Flavio Manzoni was appointed head of design at Ferrari in January 2010 tasked with reworking the identity for the Italian brand. Arriving from Volkswagen Group, where he was director of creative design, (he was involved in many of the group’s recent cars and the aesthetic philosophy of their brands) he also had spells with Fiat Group (2001 to 2006) as head of design for Lancia, Fiat and LCV and Seat (1999 to 2001) as interior design director. That degree in architecture from the University of Florence sure has paid off. wheels caught up with the Sardinian-born 51-year old to ask him about the inner workings of the Ferrari design department, the relationship with the engineering guys and more…
How closely do the design and engineering departments work?
A Ferrari is very complex and requires many competencies, many objectives that we have to reach together with our colleagues of other departments, that’s why it’s important for Ferrari now to have an in house design team, to work with synergy with the rest of the company. The form cannot be conceived as a simply as a car of mechanics; instead it’s organic to the technical contents, the aerodynamics, and innovations belonging to each project.
What is the relationship between the engineering and design department like?
The relationship with the engineering department is very tight and continuous from the foundation work. We now have the benefit of working as an integrated design studio, so we step into the process much earlier than before. It’s give and take but at least now we are part of the conversation whereas before we would not have been involved. Now when we define the car, the engineers consult with the design house in establishing first the stance, the proportions, so we can intervene on how long we can have overhangs, where the cabin sits in relation to the mechanicals etc
There must be some disputes along the way…
Every department is pushed to reach their excellence in each area, the question is how we find the synergies between our high level objectives. It’s a kind of ping-pong which might last 15 to 17 months. Tension sometimes is high but everyone has the same goal.
Did the 812 Superfast present any special challenges?
The F12 already had a very high level of aerodynamic efficiency. At the beginning of the 812 project the aerodynamic department worked on technical solutions, devices, to meet demanding objectives; you can imagine the difficulty of improving the F12, and the design necessity was to conceive a shape able to incorporate all these elements. There’s no getting away from the aerodynamic hard points. For example the turning vanes on the front bumper of the 812 are exceedingly important to get a certain percentage of the total downforce. We had to follow exactly that geometry, but we could still integrate them into an organic shape.
What was the trickiest aspect to get right on the 812?
One of the most difficult areas is the rear spoiler; normally Ferrari doesn’t want to put additional elements on top of the shape, so we try to avoid spoilers. In this case the rear spoiler is 30mm higher and 60mm longer than an F12’s, so has a longer rear overhang, which influences the equilibrium of the car and the apparent height. But a Ferrari is made by these things as well. So we have to not fight against them, but to consider them a special personality.