Meet the Man Who Transformed Ferrari Design

Flavio Manzoni has a clear vision for the iconic supercar maker's aesthetics.

Flavio Manzoni, 54, holds what must be the ultimate job for any Italian designer: heading Ferrari's in-house design group. It succeeds the long reign of outside carrozzerie, principally Pininfarina but also including most grand design houses of yesteryear. Manzoni began his career in the Fiat group, moved to Volkswagen's SEAT brand with Walter de Silva, returned to Fiat-Lancia, then became No. 2 at VW Group before returning again to Italy as design leader for Fiat, Lancia, and light commercial vehicles. Former Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo 10 years ago chose him to create the Ferrari design team and its impressive modern glass construct in the center of the Maranello complex, increasing his team from four people in 2009 to 120 today.

Manzoni says Ferrari design needed to "evolve, with no strong breaks," yet he had to transform the entire process, from Ferrari creating the chassis and letting others clothe it with a pleasing, more or less efficient form, to a completely integrated design and engineering effort. The process has become too complex with requirements regarding structure, aerodynamics—both external and internal—and of course making the result beautiful. These necessary trade-offs cannot be executed by a geographically dispersed team.

Being literally in the center of the traditional Ferrari campus solves all of that. Working on the firm's 2016 J50 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ferrari in Japan, Manzoni decided "it was time to change lamps, to make them very small." That decision has carried over in the SF90, as are some of the aerodynamic solutions incorporated in that concept car. The upswept side line that puzzled me while writing my SF90 design analysis allows airflow management that increases downforce.

"The project was very complex," Manzoni asserts, with many radiators, including "one for the electric motor in front," requiring the team to "visually communicate the elements" composing the whole. He noted that there are many traditional elements in the SF90 hybrid supercar, such as the flying buttresses that he sees as "essential to a Ferrari," but in a different execution here. The car is as simple as Manzoni and his team could make it, but he notes, with a reference to the late sculptor Constantin Brancusi, "simplicity for me is complexity resolved."

If this is the first iteration of new aesthetic for Ferrari, we're on board.