Italy will ride a Ferrari-designed bobsled at the 2012 Winter Games
Italian Olympic Committee has been partnered with Ferrari since 2006
A Ferrari bobsled won gold for Italy at the 2010 World Youth Games
Italian Simone Bertazzo climbs into the cockpit of his Ferrari. He straps on his helmet and slides his hands into his gloves. In his mind he prepares to go fast – very fast.
Over the next two minutes he will navigate a hair-raising track, grappling for control of his “Prancing Horse” at speeds in excess of 90 mph as his body strains and contorts.
But Bertazzo is not behind the wheel of a Formula One car and perhaps even more disconcertingly there’s no safety belt to restrain him should things go awry.
Instead he is at the front end of a bobsled and the driver for the Italian team heading to the 2014 Winter Games.
The bobsled Bertazzo and compatriots will pilot is the latest product of collaboration between the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and the country’s legendary automotive manufacturer, who are providing design input to hopefully deliver medal success in Sochi in next year’s Winter Olympics.
“The idea was to share the knowledge between our institute and Ferrari to try to improve all the sports where technology plays a big part in the results,” CONI deputy general secretary Carlo Mornati told CNN.
“The first option was to start with something that was very similar to the cars, to F1 and I think, in the world of sport, the bobsled was the first option.”
Ferrari is synonymous with high performance, from its sleek, stylish road cars to the F1 machines which have made it the most the most successful constructor in the sport’s history.
CONI’s partnership with Ferrari dates back to 2006, with a Maranello-designed sled taking to the track at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.
Two years later at the Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, Ferrari’s two-man sled was piloted to gold by Patrick Baumgartner and Alessandro Grande.
Now Bertazzo will bid to replicate his younger countrymen’s success by guiding his sled to the top of the podium in February.
“Ferrari has listened to our advice to the letter, studying every little detail and CONI has played a crucial role in coordination,” Bertazzo said in a statement released by the CONI earlier this month.
F1 and bobsled are sports where thousandths of a second can be the difference between success and failure, small margins within which Ferrari’s team of engineers are used to operating.
“We have selected from our F1 team and our road cars department some engineers who have achieved some brilliant results in F1 and were looking for new opportunities within the company,” explained Ferrari engineer Ferdinando Cannizzo.
“After that we set up a brand new team, defined a new area and put this team to work on this new program.
“Clearly a new team is a new challenge, but it seems that results are coming, so we succeed.”
CONI is not the only Olympic committee looking to motorsport for a competitive edge.
The British team will be riding a sled developed in conjunction with McLaren, while the Americans will be piloting a BMW-crafted sled at the newly-built Sanki sliding center.
But Ferrari’s involvement with CONI doesn’t end with bobsled.
Other winter disciplines such as skiing have benefited from wind tunnel testing and Ferrari’s knowledge of aerodynamics, as well as Summer Games sports such as archery, rowing, canoeing and kayaking.
Ferrari’s work in all of those events involves helping an object move through the air, water or snow with minimal drag, which is where aerodynamics engineer Luciano Mariella comes in.
“At the moment our aerodynamic approach is based on wind tunnel tests and numerical simulation based on commutation of fluid dynamics,” explained Mariella.
“This is the most important approach because every tool has its strengths and weaknesses and the integrated approach is telling us how to achieve the best possible results.”
If Mariella and his team get in right, then there should be nothing but clear air between the Italian team and Olympic gold in Sochi.