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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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 (2%)

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)”

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  1. in my opinion they are illegal. hte ones who made rules made them in order to slow down the cars. So the new diffusers are in breach with what rulemaker wanted to achieve.

    1. Remember the previous posted about the 2009 car faster than 2008 cars but not coming from trio diffusers

  2. I’ll be honest and say that I’d like to see the diffusers banned, even though i think the FIA will rule them legal. For purely selfish reasons, I’ll admit, but I’m not a fan of any of the Brawn, Williams or Toyota drivers. I think the closeness of the competition this year would be fantastic if they were closer to Red Bull, BMW, etc. That’s what I want to see.

    1. Actually, I think you’d find what would happen if the appeal is upheld is that red bull will storm out in front. bmw will steal a couple of victories. ferrari and brawn will start challenging again soon, then the ex-diffusers and the rest of the teams will be nowhere. so in reality i think the competitiveness of the field would probably be worse if the diffusers are banned.

  3. Renault’s representative Andrew Ford said the sport’s governing body had already concluded the design was illegal, and that was the reason why the French team decided not to use it.

    “It is not that Renault missed the boat, as Brawn have pointed out, it is because the FIA said it was illegal. It was at that point the diffuser was abandoned,” said Ford.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      14th April 2009, 17:19

      so why were they passed as ok in Aus & Malaysia?

  4. For people still confused (I was) I found some very useful illustration of

    McLaren diffuser:

    Brawn diffuser:

    Toyota diffuser:

    Toyota, Williams and Brawn all interpret the rules in different ways from each other as well as from the rest of the field. Will be interesting as I think there is a third possibility that some are legal and others not – for instance, Toyota may be asked to remove their splitter at the central base of the diffuser, or Brawn their holes either side of the centre.

  5. I’ll probably be wrong :) but I’ve got a feeling that DDDs will be outlawed from Barcalona onwards, with Brawn & co able to keep their points thus far and for China.

  6. Trio diffusers will declared legal and F1 fans will happy to see the 2009 race not nominating by Ferrari and McLaren, We loved to see other teams on the podium.

  7. I am almost sure they will be declared legal, because otherwise the FiA will have to admit they made a mistake, and Max and his cronies are infallable. One thing that I find interseting is that the RB5 seems to be right in the mix with the diffuser cars (all credits to Newey the genius), which I think can be attributed to its rear end design. The tail of the car is so narrow and low, almost coming to a point. It seems (from a layman’s perspective) that that allows the car to make MUCH better use of its ‘standard’ diffuser. I predict that if the diffusers are declared legal, and if Newey is able to adapt the RB5 to take advantage of this, that the RB5 will be on even ground with the Brawn, or even faster. What do you guys think? Who, of the non-diffuser teams, stands to gain the most from a double diffuser?

  8. Just when I think I can bring myself to be a fan of Ferrari (well, Kimi at least) they disappoint yet again!

    Ferrari’s lawyer has argued that if the diffusers are ruled legal than all the “have nots” will have to spend “considerable” amounts to catch up and this contravenes Max’s “save money” dictum.

    But it would be okay for Williams, Brawn and Toyota to spend “considerable” amounts to rid themselves of the diffusers? Damned hypocrites just can’t face the reality of the mistakes they all made.

    I think it would be ironic if the diffusers are dropped and the BrawnGP car is still faster than most. What then, declare Ross’s brain illegal and ban him from the sport???

  9. The Diffs will be declared illegal, and some fudge will be announced. The real (but un-announced) reason they will be decalred illegal, is because Brawn and the others are making the KERS cars look….silly….lol.

    Can’t have that now, it goes against the masters plan. Or is that master plan?

  10. From a cost perspective, either decision will cost the same for manufacturers to revamp the front aero to fit the new (single or double) diffuser. Though there are fewer cars that need to modify things if the DDDs are banned. Let’s ignore that for now.

    If the DD diffusers are copied effectively across all cars, overtaking may be back to pre-2008 levels. The OWG had made a specific recommendation to halve the downforce from the diffuser. The DD diffusers don’t live up to that. So we’re back to higher aerodynamic sensitivity and drivers finding it difficult to follow closely.

    If the DD diffusers are banned, the cars will be inline with what the OWG had in mind and what was deemed best for the fans and the sport.

    The ban may start from Bahrain or even Spain – it needn’t start from the next race itself.

  11. I for one am a huge Ferrari fan. So this may strike you as a surprise, but i voted “NO”. Diffuser 3s should be left as it is, with changes if deemed necessary, being applied from next year onwards.

    I really wish Button all the success he’s garnering now, since he’s worked hard for the same. He has matured quite a lot since his team Williams days. He’s been conducting himself well, and i do not remember him rubbing anyone in the trade the wrong way anytime recently.

    For those who say that it is only McLaren and Hamilton who have to follow rules and sorts, well tough luck. They suffer from foot, make that feet in mouth syndrome which isn’t something that you or i could wish away.

    Why would you lie when you are a multimillionaire world champion? One may understand your tendency to lie if you are a nobody. However, if and when you lie to get ahead, you must be prepared for consequences when you get caught. No, am not saying this cos am a racist. I’m a brown man from india, so go figure that. Nobody’s a kid in F1, who will be told to behave everytime they try to push their luck. Sometimes they’ll be tested and sometimes they’ll end up being busted for it.

    1. We’re talking about diffusers… please stay on topic.

  12. Guys, The hearing must have been finished by now.
    Any update on that?

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      14th April 2009, 19:11

      it’s been mentioned already, but they’re not expecting to release the verdict until tomorrow afternoon. However, this is the FIA we’re talking about, so expect something in August….

  13. Christianedward
    14th April 2009, 19:11

    I think the D-diffusers will be seen as legal because it gives some new teams a chance but I think its a shame for Red Bull as they would have been near the top (with BMW) without the D-diffuser issue and by the sound of it will be badly effected by having to redesign. Of course the teams best able to redesign will be the big spenders Ferrari and they’ll soon catch up with the minnows Brawn and Williams, so can Toyota pick up the ball and run with it before Ferrari catchup? Probably not cause Trulli and Glock just aren’t good enough, shame. Massa has no points but is still the favourite for me.

  14. The diffusers should be left alone as they are for this season, as the three teams in question have apparently found and used a loophole to their advantage. For next season, however, the rules should be made clearer on the topic.

  15. @kurtosis

    Most other sports have this concept, and these sports are all equally competitive, trying to find the edge, and involve high dollar figures at stake. Why should F1 be any different?

    I was initially drawn to F1 because of the competition between engineers, not drivers. For me, Newey is more of a star then Vettel (but he’s not bad! :) . I see no other series that has the development abilities that F1 has and don’t like the comparisons to other sports, because I don’t want F1 to become like them. Money is an issue, sure, but budget caps make more sense in F1 to me.

    I can understand the whole “spirit of the rules” as I think the first person I read saying this was Briatore, someone who has two world championships under his belt because of the “tuned mass damper”, which was banned halfway though 2006, and since then their team has struggled. So I understand he is mad and wants consistency, but on the other hand, every time new rules are imposed to slow down the cars, they are only slow for a short time and then the engineers figure out how to deal with it.. it happened with grooved tires, everyone was able to figure out how to deal with it and so everyone went faster, and no one complained. With the grooved tires, everyone ignored the spirit of the rules, but it was no big deal because everyone was able to find a good solution quickly.

    It seems that when the spirit of the rules is broken by only a few, because they are the only ones that could figure out how to make it work, then the spirit of the rules card is played by the have nots.

    Actually, now that I re-read that “tuned mass damper” story
    I am thinking the DD’s will be banned…. can I change my vote?!?! :)

  16. The Ferrari counsel also did not hold back on criticising the FIA, noting the inconsistency of having told some teams the diffuser concept is illegal, and then green-lighting the similar solutions of other teams.

    “The position of the FIA is totally baffling. We urge you to save the FIA from itself,” he told the panel.

    It appears not only readers here think the FIA have gone nuts.

    1. Where’s that quote from Oliver?

  17. @Mussolini’s Pet Cat…thanks.

    ps does anyone remember just following the racing????

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      15th April 2009, 0:43

      racing? we dont have time for racing!!!! politics are far more interesting……. ;)

  18. gospeedracer
    14th April 2009, 20:54

    So what affect has the “illegal” diffusers had on minimizing the turbulence behind the cars and therefore the ability for a following car to get close and eventually pass? Which was one of the goals of the new regs. Is the air behind the “illegal” cars more dirty than the “legal” cars?

  19. overtaking may be back to pre-2008 levels.

    But surely that is just speculation at this time, in as much as none of the DDD cars can be caught and passed anyway :) It’s difficult in my mind to condemn a car design based on a presumption as opposed to factual info.

    The case should be decided on the merits of the wording of the design parameters, nothing more, nothing less. If they goofed and left a loophole fix it next year and let those who missed the boat catch up or wait until next year.

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