DRIVEN: FERRARI 458 ITALIA
Ferrari's newest supercar sampled on road and track
Driving is tomorrow, though, and tonight the talk is of air spring effect on the pistons, what the additional scavenge pumps for engine oil do, and the numbers describing the means by which the new multi-link rear suspension and steering combine to sharpen turn-in. I scribble the numbers and details into my notebook, and wonder if I'll be able to quantify the gains tomorrow.
Massive stopping power helps; the CCM discs wiping off the Italia's easily gained speed with ease, the pedal positive after an initial soft response.
But it's a fleeting first experience. My quick squirt of the 458 Italia around the hills surrounding Maranello cut short by the need to get back to Fiorano for my allocated time on the track.
When you've been involved with the development of a car for years it must be galling to hand it over to a bunch of (sometimes) hapless journalists for their opinions, but Simone laughs it off. He's confident that he's done a good job with the Italia - with more than a little bit of input from all-round Ferrari god Schuey - and he's ably demonstrating it as I strain to stay in my seat while the 458 exerts its extraordinary forces upon me.
Inside, Ferrari has gone all F1, adding not just the manettino to the steering wheel, but almost everything else. If a control is not actually on the wheel, you can typically stretch a digit to reach it - save for the climate controls, which might explain Simone's choice of a scarf and jacket when I'm in a t-shirt. (Although it's more likely the fact he's nowhere near as well insulated as me, and neither is he Scottish!)
The suspension with its clever magnetic dampers offers quite ridiculous control and excellent roll resistance, though should the road get choppy there's the option - like the Scuderia - to maintain the harder, faster shifts and throttle response via the manettino in combination with a more compliant damper set-up. That manettino is something of a madness dial; turn it up to CST off and you're in full control, with the 458's numerous electronic systems disabled allowing the Italia to be driven above and beyond the tyres' limit of adhesion.
But the real-world beckons, so the 458 and I head up into the hills again to play. It's extraordinarily good, the Italia's route taking in the same roads I drove on the F430 Scuderia, 599 and 599 HGTE launches. I'd be lying if I said I know them, but the 458 is so precise that I'm driving them like I do - such is the utter confidence the Italia gives you as a driver.
If I've any complaints it's simply that turning the manettino from Race to Sport - as I'm doing regularly given the wet, leaf-strewn roads - means an additional press of the damper button to return it to its softer setting. You only really notice it in a bend, when the sharpness of the throttle combined with any bumps from the road transmitted through your foot can result in some jerkiness.
There's time when I get back to Fiorano for a coffee and a chat with Ferrari's people, each and every one of them wearing a confident smile that says the new McLaren MP4-12C is going to have to be very good indeed. They're not wrong.