaren. most people believed he was going to get battered but he’s actually IMHO proved himself to be a good racer. An intelligent. Lewis is clearly pretty special, but Jenson has not embarrased himself with his performances for McLaren.

    I remember a well respected Journo saying they thought in the mid 2000s that Jenson would end up with Ferrari at some point.

    Other than that I think Kamui would be a fantastic choice, but in terms of racing and in terms of marketing.

    1. Ferrari wanted to sign Button for 2006, after he impressed them in 2004 and then with his consistency in the latter half of 2005. My friends at BAR thought they were going to lose him but ultimately Ferrari felt it would be too expensive to buy him out of his contract when Massa, who they had been grooming for the role for some years, was available for much less.

    2. Franko says:

      Andy C, at times you are worth listen to
      but this time you are of the mark.
      Two names you will see in the next two years
      wearing red.
      Roseberg or Perez,Perez money and the guy has
      spank,as for Massa, though LdM said he has
      contract with Ferrari it does not mean he
      will be on the grid.
      Unless he finish in top three in the next
      few races he is (gonsky )exotic name for gone
      before season is out, you bet on it.

      1. Andy c says:

        Well thanks for the vote of confidence lol

        Rosberg is in a position where merc are close to giving him no 1 slot at merc. Why would he go to alonsos team?

  41. Kedar says:

    Wish Ferrari would do this for the not so lucky folks. BMW does a similar Taxi ride at the Nurburgring which is booked for the next 25 years A drive a Ferrari for a lap day would be something I know a lot of people will be interested in

  42. Ian H says:

    James,

    thanks for sharing the experience with us, as has been mentioned in prev comments I think there is a lot of fans green with envy!

    Can you suggest that next time they allow some fans to attend with you.

    also just of interest I notice in the background of the picture Enzo’s old offices and was wondering what that is used for now, I remember during Schumachers time with Ferrari Michael had use of it for gym/personal office space I think?

  43. jonnyd says:

    ‘if it was easy we’d all be doing it’

    true, plus the millionnaire wealth you need too.

  44. Nil says:

    Absolutely fantastic stuff! The closest I can get to Fiorano is on the Xbox with a steering wheel.

    Thanks for the protip on braking at hairpins. That pic says a lot too. I remember how you noted Alonso getting the braking point perfectly and going purple at the end of sector one in Q3 for the Korean GP in a car that wasn’t necessarily the best.

    Here is an old video showing Schumacher’s telemetry info : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk2p2nRK-p4

  45. RA109 says:

    Do all fuel companies involved in F1 work this hard, or are you now convinced that Shell is the cream of the crop? And does it really trickle down to the consumer fuel/oil products? Surely Shell’s relationship with Ferrari helps create a bit of “red mist” in the eyes of consumers, so to speak… but seeing some more in-depth info must have been interesting.

  46. Alex says:

    I’ve always thought Button would suit Ferrari. Would love to see him there.

  47. build says:

    Such a hard life :-)

    Thanks for sharing.

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