F1 Feature - Max Yamabiko: Why Haas is right to give Dallara another F1 chance
It may be Haas' name above the door, but when its much anticipated F1 effort hits the track for the first time in just three weeks' time, it many ways it will be constructor Dallara that will have its reputation on the line...
The Italian company's enviable reputation as a race car constructor is known across the motorsport community. Its designs have dominated most open-wheel classes around the world, and go as far as total exclusiveness for the rest, being the control force in Indycar, Indy Lights, Super Formula, GP2, GP3 and Formula V8 3.5. Even in sportscar racing its chassis built in conjunction with Audi Sport (R8, R10 and R15) yielded all but one Le Mans win between 2000 and 2010.
And yet, as omnipresent as Dallara seems to be in motorsport, one major omission remains from its vast racing CV – a successful chassis to compete at the highest level of motorsport: F1.
Gian Paulo Dallara graduated from the Politecnico Milano with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1960 and immediately joined Ferrari to work in Formula 1. He contributed to the now legendary Tipo 156 Sharknose before moving to Maserati and later Lamborghini. By the end of the 1970's he found himself designing F1 cars for Frank Williams - the De Tomaso 505 – but the car was never a success, failing to ever be a classified finisher in a Grand Prix.
Soon after, Dallara founded his eponymous company and started to build it up, but while it is a relative collusous in motorsport terms, a successful crack at F1 has eluded it over the last 25 years.
So how can this be? Well, though the reasons come out of the book of 'typical motorsport excuses' a combination of bad luck, lack of funding and inopportune timing have certainly played their part.
Its first proper foray into F1 came in 1988 as part of a collaboration with BMS Scuderia Italia, and – as a maiden effort - the Italian team enjoyed a taste of success, reaching the podium twice over five years of F1 competition. However, after the team entered into a deal with Ferrari for an engine deal in 1992, friction developed between the teams' two Italian suppliers and Dallara was dropped in favour of Lola for 1993 in what would turn out to be an erroneous move, with BMS Scuderia Italia quitting F1 at the end of 1993.
Dallara didn't plot a return to F1 until 1999 when it developed the Harvey Poselthwaite designed Honda RA099 for the Japanese firm's intended return. Those in the know described it as a seriously quick machine with a lot of potential, but internal politics at Tochigi saw it mothballed as Honda stalled on its plans to re-enter F1 (quite what happened varies depending on if you ask a Japanese person or an English person). The 1999 car is now a rarely seen museum piece, but had this car been raced or developed into a proper 2000 season car it would likely have out-performed the BAR which inherited the Dallara's Honda RA000E engines.
Dallara had another near miss with F1 in 2006 with the Midland F1 team, but the Gary Anderson-designed machine never saw the light of day after the ex-Jordan team went with the James Key designed M16 instead for the coming season. Little is known about this design.
Then came 2010 and the arrival of the new 'cost capped' F1 teams. Entering Formula 1 in the belief there would be a budgetary limit in force, when this was promptly dropped it left the trio of new teams – Virgin Racing, Team Lotus & Campos Meta 1 – facing a massive financial shortfall even before the cars had turned a wheel.
As a result, the stillborn USF1 project never finished its odd Type 1 chassis, and Dallara's client Campos Meta 1 opted out of its entry having foreseen the likely struggles. Despite the set-backs, Dallara had been working flat out on its F110 car build.
Dallara got the chassis built and the car was even the first 2010 design to be fully homologated. However before Christmas the money dried up and Dallara closed up the F1 workshop, only for it to be unexpectedly resurrected as the Hispania Racing Team at a very eleventh hour moment.
By this time though, the car had missed all of the pre-season F1 tests. The car had been ready, but Dallara hadn't expected it to get its moment on track
“We never really finished it, when the money stopped we got the car to the point of being ready to do a shakedown but it was never finished. There was a big performance upgrade for it for Melbourne but we never got paid so it didn't get made” Luca Pignacca of Dallara told me over a coffee recently. “The F110 was not a bad car, it just was not a finished car and the team then spent nothing on it.”
Once HRT took the completed cars, Dallara had little involvement beyond supplying an upgraded fuel cell when the original was found to leak, and new wing mirrors after a rule change. Dallara was owed money and did not seem keen on working with Colin Kolles.
With little investment incoming, the F110 ran at Monaco and Monza with the same wing angles and aerodynamic package and Dallara engineers who had worked on the car were livid when it proved slower than the GP2 car it had also developed.
Criticism of the car by Manfredi Ravetto and the Kolles organisation was unfair - Dallara never had the chance to finish the car, they were never paid and the car was never properly developed. Remarkably, despite the criticism by the Kolles team, the F110 still formed the basis of its 2011 and 2012 HRT designs.
Four years on and the Dallara name returns to F1 as part of the Haas set up. Past form may prompt many to qustion Haas' wisdom, but Dallara knows it has a point to prove. Hell hath no fury than a constructor scorned…
There is also good reason to believe Haas has the means to make its team a success and seems to recognise Dallara's requirements to bring the car up to speed.
Along with a decent budget and a proper lead in time, Gene Haas has brought in some of his own people to Dallara to assist the project and Ferrari has supplied much of the rest of the car. After all, the aerodynamic development between the 2016 Haas and 2016 Ferrari was so entwined that Mercedes complained about it (even if its synonym for 'complaint' was 'clarification'). In reality the only major difference between the 2016 Haas and the 2016 Ferrari is the chassis… and that is the Dallara bit.
No more of those 'typical motorsport excuses' then…
Max Yamabiko will bring you a closer look at the technical side of F1 and motorsport in 2016, from the latest developments and solutions employed to keep you ahead of the game
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