Fortuitously, Manzoni enjoys polishing his English with journalists like me whose Italian starts at uno and ends at cappuccino. It’s handy for him at work because his clay modelling team are all Brits and speak no Italian. I love that; all that Mediterranean romance and there’s a bloke called Bob shaving away at a lump of earth.
Anyway, we’re sitting in a swish room inside Maranello’s factory gates, elevated over a street named Via Kimi Raikkonen; a little hideaway that was once Luca Montezemolo’s. So significantly loaded with context.
I ask if there’s a tangible difference since Sergio Marchionne ousted Montezemolo.
“Yes,” replies Manzoni after careful thought.
“Montezemolo was an aesthete, and he would really examine every detail of the car. Marchionne is more of a bigger-picture guy, but still has great taste. Sometimes it’s good to have a change to solve problems with the company.”
The 488 GTB was, of course, conceived under Montezemolo's reign.
Manzoni describes the challenge of designing within Ferrari’s exacting aerodynamic requirements – “the relationship between form and function, I have never experienced anything like it; Matteo and the aero guys, they drove us crazy!” – and his excitement at realising that the turbos packaged either side of the new V8 demanded a wider track, providing the mechanical footprint for extra visual muscle.
Manzoni had to retain the 458 Italia’s roof and glasshouse, but had freer rein elsewhere.
So I’m curious why the headlights are so similar to the Italia’s. Manzoni visibly slumps. “We had the biggest fight with Montezemolo about the headlights,” he sighs. “He wanted something recognisable, a family face, but it means all the cars have this same design. I wanted something more radical, to move the family look on.”
Clearly, the boss won, but Manzoni says he’s determined that Ferrari should “dare more” in future, to stop looking back so much as the company sometimes did under Montezemolo.
He cites the California.
Manzoni says he prefers to respect past glories while looking forward, pointing to La Ferrari’s echo of the famed 1960s ‘Sharknose’ F1 car as an example. We’ll see an all-new face on the next all-new Ferrari, he promises.
Next morning, I’m climbing from the 488 after lapping Fiorano and Manzoni walks over. “How is it?” he asks, genuinely inquisitive; it turns out he hasn’t even driven the car he bloody well designed! “Raffaele!” calls Manzoni to Ferrari’s ace test driver. “Can I get some laps?” Head test driver Raffaele De Simone’s shoulders and face emote a ‘love to, but we’re really busy’ helplessness. I tell Manzoni I’ve got to go and drive his car on the road. He understands. I leave him standing there. It feels almost unfair.
Flavio, mate, your car’s brilliant; hope you’ve had a steer by now!
WHEN you draw actual supercars for a living, what do you doodle for fun?
Flavio Manzoni has a passion for science fi ction, so he created this Ferrari-inspired spaceship with the help of his colleagues at Maranello.
There’s a deliberate nod to La Ferrari (outer fi ns and front splitter), its track-only FXX K counterpart (upswept tail fi ns) and the Scuderia's F1 car’s radiator pods in the spaceship’s fl anks.
Manzoni says it was an exercise to help focus his team on the future rather than the past.