In Dubai for the campaign shoot of the Ferrari F8 Tributo, we get a chance to test Maranello’s latest GT on the track and on some seriously curvy roads
The sun is setting over the Dubai Autodrome, but the day isn’t over yet. In a flurry of wheel smoke, high-speed gear shifts and engine roars, the new Ferrari F8 Tributo executes a power drift through a corner, coming within a few inches of a pickup truck loaded with platforms and TV cameras. This is the adrenaline-fuelled finale of an intense day’s work for the 15-strong team of photographers, videographers, mechanics and Ferrari drivers seeking to capture on camera the spirit of the revolutionary Prancing Horse berlinetta that is ushering Maranello in a totally new direction.
Over a three-day shoot, the Tributo poses for different portraits, each revealing an aspect of its complex character. “The F8 Tributo is the perfect combination of different personalities,” says Roberto Ricchi, a long-time Maranello test-driver. “We worked on reducing the car’s weight and optimising its aerodynamics to edge its performance close to that of the 488 Pista, from which the Tributo inherits the V8.
All whilst retaining the traditional versatility of a two-seater berlinetta, but with a more compliant suspension and a cockpit quieter than the more extreme Pista.” Ferrari also spent significant time on the vehicle dynamics logics systems to ensure drivers would be able to unleash all that power relatively easily and to drive at the limit with confidence. “The result is genuinely surprising,” Ricchi observes.
Our test drive takes us along the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road. Since the road is closed to traffic, we seize the opportunity and put the manettino on ‘Race’. In the Tributo, this setting is coupled with the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, the electronic system that intervenes individually on each brake calliper on corners in combination with the other vehicle dynamics systems (F1-Trac, E-Diff and SCM). Even less expert drivers will feel they have the car under control.
Other features enhance performance. The car is 40kg lighter than the 488 GTB and its balance has been meticulously honed, with all the weight concentrated between the axles, which are kept as low to the ground as possible. A combination of redesigned vortex generators, air intakes and the front S-Duct has increased downforce by 10 per cent, too. All of this is patently clear at the Dubai Autodrome: the Tributo’s acceleration (0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds) and top speed (340 km/h) as we floor it down the straight are the same as those of the Pista.
But then when you turn into a corner, you feel like your line has been mapped out with a compass as you power from one rubbing strip to the other without even thinking about it. In fact, it feels like the Tributo is doing the thinking for you. “We tried to emphasise the Ferrari philosophy of making the car feel like an extension of the driver’s body: the car seems to understand whatever the driver is thinking and obeys. The big challenge was to offer our clients the Pista experience with some of the reactions slowed and without impacting on the emotions it delivers,” Ricchi explains.
The car’s newly-designed interior, too, is full of pleasant surprises, effortlessly melding together a sense of cocoon-like luxury and edgier racing references. Everything is at the driver’s fingertips and the new steering wheel has a more solid, ergonomic grip, channelling the resolve of Ferrari to ensure the driver’s eyes never leave the road. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) flank the driver in less extreme situations.
On the more earthbound trips that the Tributo will be tackling on a regular basis, it makes for a more comfortable experience. In fact, it’s so easy to drive you will almost forget you are behind the wheel of a Ferrari capable of unleashing over 700 horses. If it weren’t for that telltale engine roar, that is...