‘I’ll take it easy,’ I thought while slipping behind the downsized steering wheel of the Ferrari F8 Tributo, thinking it would be a stupid idea to push hard. Doing so on my first ever laps of Fiorano seemed like a recipe for shattered carbonfibre. And dreams.
And yet, on only lap three of my short stint at Ferrari’s famed test track, I’m going sideways on the exit of Turn 6. Not because I’ve just suddenly found some actual driving talent - no, it’s all about the electronics at play. The chassis of the F8 may be broadly the same as the 488’s, but it gets a new version of Ferrari’s Slide Slip Control. It can make the world’s worst drifter - someone like me - look like a damn hero.
It still requires some thought. Throttle applications need to be timed properly, you need to think about how much lock you have wound on, and you need to be quick with the opposite lock. And that’s the F8 all over. It’s amazingly approachable for a 710bhp, rear-wheel drive supercar, but you need to be on it.
I’m not sure we need four-wheel drive to make high-powered supercars friendly any more - not when we have clever traction and stability control systems that can work away so subtly in the background. Want to make things harder? There’s always the option of switching everything off once you’re up to speed.
By lap four, the F8 has transformed from a menacing stranger to an old mate I’ve known for years. Perhaps that’s because, under the skin, it isn’t entirely new. It isn’t just the chassis that’s carried over from the old 488; the interior, save for the smaller wheel and a newer infotainment setup isn’t all that different. Even the bodywork isn’t all new.
Avert your gaze from the revamped front end and the rear with its F355-like quad taillights, walk around to the side, and you’ll find the same doors as the 488. Despite a restyled rear-three quarter, the side profile is incredibly similar to this car’s predecessor. The engine’s far from a clean sheet design either - it’s pinched from the Pista, but with some WLTP-compliant pipework.
It’s an evolution of the 488, in the same way the 488 was an evolution of the 458. So it’s the facelift of a facelift? That’s being a little disingenuous, but you can’t help but wonder why the only four-year-old 488 wasn’t kept on for longer and replaced with something all new. Then we have to consider the name - it’s been christened as the ‘Tributo’ to honour Ferrari’s multiple award-winning turbo V8, an engine which, erm, powers this very same car. This might just be the most ‘meta’ supercar ever made.
The F8 is a befuddling thing, but the solution is simple: don’t think about it, switch the ‘CT off’ driving mode, and give it a damn good spanking. One step above Race, this dials back the car’s assistance systems, while still giving a safety net. Hence the wiggly yet easy-to-control rear end.
The steering is light and not all that communicative, making up for that by being wickedly quick and brilliantly predictable. Front end grip is immense in Fiorano’s trickier corners, while the rear-end traction is about as good as it could be with that bonkers power output doing its best to rotate the F8. If you’re doing any track work at all, you’ll be wanting to spec the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s.
The brakes are mighty, although the pedal does take some getting used to. The very top part of travel is surprisingly sharp, while anything past that point requires a firm, hope-you-haven’t-skipped-leg-day stab to slow things down sufficiently. Despite the increase in power, the brakes themselves haven’t grown - more efficient cooling ducts in the new bodywork meant burlier calipers and rotors weren’t necessary.
Speed builds at a frightening rate off each exit of Turn 2. The V8 doesn’t quite have the linear top end nor explosive soundtrack of the McLaren 720S - which has an identical power output - but it is far more responsive. I don’t quite agree with Ferrari’s claims of “zero turbo lag” - you do feel a brief spooling-up period at lower revs, but at higher engine speeds, it’s not far from the truth.
The 3.9-litre twin-turbo unit is once again paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which is almost vicious in the way it swaps cogs in the F8’s angrier modes. It’s pretty slick in auto mode, but why bother with that when manual control involves the use of immensely satisfying column-mounted shifters?
Away from the track, the F8’s foibles come to the fore. Interior build quality certainly isn’t tragic, but it is a long way from the solid brilliance of a Porsche cabin. Few of the buttons are where you’d expect them to be, and the navigation is best described as ‘fine’. The Lexan F40-style engine cover might look lovely, but the position of the roofline means the view out the back doesn’t stretch much beyond a few car lengths. The brilliance of the chassis makes all of this stuff easy to dismiss, but one problem is just too hard to ignore - the power output.
Who decided that 700bhp+ is now the norm for a supercar in this class? With a more modest output, this car would still be plenty scary on track, while seeming far less excessive on the road. The F8 works well enough on the public highways at least, where you’re best off combing the softer ‘Bumpy Road’ mode - which brings forth a welcome hint of body roll - with CT off. But After a decent-length drive on the roads around Maranello, I could count the times I was able to fully depress the throttle pedal on one hand. It’s like having a fine wagyu beef steak placed in front of you but only being allowed to lick the grease off the edge.
I’m not sure the F8 can be blamed for this, though. A large portion of supercar buyers are showy types, and they like impressive numbers like 2.9 seconds for the 0-62mph, 568lb ft and 211mph. To make all of that a reality in a package that noobs and racing drivers alike can enjoy is one hell of an achievement. And not one we should be surprised by. The F8 is merely the latest in a long line of products that prove special things usually happen when Ferrari sticks a V8 in the middle of a supercar.
Given the ‘Tributo’ bit tacked onto the end of the name, it’s quite possible the F8 will be the last of them. Or at least the last without electrical assistance. As bookends go, this one’s sensational.