Q & A: Dallara's Jos Claes on the new F312 car

Dallara released details of its 2012 Dallara F312 Formula 3 car at Zandvoort's Masters of Formula 3 last weekend

Q & A: Dallara's Jos Claes on the new F312 car

The new-for-2012 car will conform to current F1 safety standards and feature a raft of cost-cutting measures in line with the FIA's new regulations.

AUTOSPORT spoke with Jos Claes of Dallara's engineering and project management team about the new design.

Q. Visually, the nose of the F312 appears to be the most obvious difference to the outgoing model. What in your opinion are the key changes?

Jos Claes: "Well, the nose is very different. It is a much higher monocoque. We finally stopped having the dampers and springs on top of the monocoque and put them inside, and that has made that whole section lower.

"At the top you are limited by the eye height of the driver, and the lower part you are limited by the template of the regulations. We cannot go much higher than this underneath. I think that the proportions of the front and rear wings that we have arrived at are actually much nicer than we have on today's Formula 1 cars. I think it's a particularly nice looking car."

Q. How does moving the dampers inside change things practically? Is it a bit more difficult to work on?

Claes: "The practical things for the mechanics are a bit more difficult because they have to get their hands through smaller holes - because of the monocoque. There was no way around it. We postponed doing it for as long as we could, but it was time to do it."

Q. Do the 2012 regulations have much impact on downforce?

Claes: "There are a lot of volume boxes that you cannot have bodywork in any more. The area that is full of barge boards on the current car is affected. All of those are now off, it is not allowed any more. In the area on the sidepod you have a minimum radius of 75mm where you cannot put any little flaps or wings. All of that is finished, so the result is a clean shaped car.

"Just adapting the old car to the new regulations made us lose a lot of downforce, something like 16%-17%, so we had to work a lot to recover as much as possible. It is a completely different car."

Q. How else have the FIA regulations changed?

Claes: "We addressed safety, which has gone up to an F1 level. On the cockpit side penetration protection there are now 16 layer panels of Zylon, just as F1 monocoques have. There are also a few more minor safety things, but it is a big step forward."

Q. What sort of timeframe are you working on to produce the car?

Claes: "We won't deliver the new cars to customers until December, but we decided to give it a bit of a boost. We thought the Masters was a good place to create a bit of interest among drivers and team so we decided to launch. At the moment we're not ready to give out a lot of information and details out about the car. The main philosophy is we have a duty to build the fastest car possible within the regulations."

Q. This year is not the biggest grid that the Masters has enjoyed, have you had much reaction from teams pushing for a new car?

Claes: "I think most teams are saying they want a new car. The market for an old Formula Renault 2.0 car is maybe restricted, and maybe the price is down because Tatuus built 700, but F3 cars have a good value.

"If we have to run this old car another year teams will have a rebuild bill this winter between Euros 20 and 25 000. That is almost exactly the depreciation of the new car, so of course teams say they prefer a new car, because then they can attract people because they have something new."

Q. There are some rumours going around that the new GP3 will be a big step forward...

Claes: "That's not right because we haven't even started talking about a new GP3 car. These things are coming from very different origins. The F3 is an FIA-controlled series and GP3 is a Bruno Michel show. They asked us to build a GP3 car and, as building cars is what we do, we do what our customers ask."

Q. Will the F312 be tested in-house?

Claes: "We will not test this car ourselves. We will deliver the car and then usually I will go to one or two tests, but we are confident that we will deliver a car that works.

"The rear end is similar but slightly different [to the current car], as we have worked a lot on different installations. The front is completely different as it a very high monocoque. We now have to compromise a bit with the suspension, as the suspension follows what the aerodynamics tells us to do.

Q. Is it the same team of people who worked on the last F3 car, the F308?

Claes: "Yes, it is the same people who did the last car - both in the windtunnel and mechanically. They were free from the Formula 1 complications that we had not so long ago so they could get back on our lovely baby here."

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New Dallara F312 is set to feature major changes from predecessor

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