For most drivers, getting a relatively last minute one-off drive for a series as competitive as the European F3 Championship might be daunting; however 18-year-old Dubai racer Ed Jones sees it all as a learning experience.
Stepping into the spare seat with Fortec at Hockenheim this weekend, Jones is phlegmatic about the situation. Although he has raced in the European F3 Open Series, he has found subtle differences with his Fortec entry that has forced him to alter his approach.
Speaking to Jones following free practice, he revealed that, “The biggest difference is the handling […] it needs a slightly different driving style, so it is learning to adapt quickly with practice and try to move it on to qualifying.”
A veteran of Formula Renault 2-litres, Jones is set to move to Formula 3 full-time in 2013 with a drive in the European F3 Open with West-Tec; however he admits that the European championship has its differences. According to Jones, “The [Mercedes] engine doesn’t feel that different to the Honda engine that I usually use in the European Open. I thought [the car] might be quite similar, but because there is so much extra downforce in this car and the tyres are different.”
Whereas Dunlop are the control tyre supplier for the European Open, the main European Championship is supplied by South Korean tyre company Hankook; however the subtle differences of the compounds initially caught Jones by surprise. “These tyres, when they’re new, have a five-lap period where they are at their best, whereas the Dunlop’s it is a very short period – maybe one or two laps – where there is a big peak, which is quite different.”
Such differences, which may seem minor on the outside, meant realigning some of Jones’ practiced habits. He continues, “It is not as easy to lock up [with Hankook’s]. You can go really hard on the brakes and come off the brakes quite early on in the corner – on other tyres, I’ve always used the brakes to try to get the front end turned in, but that doesn’t actually work [here].
“It was quite confusing, because I kept complaining of understeer and I was using more and more brake, but it was actually making it worse, so [the engineers] said, ‘try stop using the brake and see what it does’ and I went better. In the past, I have always thought that makes it worse, so I’m just getting used to that.”
With 80 minutes of practice under his belt, Jones knew qualifying high up the order would be a difficult prospect. Unfortunately, a failing engine hampered his Q1 efforts, before sidelining him altogether for Q2, leaving the UAE-national near the rear of the order.
“I think it was all right for a first run – there’s a lot of time to find. Straight away, the first time in the car, you learn a lot. You learn to think about what you are doing and the second time you get in, it’s a lot easier, you can get straight on it straight away.”
The opening race of the third round of the European Formula 3 Championship takes place at 10am (UK) today and will be streamed live from fiaf3europe.com and is being broadcast live by Motors TV.