Behind the scenes at Ferrari – A day at the wheel at Fiorano
Scuderia Ferrari
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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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Such a hard life 🙂

Thanks for sharing.


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


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.


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 :


‘if it was easy we’d all be doing it’

true, plus the millionnaire wealth you need too.



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?


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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:


Adelaide I thank you.

Now I can understand some time certain

things are better the sex .


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

Antonio Palmiotto

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


Hi James,

Did you film any on board videos of your laps?


Yes, coming up soon!


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


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?


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


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? 😉


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


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.


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 🙂


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


You may well be right


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.


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!


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.


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!


Thanks for sharing that info


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 :))))


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!

Ricardo Consulini

Great Stuff James.

You’ve got to love Ferrari.

The speed, the passion, the history.

Grande Ferrari.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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



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.



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.


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)


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.


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!!!!


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


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


Thanks for your comment


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?


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.


Interesting stuff. Thanks James.

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