ENZO FERRARI ONCE ALSO SAID AERODYNAMICS ARE for people who can’t build engines. Obviously those days are now well past and the 812 SF is first the product of the wind tunnel. The entire body is a lesson in aerodynamics with scoops, slashes, air channels and active and passive mobile aero devices to increase downforce over the F12 by 30per cent. The mobile aero devices are activated by air pressure – ducts and flaps that open and close to either increase downforce or reduce drag. There are turning vanes in the front bumper, a blown rear diffuser, curved dams on the flat underbody and a bigger tear spoiler. It all sounds hideously overdone, yet Flavio Manzoni’s in-house design team (no Pininferina anymore) have blended those elements into a fabulous looking car. “In my opinion this is design, not style,” says design head Flavio Manzoni. When prodded on cars like the 911 that have retained their silhouette for decades he adds, “Every Ferrari is different. We don’t follow any trend, Ferrari cannot follow any trend.”
There is, of course, a passing resemblance to the F12 and the spaceframe, constructed largely of aluminium, is based on the F12’s with the notable addition of rear-wheel steer from the F12tdf. Virtual Short Wheelbase as Ferrari calls it, is claimed to enhance stability at speed and improve manoeuvrability at low speeds but on the F12tdf it made for a car that, I’m told, was hairy as hell. Not so on the 812 SF. At nearly two metres the 812 SF is a wide car but it does not feel wide and intimidating on narrow Italian mountain roads. And it is absolutely stable and planted with absolutely no understeer and equally no oversteer (at least not when you don’t want it). The cornering power is just phenomenal as are the responses, adding to frankly unbelievable pace through the twists and turns of the Modense hills.
The rear-wheel steering interfaces with Ferrari’s first application of electric power steering, the electronic rear differential, the F1-Trac traction control and fifth generation of Side Slip Control. It all sounds crazily complicated but in reality you don’t feel any of it at work. On the road everything feels natural: the buildup of cornering forces, the slight lean, the way it powers out of corners fast or slow. You grow in confidence, push it harder and it stays with you, never feeling ragged or lairy. The compliance in the suspension lets you put down all the power, it does not hop or drip over bumps. The turn-in response is just phenomenal, a factor of the rear-wheel steering, and even though the steering is electrically assisted, responses are good and it remains hyper-alert like all Ferrari helms of the recent past.
The steering is so quick it has barely two turns lock to lock and even on really tight twisties you never need to apply more than half a turn of steering lock, never have to take your hands off the steering wheel. And the brakes, Brembo Extreme carbon ceramics similar to the ones in the La Ferrari hypercar, have inexhaustible stopping power. Tyres (either Michelins or Pirellis) are the same size as on the F12tdf, 275/35ZR20s up front and 315s at the rear. And to accelerate wear of those rears the 812 SF has something called Ferrari Peak Performance (FPP) and Ferrari Power Oversteer (FPO), both intended to improve the driver’s ability by varying torque on the steering wheel to indicate when the car’s limits are approaching and also guiding the driver to make proper inputs to correct oversteer. But this is best experienced on the track.