FIA to rule on legality of Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers (Poll)

Williams' diffuser design is among those under protest

Williams' diffuser design is among those under protest

The FIA International Court of Appeal will today finally rule on whether the ‘double decker’ diffusers used by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams are legal.

Should the Brawn / Toyota/ Williams diffusers be banned?

  • Yes (23%)
  • No (69%)
  • Don't know (5%)
  • Don't care (3%)

Total Voters: 2,847

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The technical decision

Back in January John Beamer described the new diffuser regulations as ‘opaque’ and it seems the result of that lack of clarity has been a protest against three teams who many of the other believe have interpreted the rules incorrectly.

Last week John offered this view on the likely outcome of the technical side to the diffuser debate:

(1) The rules don?t prevent double-decking as the diffuser is defined in the articles labelled ??bodywork facing the ground? – the upper tier does not face the ground.

(2) The reference plan and step are not treated as a single continuous surface so holes can be carved in the step transition to feed more air to the diffuser.

(3) A longer, higher central section that integrates with the rear crash structure is allowed – Toyota exploits this (think of this as a narrower version of the central section allowed last year).

The prevailing view in the paddock is that the FIA will not outlaw the double-diffuser, at least not this season. Expect 75% of teams to be running them when the F1 circus lands in Europe.

See the links below for more on the technical side of the discussion. But as ever in F1 the implications of today’s decision could go far beyond the technical…

The political decision

Anyone who remembers the Ferrari barge board controversy of 1999 knows that technical accuracy means little next to what the governing body thinks is in the best interest of the sport. On that occasion, allowing the championship battle to continue into the final race of the season was viewed as being more important than punishing a team whose interpretation of the rules was, at best, questionable.

The situation is complicated in that the FIA originally said the diffuser designs were legal. When the cars were scrutineered at Melbourne they were passed as legal, and now several teams have protested against that decision.

Here’s some of the poits of view on the debate the FIA may take into consideration:

  • “Brawn GP have benefitted from the diffusers more than anyone, and as they represent the FIA’s vision of future, inexpensive F1 teams, they will get an easy time from the stewards.” I’m not really convinced by this argument as Toyota – F1′s most profligate team in recent years – have the same technology.
  • “Because of the diffusers, F1 cars in 2009 are faster than the FIA intends them to be, so they will ban them.” I think this argument has some merit but the way Flavio Briatore put it forward smacked of sour grapes.
  • “The designers have gone against past precedent in their interpretation of the rules.” This was a view put forward by Ferrari’s Rory Byrne, but what confuses me is that if it was this simple, I don’t see why the FIA wouldn’t have passed the diffusers as legal in the first place (of course, this link of thinking can be used against many other arguments). Besides which, recent rulings have shown past precedent carries very little weight in FIA appeal hearings.
  • “The FIA will not re-distribute points from past races because it would further tarnish the sport’s reputation.” If they have an ounce of sense, they’ll leave the results of the first two races alone.

My instincts tell me the diffusers will be passed as legal.

Although technical reasons will be put forward by the FIA as the justification for their legality, this will be a decision taken more out of political pragmatism.

F1 has these ‘interpretation of the technical rules’ argument from time to time, as Williams’ counter-protest against certain teams’ side pod wings made clear. The wiggle room in the regulations seems so great we might as well toss a coin instead of going to the time and expense of having a hearing.

In short, the FIA can pick whichever decisions suits them best and then find a technical means of supporting it.

The FIA has recently proposed F1 has two sets of technical regulations next year in order to make its budget caps proposal work. It can’t very well do that and then hold hearings where it contradicts previous decisions made by itself and its stewards, which undermine the results of the first two races of the championship. It has to demonstrate its competence.

Do you think the diffuser appeal will succeed or fail? Vote above and leave a comment below.

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149 comments on FIA to rule on legality of Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers (Poll)

  1. Erico said on 14th April 2009, 9:33

    Seems to me that everybody (teams) are allowed to do as they like, only Mclaren and Hamilton are must follow the so called RULES, of cause existing and non existing ones, no wonder Mclaren didn’t take part in this altogether.

  2. S Hughes said on 14th April 2009, 9:48

    We all know that the Brawn diffuser won’t be banned, just as we all know that McLaren and Lewis will be hauled over the coals on 29/4/09 and given a draconian and totally out of proportion punishment. Why do we know this? Because the FiA favours Ferrari and Brawn/Button, and is prejudiced against McLaren/Lewis. Button is already strutting around saying he knows that the diffuser won’t be banned. Just like when Charlie Whiting took an absolute age to call out the safety car after Nakajima’s accident in Melbourne, and did so as soon as the Brawn cars pitted. F1 is not just about fast cars and great driving. It is about corruption, biased stewards and an incredibly biased governing body. “Justice” won’t be done, because “justice” doesn’t exist in F1.

    • gabal said on 14th April 2009, 10:29

      I don’t think FIA is pro-Ferrari – they slapped them on the wrist in the past as well. They are allways trying the championship to be determined as late as possible as it increases viewing figures. They changed points system to make it more difficult for Schumacher to walk away with championship too early.

    • Dougie said on 14th April 2009, 10:56

      OMG!! First the FIA favours Ferrari, now it favours Brawn as well!! It seems like the favour all teams except your beloved McLaren.

      If I had to be sceptical about this all… I would say that at some point in the past, McLaren have been trying to stitch up Mosley or in some other way have pissed him off! so now there is a political battle between Ron & Max… and this is the result.

      Personally, I don’t think so, Spy-gate they got caught red handed (and tried to play the upper-management innocent line)… here, the evidence is very much against them (and again the try to play the upper-management innocent line)… so I can only presume that Ron, Martin & Norbert are like the three monkeys (deaf, dumb & blind)… well dumb certainly for all three! …they know full well what is going on on all counts.

      I used to rate and like McLaren very much… now I say… throw the ****** book at them!!… and Lewis, get out of there while you still have some dignity!

  3. KingHamilton said on 14th April 2009, 9:49

    lets look at the facts:

    1. Stewards ruled them to be legal
    2. They are perfectly within the wording of the rules
    3. Brawn himself said that there was a little loophole in the rules nearly a year ago, but nobody listened. until now

    So to me that makes the diffusers perfectly legal. however, the pathetic FIA will probably have other ideas………

    • Chris Y said on 14th April 2009, 10:03

      I don’t think “nobody listened”… If I recall correctly they thought it was illegal, not that they didn’t care.

  4. Striay said on 14th April 2009, 9:51

    … WITH THE VERDICT TO BE ISSUED TOMORROW AFTERNOON… (according to autosport)

  5. Giuseppe said on 14th April 2009, 9:54

    I voted Yes.

    My reasoning is that although they are probably legal they contradict what teams have been trying to achieve. Reduce wake and improve overtaking.

    In the end, if they are deemed legal it is the fans like us who will suffer

    • Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 14th April 2009, 11:59

      If the rules have been drawn up in a cockeyed way, how is that Brawns fault…?

    • David (Brazil) said on 15th April 2009, 0:10

      I agree Giuseppe. I think just about everyone is missing the boat on this issue. Okay, so the first two races have been enthralling because the usual suspects are nowhere near the front of the grid.

      But let’s think this through. If the diffusers are declared legal, within a shortish time span the other teams will develop and use their own, quickly reducing the advantage held by Brawn and co. So my question is, are diffusers for everyone going to be good for racing? Since they improve aerodynamics and probably make overtaking more difficult, the answer has to be no.

      Personally I’m in favour of declaring them illegal but allowing Brawn to keep the points. I suspect the non-KERS cars are more aerodynamic anyhow, so we would still see a performance difference and some serious competition.

      The fact is FIA is deliberately skewing the rules to allow more competition – pretending it will enforce KERS, then allowing teams off the hook, telling Renault diffusers are probably illegal, then allowing Brawn etc. to go ahead. It’s short-termism. For example, if Mercedes decide they’ve basically had enough of FIA’s p*ssing around, will them leaving be good for the sport?

    • Toby Bushby said on 15th April 2009, 1:55

      The hearing should have the right kinds of evidence presented to give the right verdict. If we were to actually trust any decision given by the FIA (hypothetically, of course), it must be proven to the court that having additional elements around the diffuser does in fact create more wake that actually makes it harder to follow a car. The overtaking doesn’t come into it. That is what having a faster car means – it’s harder to overtake. As soon as this evidence is presented, then the FIA can judge whether the parts are illegal.

  6. @ Giuseppe

    totally agree with you

  7. Oliver said on 14th April 2009, 10:22

    The rules should make it possible to reduce turbulence in a car’s wake, but it is not a teams responsibility to make their cars overtake friendly.

  8. Timbo said on 14th April 2009, 10:23

    Contrary to popular opinion, I think the diffusers will be declared illegal – but with the results from the first two races to stand. I have no rational basis for my opinion, other than that the FIA have a habit of doing the opposite of what almost everyone thinks is reasonable and correct!

  9. I guess it is just a matter of understanding and interpreting the rules correctly. There might be loop holes in it that not all designers saw and took advantage of it. Ross Brawn did exactly what that loop hole is and gain every advantage from it. Now, is it illegal to be wiser and smarter than everybody? if it is, then ban those three teams.

  10. Bigbadderboom said on 14th April 2009, 10:26

    @Giuseppe “If they are deemed legal its the fans who suffer”
    Not sure how the fans suffer, there has still been vast improvements in reducing wake due to the front wing rule changes. And I think the first 2 races has shown better overtaking and closer racing action.
    If deemed Illegal then its the sport as a whole that suffers, F1 looses any credibility it has left. If the stewards decision is overturned and the diffusers declared illegal, then I fear it would be more to do with the protests from ferra

  11. Xibi said on 14th April 2009, 10:39

    I have a simply question to ask.

    What is the difference between the wake a car with a Double Decker diffuser leaves behind it when compared to a ‘normal’ diffuser?

    If the wake is worse, they should be banned in my opinion. Though the FIA must have clarified this about late February for sure (and this is a lot of time I’m giving them). Lately, the FIA has been acting very strangely as well on other circumstances, such as the ‘lie-gate’ saga. But I won’t go off-topic.

    • Dougie said on 14th April 2009, 10:51

      My understanding was that the double/triple deck diffusers had a cleaner airflow exiting them, but I am no engineer/designer and know nothing about it really… I just read that somewhere, or read something and understood/misunderstood it as that.

      If I understood right, then thoeretically that would make overtaking easier with the “controversial” diffuser design.

  12. Dougie said on 14th April 2009, 11:06

    Having read this…

    http://www.f1technical.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=103084&f=6

    …I’m wondering if maybe it would be better for the sport to ban them after all. Not officially declaring them illegal, but banning in the interests of the sport and therefore keep the results of the first two races.

  13. I think the FIA will leave the results of the first 2 races alone no matter what they decide about the diffusers.

    As the FIA has shown before decisions of this sort are often influenced by politics, rather than what is the correct interpretation of the rules, for example banning new technology because it gave someone a performance advantage not because it was against the rules. For this reason I think it is more likely the diffusers are deemed legal because the teams who currently have them are teams that have not been successful recently and also other teams like the Red Bull are not that far behind at the moment in terms of pace. If the only teams with the diffuser were McLaren and Ferrari and especially if just one of those two had the diffuser, I think there would be a higher chance of them being banned as those are the teams who have dominated F1 in recent history.

    If I had to predict the outcome it would be that they will be ruled legal for this season but the FIA will probably redo the regulations for next year to ban them. Or if they go ahead with the stupid idea of two sets of regulations for different budgets, they will allow it for teams who choose the budget cap but not for those with limited budgets.

    Does anyone know why McLaren decided to join in the protests late? Does it make any difference how many teams protest it?

    I have a question for the technically minded out there, I have seem some people claim on message boards that the ‘double decker’ diffusers make it harder for cars to follow due to increased turbulence, and also some people claim that it actually cleans up the airflow making it easier to follow the car in front. Which view is the correct one?

  14. KingHamilton said on 14th April 2009, 12:27

    does anyone know at what time the case is to be heard?

    Im very anxious to find out the verdict………..

  15. Chua said on 14th April 2009, 12:52

    KingHamilton – Verdict won’t be out until tomorrow afternoon.

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