Ferrari 640

Ferrari 640

by Luca Dal Monte

The project is John Barnard’s, who remained solely in charge of the technical direction of Scuderia Ferrari, although his refusal to move to Maranello and his insistence on working from England will soon lead him to leave Ferrari. However, the 640 is not only a winning but also a revolutionary car. It is, in fact, the first Formula 1 car to adopt a semi-automatic sequential gearbox with seven gears and two paddles behind the steering wheel (one for upshifting, the other for downshifting) instead of the traditional lever beside the driver.

The development of the 640 begins as early as the summer of 1988 when it becomes clear that the championship is compromised, so it might be wiser to start working for the following season. Moreover, the new and ground-breaking semi-automatic gearbox is an absolute novelty in Formula 1 and requires a lot of development. The engine is also new. The turbo era has come to an end, and in accordance with the new regulations, Ferrari returns to naturally aspirate engines. In this case, it’s a 3.5-liter 12-cylinder engine producing 600 HP at the beginning of the season and 660 HP at the end.

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Nigell Mansell: He clinched victory in the debut race of the semi-automatic gearbox, the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix, which coincided with his first race in Ferrari. Mansell would win again in Hungary and secure second place on the podium at Paul Ricard and Silverstone, and third at Hockenheim and Spa.

Gerhard Berger: Berger, who was involved in a spectacular crash at Imola and was extracted from his burning car, retired in ten out of the first eleven races of the season. He would experience only one moment of glory, between mid-September and early October, when he won the Portuguese Grand Prix and finished second in Italy and Spain.

A peculiar aspect: the 640 either didn’t finish or made it to the podium. Between the two drivers, it recorded 19 retirements, three wins, four second and two third places. Nothing else. At the end of the season, Ferrari was second in the Constructors’ Championship.

Our model cars:

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The shape of the 640 betrays Barnard’s skill in aerodynamics. The car is one of the cleanest Ferraris ever in terms of lines and truly seems sculpted by the wind, with the bird-beak front, sinuous sides, tapered tail, and a double lateral air intake on both sides of the driver’s helmet without a proper airscope – at least at the beginning of the season.

Ferrari 640 Image 3