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Ferrari SF90 Stradale in three colors

The SF90 hybrid that Stradale “defined a new segment” for Ferrari

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Ferrari is preparing to launch the first of 15 new models promised in September 2018 and expected to arrive before 2023. The person responsible for developing them all is Chief Technology Officer Michael Leiters, who joined the company in 2015. We sat down with him on a recent trip to Maranello.

Ferrari will soon launch its SF90 Geneva Motor Show supercar. Why did you make it a hybrid?

“We are convinced we have taken the next step with hybrid technology. We had an alternative to internal combustion, a car engine, but the only element that really convinced us was four-wheel drive [because of the twin SF90 electric motors at the front].

“You get a lot with all-wheel drive. Not only in 0-100kph time, but in a very sporty way to the car. For this, the sports car convinced us to do it.

“Why a plugin and not just a hybrid? Even if you want to have that much power for some moments, you don't always want sound. If you leave early in the morning, you won't have to make a racket.”

What is the positioning of the SF90, which Stradale?

“We had the 488 and 812 and saw room to create a new segment without consolidating on the 812 or 488. So we need to add performance loads over the 812 and make new features over the 488, which isn't hybrid or all-wheel drive.

“Thus, we have defined a new segment, the upper segment for sports cars. We think we will make it and the initial feedback has been positive.

“It has been difficult for us to catch top-segment customers in excess of €300,000 (£275,000) who are used to buying mid/rear-cars with these engines.”

How do you feel about adding more weight to make hybrid cars?

"It hurts! He adds 250kg for all hybrid content. Obviously you can't make up for 250kg. You can look into adding carbon fiber details and structures. There is also no mechanical reverse. You can use an electric motor to turn back. We have a lot of these little things.

“Low weight is good for a few things: acceleration, but with 1000hp it's not a problem. Then agility: how does the car react? Here is the weight and inertia. More important is the wheelbase: it is very important not to extend the wheelbase so that you can have low inertia. So the wheelbase of the SF90 is the same as the F8 key. Next comes the low center of gravity of the engine is at a very low level.

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“Then the front axle: the two electric motors and the cable weigh about 65-70kg, but the vectoring torque they give up to 200-210kph [125-130mph] is the equivalent of about 200kg of weight you would need to save from the car to have the same objective evaluation of driving emotions.”

The f8 tribute is an update to the existing 488. What are your plans for the successor?

“In terms of architecture, our philosophy is one thing: weight, wheelbase and center of gravity. From a purely technical point of view, there are two axes. The first is performance. Other driving experiences.

“Performance is everything you can read in a magazine: 0-100kph, horsepower, torque – all those numbers.

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“Emotions are the actual secret of Ferrari. Take the Bugatti: they put 1000hp in the car, and if you go straight, it works really well. To have fun on the mountain streets, we think it's our secret. It's not just about the limit. Our cars are always fun.

“But what is the pleasure? This is the sound perceived by acceleration - not just 0-100kph or 0-200kph times. I accelerated and I feel like a torque and acceleration of development. It's not like driving diesel. It's turbocharged, which develops power and torque just like a naturally aspirated engine.

“Then it's the feeling of riding a race car. Everything you do brings a controlled look to the car. Every customer can drive a Ferrari and have fun.

“We have a very specific engineering approach that combines engineering data with perceived emotion. We have a catalog of maneuvers that are related to vehicle characteristics perceived by customers. That's why we talk to customers a lot, and our test drivers are very capable of translating customer perceptions into engineering assessments of vehicles.

“So, back to the F8 and its successor. If the SF90 is a very performance-oriented car with high driving pleasure, the F8 successor will have less performance than 1000hp] but maybe more driving pleasure. More emotions, more capable even easier… we are thinking about some majors.”

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Will you continue to develop V12 engines?

“We will try to build it as long as possible. I am convinced that there is still a place for it in the market, and we can do it technically and manage emissions. We are working on the next EU6c emissions and will add petrol particulate filters to manage this.”

With the SF90 Stradale and the upcoming SUV in 2022, there will be six Ferrari model lines. Will you stick in the future?

"Not. The company must grow. By rearranging which, you can grow a certain way, or add certain patterns. We are not interested in that. This is revenue. Volume does not interest us.”

Will you be making a pure-electric Ferrari?

“Now the technology is not mature enough. Look at the requirements of the customers: the most important thing is the sound. Today there was a problem on the range, which is really a problem for a sports car. Electric car range, especially if you accelerate or go at high speed. They are members of sports cars. You need high speed and you can't limit it to 200kph. If you'd like to remove that technical limitation then add that much weight it's not a sports car.

“Maybe in a few years, this could be an opportunity. It takes a big step to sell technology.”

Ferrari aims to make a new hypercar about every 10 years. Like the LaFerrari for nearly seven years, work is underway on its successor?

“It is true that almost every 10 years, we are one of the. It's also true that Ferrari only makes one when new technology is available. So we need to understand what technology we want to be on new cars.”

Will you make more special models like in Monza?

“We want to segment our offering into four components: GT, sports cars, Ison [icons] and special editions. Isona [where Monza sits] will be a line of cars.

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“Monza is not the only one. We have several we are discussing. This is a great success for us, Monza. There are fewer technical problems with these cars. Driving Monza is like driving a motorcycle.”

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