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Calado: Ferrari 499P Feels “Super Similar” To Driving A GT


This week has been a reminder of how powerful the Ferrari brand is. While the slew of new Hypercar machinery is all attracting its fair share of attention ahead of the FIA WEC season opener tomorrow, there is understandably a more significant buzz around the AF Corse Ferrari 499Ps from the fans in the paddock and from afar.

For its return to the top of sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari has assembled a team that on paper looks capable of delivering historic results. But as we know, races aren’t won or lost on paper, and the pressure is on.

James Calado, driving the #51 this season, is keen to point out the benefits of Ferrari’s decision to promote drivers from within and cherry-pick staff from across Ferrari’s road car, GT and Formula One operations for this effort. There are only a few new hires.

“There’s a lot of people I am familiar with, partly because I’ve been part of Ferrari for nine years,” the three-time WEC GTE Pro World Champion said to DSC. “There are lots of people from across Ferrari, even from F1. We needed a bigger team because the cars are more complex, so it’s not just the GTE Pro staff. It’s a good package of guys and the team are working super hard.”

We needed a bigger team because the cars are more complex, so it’s not just the GTE Pro staff

The foundation of the driver line-up is made up of GTE Pro drivers from AF Corse’s 2022 WEC programme. Calado, Antonio Fuoco, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Miguel Molina have graduated to Hypercar from GTE Pro, and all appear completely up to speed with the new car. This is, in part, because it drives more like a GT car than a high-downforce LMP1 prototype from the previous ruleset.

The hybrid system in the 499P is very different to the ones found in Audi, Porsche and Toyota’s LMP1 challengers. The powertrain combines a mid-rear power unit with an electric motor that powers the front axle. The hybrid unit recharges during braking and deploys automatically when the car reaches a set speed. It doesn’t need to be controlled on a lap-by-lap basis by the drivers.

“It doesn’t take long to adapt to the 499P with its hybrid system,” Calado explained. “It deploys for us at 190kph, it’s smooth and mainly comes into play in a straight line, it’s also automatic. In terms of corners you only feel it kick in at Turn 1 and the exit of 17 here at Sebring. It’s handy because it gives you support at the rear.

“The driving compared to GT is super similar, it’s just more complex. There’s a lot more to think about, lots of changes that need to be made every lap. It’s just about getting the right changes and learn how to make those adjustments automatically so you don’t need to keep looking down at the wheel. But we’ve done so many laps we’re all up to speed. It’s not a fighter jet.”

To this point, Ferrari’s twin-turbo V6-powered 499Ps have gradually improved on outright pace in Florida and are already in the ballpark of mounting a challenge to Toyota’s all-conquering GR010 HYBRIDs that are the clear benchmark in the car’s first season.

It doesn’t take long to adapt to the 499P with its hybrid system

What are the expectations at this early stage though? The car completed around 20,000 kilometres in testing before the season and managed 337 laps of Sebring in the Prologue. But it still hasn’t been pushed to its limits in a race.

“We are here to learn,” he said. “We don’t have the highest expectations yet. We need to experience what this is all about and try to score points, that’s the ultimate goal. If we can finish the race, that will be an achievement in itself.

“It’s an exciting time and an exciting project. This is just the start.”

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