Williams makes point with protest

Williams' protest was a reaction to the diffuser appeal

Williams' protest was a reaction to the diffuser appeal

Williams has withdrawn a protest against Ferrari and Red Bull Racing “in the interests of the sport”.

It had protested that the pod wings on the front of the F60 and RB5 contravened the rules. After cancelling the protest it issued a statement saying (emphasis added):

The AT&T Williams team confirmed that following today?s qualifying session, it submitted protests against two competitor teams under the 2009 Technical Regulations.

After further detailed consideration, Williams has withdrawn both protests in the interests of
the sport.

Williams recognises the possibility that in this area there could be more than one interpretation of the rules and therefore does not feel it appropriate to continue with the protests.

Williams, along with Toyota and Brawn GP, are subject to an appeal brought by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault about the legality of its diffusers.

It looks as though Williams’ protest was the team’s way of making a point: that its diffusers are no less legal than Ferrari or Red Bull’s pod wings.

I have every sympathy with Williams’ argument. There are always going to be disputes about designs that stick to the letter of the rules but contravene the ‘spirit’ of the regulations, whatever that is.

But perhaps not everyone agrees with how they made their point. Autosport’s Jonathan Noble noted in his news story (emphasis added):

Despite hours of deliberation by the Australian Grand Prix race stewards following Williams’ complaints, and media and other officials being forced to remain at work in the paddock until the matter was resolved, the Grove-based outfit chose to call a halt to its complaints shortly before midnight.

Still, I hope the diffuser appeal gets thrown out. Or, better yet, the three teams see sense and withdraw the diffuser protest. But seeing what Renault’s Flavio Briatore has to say about it, it seems unlikely:

The interpretation of the regulations was very clear in the past – the cars need less downforce for safety reasons. Correct? Every time we build a new car it was to be two to three seconds slower than the previous car. Correct? That was always the intention of the [FIA] What happened here is that the three teams are going pretty clearly in the direction of downforce. And as we all knew that we will run on slick tyres from ’09 on, it was the intention of FIA president Max Mosley and the Federation to impose new rules to reduce downforce.

He says that now, but you can be sure if the FIA rules the diffusers legal at the appeal meeting on April 14th, Renault will have one on their R29 as soon as they possibly can.

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32 comments on Williams makes point with protest

  1. Mahir C said on 28th March 2009, 18:15

    What load of rubbish from Briatore. If someone then designed a car that produce more downforce than last year, it should be banned due to “spirit” of the rules.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th March 2009, 18:30

      They’ve already let Renault have free development of their engines over the winter, how much help from the FIA do they need?

    • F1Yankee said on 28th March 2009, 20:35

      i would have thought they learned their lesson, after getting burned by the spirit of the rules for 2 years now.

  2. ceedas said on 28th March 2009, 18:42

    The teams agreed to allow Renault to develop the engine, so it wasn’t so much the FIA helping them.

    Flav’s argument doesn’t really hold up, but the three teams that protested haven’t actually done anything wrong, and although I expect the protest to fail, I don’t blame them for trying. I think Williams comes out of this quite badly though if I’m honest.

  3. Flavio is confusing “interpretation” with “intention”.

    The intention (or spirit) of the new rules was to reduce downforce and make it easier for one car to follow another closely. But you can’t write that into a set of rules because they have to be much more specific. If the Brawn meets all of the requirements of the rules then it’s legal, regardless of how clever it has managed to be in getting around the intention of the rules.

    I think Williams point is a valid one, even if they could have found a better way of highlighting it.

    • MacademiaNut said on 29th March 2009, 4:26

      It is ridiculous of Flavio to say that they wanted slower cars. Why would you force yourself to have slower cars?

      I think the right way to look at is add additional constraints and challenge the teams to race as fast as they can within those constraints. Given more constraints, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the car must be slower than last year’s.

      If what Flavio were to say is true, then why give the teams KERS? Doesn’t that allow the teams to go faster than if KERS was not there?

  4. Daniel said on 28th March 2009, 19:00

    Interpretation is the main problem anyone needs to deal with when faced by rules of any kind…

    The diffusers issue would be a good case to study in any Law School, mostly because everyone agrees that, whatever is the final decision, FIA will judge it politically.

    So, I agree that Williams was very clever to protest against those who protested their car and, shortly afterwards, withdraw, giving a clear “message”.

  5. Noel said on 28th March 2009, 19:17

    Williams have been smart here. They’ve sent a clear signal to the sport that they’re happy to play the game both on and off the track, and I think their actions deserve respect.

  6. These cars should be checked and deemed legal or illegal before 1st Practice on a Friday….I thought this was the process, the decisions taken should be solid, either a yes or no, and it should be dragged on throughout the weekend giving the sport soo much bad press isnt good for the sport.
    BTW…am loving the BBC coverage, Jordan and Coulthard are like 2 old women bickering, the coverage has been spot on thus far…Well done BBC!

  7. Jayson said on 28th March 2009, 19:25

    What I find interesting is that the diffuser thing has been know for some time now and none of the protesting teams have done their plan B and copied it.

    Clearly it’s just not that easy. So in that sense it is understandable that they would like the diffuser teams to change their design. Cause whoever need to change their design is going to lose performance in short term.

  8. Allie500 said on 28th March 2009, 19:30

    He says that now, but you can be sure if the FIA rules the diffusers legal at the appeal meeting on April 14th, Renault will have one on their R29 as soon as they possibly can.

    Well hasn’t this whole diffuser fuss been going on for about a month now and Mosley refused to give judgment on it in an effort to break FOTAs solidarity?

    If that’s the case, I would think that the teams that don’t have the clever diffusers on already, would have built some prototype diffusers back at their respective headquarters and wind-tunnels weeks ago. At least as an insurance policy, in case they were indeed ruled legal.

    And if not weeks ago, they probably started in earnest within the past day or so when the performance disparity became apparent.

  9. never,ever,ever listen to flavio!

    he loves a bit of downforce himself
    look at his nose…

  10. Robert McKay said on 28th March 2009, 20:12

    It’s quite a neat way of making the point, what Williams have done. I suspect RBR/Ferrari are going to bluster something along the lines of “that’s different” if questioned, but is it?

    There’s a reason why teams run to the letter of the law and not the “intention” or “spirit” – because “intention” and “spirit” are almost by definition entirely subjective.

    Ironically enough, you’d have thought Flavio would understand that more than most after mass-damper-gate.

  11. gabal said on 28th March 2009, 20:31

    Flavio was most vocal KERS critic and in the end Renault was the first team to run it… He doesn’t understand technical side of F1 – that is a well known fact – but that doesn’t stop him from acting he knows all about it.

  12. …only that it’ll be better if he stops going public and instead asks his engineers to read the rules from more angles.

  13. Avto said on 28th March 2009, 21:21

    I don’t get it, sure I don’t know as much about F1 as some of you guys, but mass damper by Renault was deemed legal by stewards at the German GP the same way the diffusers but later FIA ruled that it was infringement of Article 3.15 of the F1 regulations. Or the flexi-wings the Ferrari ones they would pass the inspection and were within the regulations sort of, but they were banned, I mean even Brabham BT46 was legal at first. All of this tech solutions were declared illegal cuz’ they made the rest of the field really slow. So. why is BrawnGP diffuser special?

  14. ceedas said on 28th March 2009, 21:25

    Because Renault claimed KERS was a waste of money doesn’t mean they didn’t spend it, they just thought it was a waste.

    Anyway, what was the Williams protest about? If it was the turning vanes, then why not also protest Renault, Toyota, Toro Rosso, etc? Well, one obvious reason not to protest Toyota I suppose!

    It just feels wrong – Williams is a team I would normally put in the class above “if you don’t like our diffuser, we’ll claim your car is illegal too” – they gave loads of people an extra few hours of work for nothing. Either see the thing through or don’t start counter-protesting in the first place.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th March 2009, 22:59

      Because Renault claimed KERS was a waste of money doesn’t mean they didn’t spend it, they just thought it was a waste.

      Ferrari were similarly critical of KERS and they’re running it now too.

  15. Toby Bushby (@toby-bushby) said on 28th March 2009, 22:09

    What in the devil is Flavio talking about now?

    What happened here is that the three teams are going pretty clearly in the direction of downforce.

    Um, derrrrr!

    How does this guy think his team won it’s championships? By interpreting a new set of rules better than every other team in 2005, that’s how. That was the year that the front wings were massively raised to cut downforce by supposedly 50% or something like that (which surely helped to create some overtaking problems), and the tyres had to last a race distance. His team managed to claw more of that lost downforce back than their competitors, and won both championships. That’s how it’s done. No wonder Renault are in the poo for the third season in a row – Flav’s forgotten how the sport works!

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