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Paddle up

12 months ago

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Hamir Thapar | Young writer


30 June 2023

The paddle-operated transmission has come a long way. What began as an infuriating gimmick that hindered the likes of the first Aston Martin Vanquish and the Ferrari 575M has morphed into a highly competent, capable system many consider an essential facet of the modern supercar.

And when it comes to the mastery of said system, few can hold a candle to Ferrari. The 296 GTB’s eight-speed double-clutch transmission is one of the very best in the business, while the ‘F1’ gearbox (first seen in the F355 in 1997) has the distinction of being the very first road-going paddle-operated transmission, its name a clear reference to the Scuderia’s on-track breakthrough from eight years prior.

The 1989 season saw an end to turbocharging in Formula 1, a rule change that spawned a flurry of naturally aspirated eight, 10, and 12-cylinder motors, all with narrower power bands than their turbocharged predecessors requiring quicker gear shifts to keep them on the boil. The grid was left scrambling for a solution, and it wasn’t long before one was devised.

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