December 7, 2013

Ferrari Florida Boot Camp



Ferrari open wheel training in Florida?

Clever actually,  warm climate in the winter months and conveniently located for both North and South American prospects, the Florida Winter Series was designed as a "boot camp" for young racers making their way to Europe for racing series starting in the spring and summer.

The series will give drivers moving from karts to open wheel an chance to experience race weekends, with practice, qualifying and races.  Perhaps more crucially it will expose them to full technical debriefings with top engineers.  The aim is to get them ready to hit the ground running without wasting precious time and resources when they land in Europe later in 2014.

The Ferrari Driver Academy is a program designed to discover and develop talent for Formula One. While Ferrari came to the game later than its main rivals, the Academy is producing results: Sergio Perez and Jules Bianchi are already in F1, the latter named 2013 rookie of the year by Autosport.

More talent is in the pipeline, 17 year old Antonio Fuoco, won the 2013 Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS series and the 2013 Euro F3 champion Raffaele Marciello  has real buzz about him as a name we'll likely hear in F1 soon.

We spoke with Luca Baldisserri, ex Scuderia Team Manager now head of the Ferrari Academy,  about the series, which will be run over four intensive days from the end of January to mid February at Sebring, Homestead and Palm Beach Raceway.



Axis of Oversteer: What is the aim of the series and who is it marketed to?

Luca Baldisserri:  We have some specific targets. The first is to offer a competitive training series to drivers who are serious about preparing themselves for their respective championships that start in the spring of 2014. In Europe we have terrible weather conditions in January and February that don’t allow drivers to prepare themselves in track conditions that they will find when they start racing. Furthermore when they test they normally drive around tracks aimlessly and in our vast experience waste their time and parents/ sponsors money.

Our championship takes place in relevant weather and track conditions, has completely equal equipment, will follow the racing regulations of the top championships, will force drivers to do 12 races and the corresponding practice and qualifying sessions in a totally controlled environment.

Another major area interest is the new FIA F4 racing series that will be launched in 2014 around the world. This formula is open to 15 year olds that are just graduating from karting and the FWS is a perfect introduction to these drivers to the world of racing. They will learn about the cars, the racing, regulations and everything else deemed necessary by the FDA engineers under my direct guidance.



Axis:  What are the specs for the Tetuus FA 10Bs used for the series?

L.B.:  The Tatuus FA 10A is more commonly known as the Formula Abarth and the 10B is an upgraded version only for this championship.  This car is being successfully raced in a few championships around the world and is an excellent race car. It develops almost 200 hp, has a good level of aerodynamics and has a handling behavior perfect for the level of drivers that we are attracting. Together with a specific tire choice we have targeted a very well balanced, reliable and safe race car that will allow us to concentrate on driver performance.

Axis: Will it be, in a sense, a Ferrari version of Formula BMW?

L.B.:  No.  The FWS has much more adept cars technically to start with. There is only one team managing the cars and we will ensure that the drivers have equal cars. There will be no winners, no losers but pure training-by-racing series allowing the driver to get fit, train, learn and have a lot of fun together

AXIS:  What is the connection with Ferrari Academy?

L.B.:  The FDA is organizing and supporting the series. All FDA drivers and drivers that we are monitoring are being invited. This way we can evaluate and monitor current and prospective drivers, give structured training pre race event, during race event and post event.
This year the FDA has two drivers that won their respective championships and this is due to a methodology of driver development that has only just started to show it’s merits. Now we are entering into a new chapter of driver development with the FWS

Axis:  Could you describe the type of training drivers in the series will receive?

L.B.:  Drivers will train pre-event on a professional driver training simulator under FDA engineer supervision. The drivers will get pre race briefings that will prepare them for the race weekend program.
The spirit of the series will be new and original based on training sessions of a complete race event. Drivers will experience how to train during free practice sessions to prepare themselves for qualifying and racing, then how to handle triple qualifying sessions for their following 3 races. The final part is train themselves racing together for 3 races per event.
Between events the drivers will have collective post race analysis sessions where they will do both video and data analysis with the FDA engineers.

Axis: What are the approximate costs for the series?

L.B.: The budget per driver is 95 thousand Euro and covers everything apart from the drivers living costs and transport.
There has been no expense spared on the cars, the equipment, the technical team, race tracks, safety, hospitality for the driver and family at the events, workshops.

The championship is being done Ferrari style and will become a benchmark in professional formula car driver development.

You can find more information on the FWS web site,  including a technical manual for the F.Abarth car, always cool to see!


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