Ferrari's Virtual F1 simulator is two stories of aluminum and carbon fiber, electronic actuators, ten multiprocessor arrays, 60GB of RAM, a 3500W Dolby 7.1 surround system and these nerdy glasses.

Unfortunately, the nerdy glasses are the only picture we've got of the new system which might be considered the ultimate of ultimate driving simulators — if we could see it. From what we're told, the driver is placed in an exact replica Ferrari F1 racing cockpit complete with controls which directly interface with the simulation hardware and software. It sits atop a platform attached to computer controlled actuators which accurately reproduce forces and vehicle dynamics as if it were on the track. Ahead, the driver looks upon an array of five monitors giving a greater than 180 degree field of view on a race track rendered in active 3D including — views in the rear view mirrors. Sound is handled by a Dolby Digital 7.1 surround sound array capable of a blistering 3500 watts of power. Admittedly, these things aren't outside of the realm of simulators in existence today, it's what's backing up these things which makes the Ferrari F1 Virtual Simulator stand peerless.

With technical assistance from the electronic wizards at Moog, the computer hardware and software is very impressive. The system uses ten multiprocessor arrays and 60 GB of RAM to plow through data relating to track modeling, force feedback, vehicle performance simulation, telematics, amd more. On an average day driving simulations will output over 5 GB of simulated data, doesn't sound like much until you realize those aren't graphics intensive sets, but rather tables of information. This was a system designed to keep drivers sharp in the off season and significantly shorten the development time for future race cars. It's as much an engineering tool as a training assist. We know it's a abomination to all the work and technology involved, but this just begs for a couple good rounds with Burnout Paradise.

New Ferrari simulator makes its debut

Maranello, 22 December - Scuderia Ferrari's new simulator was unveiled today at Maranello. The ceremony took place in the structure built to accommodate the new machine, within the Gestione Sportiva, in the presence of Ferrari CEO, Amedeo Felisa and the Scuderia Team Principal, Stefano Domenicali.

"It's an important day for us as the completion of this project means we will now be able to tackle with confidence some of the challenges that make up modern-day Formula 1, while putting Ferrari at the cutting edge in terms of this technology," said Domenicali. "Furthermore, I am pleased that such a complex project as this, which got underway around two years ago, has been completed on schedule thanks to the efforts of all those who worked on it."

The first virtual laps at the wheel of the simulator were driven by Andrea Bertolini, who worked with the Prancing Horse engineers on the development of the project, having gained a great deal of experience over the past few years, working on the simulator at the FIAT Research Centre.

The Ferrari simulator, built with the technical support of Moog, consists of an aluminium and composite structure in which are fitted the cockpit and the equipment which produces the images and sound. The platform weighs around two tonnes and is fitted with electronically controlled actuators that way around half a tonne each. The whole structure is fitted on a specially designed and built base, weighing two hundred tons. The whole is controlled by ten multiprocessor calculators with a total memory of over 60 GB of RAM: the amount of data that can be produced is around 5GB per day. It features a Dolby Surround 7.1 sound system, putting out 3500 W. The installation required over ten kilometres of cabling and power output is around 130 kW. The simulator is housed in a building measuring around 180 square metres, on two floors, which includes the control room. The platform covers a surface area of around eight metres wide by the same length and is six metres high. The driver is installed in front of five displays, which give a total viewing angle in excess of 180°.

Virtual F1 explained. An interview with Marco Fainello

In the Formula 1 of the future, the use of simulation techniques will become ever more important and so, after many years working with the FIAT Research Centre, Ferrari chose to take the very important step of building a simulator based on a specification that places it at the cutting edge in this area.

To get a better understanding of the subject, brings you an exclusive interview with Marco Fainello, Head of Vehicle Performance and the design of the simulator.

Can you start by explaining what exactly is a simulator?

"Basically, it consists of a Formula 1 car cockpit, surrounded by images that a driver would see if he was at the wheel of a real car, including what can be seen in the rear view mirrors. The cockpit, fitted with identical controls (pedals, steering wheel and so on) as used on track, is mounted on a platform which transmits signals from electronically controlled actuators, which can reproduce every possible movement in all directions, thus putting together everything a driver could feel if in a car. It is impossible to exactly reproduce every movement of the real car because that would require a space as big as a real race track: therefore techniques are used to select and replicate some of these movements in a way that is compatible with the space available and that are also useful in terms of getting the driver to experience some of the sensations he would feel on a track."

What does the driver see when he is in the cockpit?

The track is replicated on a specific computer that uses a faithful 3D reproduction, including objects found at the side of the track and in the background, the track itself, it's characteristics in terms of kerbs, and the actual track surface. Furthermore we have imaged data relative to the position of the sun and shadows that this creates and we can modify some external parameters, such as air and track temperature, as well as wind direction and strength."

What is the real scope of a simulator?

No driving simulator is capable of reproducing the real feeling that a driver experiences in a car: the sensitivity of human beings and expert drivers such as those in Formula 1, is too high to create the impression of being in a real car, when driving on a non-straight course while sitting in a room. Nevertheless, simulators can provide some sensations (visual, forces, movement, vibration, noise) which in some areas are identical, in others are similar or in others still, are different but close enough to real ones. This means it is possible to drive a model of a virtual vehicle, experiencing sensations that can be referenced to a real one. With a sufficiently experienced driver and engineers, who analyse the results, it is possible for a simulator test to produce data useful to the development of the car and in terms of how the driver interacts with the handling and the controls on the vehicle. All of these elements come together with the advantage of being able to carry out various tests in total safety, reducing costs in terms of logistics and equipment, saving time and without being at the whim of the weather, which can be set and maintained to whatever one wants. Finally, with similar results, the simulator reduces the effect on the environment, compared to a real test, using much less energy than if the same tests had been carried out on track."

Can one say that the simulator can totally replace on-track development?

Driving simulators can definitely not replace real track testing, but like many other calculator-based methods and test benches (in fact, this piece of equipment is a mix of both these methods) it can contribute to the design and development process for new parts that can be used on the car, thus reducing costs and saving time."