There are two ways to experience driving an F1 car. One is to be able to drive like a freak, win a junior championship, then be in the right spot at the right time, possibly with some sponsorship.
The other is to save your pennies and buy a drive in Ferrari’s moon-shot capable 488 GTB.
I’ve always wondered what the Apollo astronauts felt when someone pulled the trigger on the Saturn 5 booster rocket that blasted them to the moon.
So on a closed road I let the 488 off its leash, and despite the best efforts of the electronics, when I buried the throttle the muscular haunches wriggled and squatted down, the steering wheel came alive in my hands, and with a howling V8 scream right behind my neck the 488 launched along the blacktop at what felt like escape velocity.
The 488 GTB is a product of the talented Italians who produced its magnificent non-turbo predecessor, the 458 Speciale, and then decided to knock it off its pedestal before someone else did. So a smaller V8 - 4.0-litre instead of 4.5 - with twin turbochargers was cloaked in a new aero package that generates more than 300kgs of downforce at speed. The engine produces an angry 492kW and a mountainous 760Nm of torque, and spits it all out with a rage of sound that blasts past the turbos and rattles windows. Don’t try sneaking home late or leaving work early.
The 488 body inherits a version of the hybrid LaFerrari’s shark-nose, a completely different cooling duct package and a look that is far more aggressive than the more artistic 458. Huge ducts steer air through radiators that surround the front luggage compartment. Tip - don’t pack chocolates in your bags.
Inside you’ll face an F1-style wheel, with start/stop button, five-position mode dial - fast to unhinged - and red lights that march across the rim as revs rise. Shift paddles are fixed but easy to reach, and buttons for reverse, launch control and auto/manual are inclined towards you on the console. Other buttons and dials are a bit cluttered - but who cares. You select Drive by pulling the right paddle and Park by turning the car off.
And in case you’re still wondering why the 488 exists, the pit-lane speed limiter should give you a bit of a hint.
My too-short couple of days with the 488 was enough to reset my benchmarks for explosive power and limpet-like grip. Whether on the highway or tooling around in Sydney’s nightmare traffic, I had no doubt the 488 GTB encapsulates the skill sets of Ferrari’s most gifted engineers, while a remarkable 4.0-litre V8 turbo grumbled away just a few centimetres behind me, itching to be let out to play.
Ferrari has taken its truly beautiful 458 supercar cocktail, added two slices of turbo, a dash of brutality and delivered a road and track weapon that in the global sharkpool of supercars is unquestionably an apex predator. Which drove me to a touch of guilty fun - burbling menacingly alongside the fastest M-series BMWs and hottest AMG Mercedes in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and knowing their drivers have just felt inferior for the first time since bolting their number plates on.
Model: Ferrari 488 GTB
Price: $469,988 - $625,278 as tested
Engine: 4.0-litre twin turbo V8
Output: 492kW and 760Nm
Performance: 0-200km/h - 8.3 secs; maximum 330km/h
Transmission: Getrag 7-speed F1 tech
Wait List: 18 months