DUBAI: I think the gravity — no pun intended — of my situation hit home when Sep, the assistant at the Al-Tayer Ferrari showroom in Dubai, pointed to the feature on the dashboard display of the F8 Tributo that measures the g-force hitting your body as the supercar accelerates.
“People are impressed by that,” he said, before giving me a very personal demonstration of the power of the car when he put it into “launch” mode and took off down a thankfully empty side road.
I was immediately flattened against my seat by the sheer power of the vehicle — 0-100 kph in a few exhilarating seconds, with the 3.9 litre twin-turbo engine screaming like a fighter jet.
Ferrari, the famous Italian sports car maker, is about power, of course. In the driver’s seat, you are immediately conscious of the immense potency your right foot commands.
Just a little touch on the gas is enough to take you past virtually everything else on the road. Floor it, and you can imagine yourself in Formula One territory.
Just one little Ferrari moment: I’m at a red signal on King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Street, and a rival fast car model pulls up beside me. He looks at the Tributo, looks at me, and grips his wheel tightly with eyes fixed on the light. He wants a racing start.
When the signal changes, I let him get a few meters ahead, before gunning the gas and easily overtaking him in the next twenty meters. “Forza Ferrari!” I exclaim as I watch him recede in the rear view.
The Tributo is named in homage to the long tradition of Ferrari mid-engine sports cars known as “berlinetta” — two-seater coupes that go back to at least the 1970s. Unveiled last year in Geneva, it is the latest refinement in a class of supercars that Ferrari has made its own. Forget all the pretenders, there is only one Prancing Horse.
The one that I drove was not in classic Ferrari red, but rather in a more sophisticated silver. The body lines are aerodynamically elegant, while the bulging wheel arches and air-intakes give the car a muscular look to go with that 710 bhp engine. Long, sleek and powerful, it’s easily the sexiest car I’ve ever driven.
The designers at Maranello in Italy, the home of Ferrari where they are all built, call the interior the “cockpit”, and I felt like I was in a “Top Gun” movie. The cobalt blue leather harmonized with silvery graphite fixtures, and both contrasted nicely with the yellow Ferrari motif in the middle of the steering wheel.
This is oval shaped, reminiscent of a Formula One wheel, but probably also to allow you in and out of the car with some dignity.
This is definitely not a family car. There is cockpit room for you and your passenger, and behind you, close enough to make you jump when you gun the accelerator, is the engine. A Perspex cover shows off the bright red engine casing to any admirers — and there are plenty on the streets and hotel forecourts of Dubai.
On Sheikh Zayed Road, away from the speed bumps that you have to negotiate with care in such a low vehicle, the car seems to enjoy its natural high-speed environment. It can be difficult to stay within speed limits. The Tributo gets to 120 kph effortlessly, but you can tell it wants to go faster. It feels almost cruel to hold it back.
When Sep showed me the controls outside the showroom, he flicked into the computerized driving history. Although the car had only driven just over 100 km in its lifetime since arriving from Italy, it had managed to hit 295kph on one occasion.
Sep put that down to a Ferrari engineer putting it through its paces at a special track in Dubai. Imagine the g-forces from that little workout
Ferrari Italia is recovering well from the pandemic lockdown. At the height of the crisis the production lines at Maranello were turned over to ventilator manufacture, but now it is shipping cars again. The next big launch in the Middle East will be the Roma, which is designed to epitomize the “dolce vita” of the Eternal City.
Ferrari and eternity are fitting companions. There will always be the Prancing Horse.