Following the release of the Cooper Tyres British Formula 3 International Series 2012 calendar by SRO Motorsport Group earlier this week, the series has also officially confirmed that the series will be embracing Dallara’s recently unveiled F312 chassis from 2012 onwards.
The Dallara F312 was announced at the F3 Masters in Zandvoort in September, before being officially unveiled in late October. Only a few weeks later, SRO’s Lisa Crampton quickly announced that British F3 will use the new chassis for 2012 season.
“The 2012 season will be a fascinating one on many levels, not least because it will see the introduction of a new Formula 3 chassis featuring many safety enhancements.” Lisa said. “We also expect to see a revitalised National class now that a greater number of older chassis is available to drivers seeking a relatively inexpensive way into Britain's leading single-seater category.”
The National Class – this year won by T-Sport’s Kotaro Sakurai – will consequently be allowed to use the F308 chassis used by the International Class to contest the previous 4 championships.
Newly introduced FIA safety regulations called for greater driver protection in the form of higher cockpit frames and monocoque, whilst the banning of aerodynamic ‘bargeboards’ between the front wheels and the sidepods also gives the car a different look. With these new regulations in place, the raised nose on the F312 becomes the new chassis’ most notable feature.
TCF asked F3 Technical Director Jos Claes a few questions about his latest creation:
TCF: What kind of reaction have you gotten from the F3 paddock since the F312’s unveiling last month?
Jos Claes: A lot of interest, growing interest compared to the previous years. The good thing is that more drivers have been competing in the various formulae below F3 (Formula Ford, Fiat Arbarth, ADAC, Renault 2.0) compared to the previous two years and these need to be attracted to Formula 3, which is helped by having new cars.
TCF: You said you were convinced that the F312 would be faster than the F308, can you explain why?
JC: It is our duty to make winning cars. Since the regulations changed quite a bit the challenge was indeed once more in aerodynamics. We invested accordingly and managed to find an aero effeciency above out initial target. Our aero engineers have done a stunning job, it is that simple.
Surprises apart, I expect the car to be faster because we also made significant steps in the mechanicals of the car. All this under the strict condition of making an honest comparison between the current and the new car, which means cars on the same tyres, with the same engine and at the same minimum weight.
TCF: So will the new chassis present any new setup challenges for the drivers and mechanics next season?
JC: Yes and no, today most teams are very professional and won’t struggle long to find their way through a few slightly different things on the car, like the front suspension with torsion bars.
TCF: With increasingly strict FIA regulations, were you still able to make the F312 ‘personal’ in some respects?
JC: There are some extra limitations, but we should not overestimate their importance on design. If seven car manufacturers would present an F3 car they would all be significantly different, no doubt about it. There is still enough freedom to differentiate although no design is protected and if someone comes and copies you there’s nothing you can do against it. Luckily in motorsport, people have a high level of faith in themselves and will always prefer to do their thing. If you copy the Red Bull F1 you’d be lucky to get on the podium next year.
In fact, things are so relative, I struggle to see the difference between a Yamaha and a Honda in MotoGP but that is because I don’t know enough about it.
TCF: With another 4 years before another completely new Dallara F3 car, how confident are you that the F312 could stand its ground if a potential future rival, such as Lola or Mygale, were to re-enter the sport in the near future?
JC: Let’s see and discuss it when they come, we always like to compete, one of the classic features, read qualities, of Formula 3.
Dallara’s new F312s are expected to be in the hands of their clients by mid-December, where testing will be able to begin.