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. KingHamilton said on 14th April 2009, 12:59

    ugh……..

    I have to wait over 24 hours for a probably unfair verdict? Blimey……….

  2. Greup said on 14th April 2009, 13:16

    I think the case should be decided on whether the Brawn-type diffuser goes against the effort of making it easier for cars to follow close behind. If it dirties the air more it should go.

    Regardless, the results of the first two GP´s should not be affected.

  3. roser said on 14th April 2009, 13:38

    I read that diffusers of that type (and floor design) were not used anymore after Sena’s accident, because of safety isues. If this is that way, it would be a pity that either Buton or Rubens (or someone else) have a bad accident one day.

    • pSynrg said on 14th April 2009, 13:55

      Never heard of a diffuser having anything to do with Senna’s accident. Senna’s actual death was a freak occurrence of a suspension component piercing his helmet. If it hadn’t been for this he would very likely have survived.
      Correct me if I’m wrong however!

    • pSynrg said on 14th April 2009, 14:01

      I meant to say the accident occurred after Senna’s steering column sheared…

    • roser said on 14th April 2009, 15:58

      thanks for your answers. As far as I understood (I’m not engineer!) they say that it can generate turbulence under the car, so that’s why it is not so safe. But I don’t know more details.

  4. pSynrg said on 14th April 2009, 13:53

    It’s not been discussed here yet but the fact that Ross Brawn drew it to everyone’s attention that there was potential for exploitation in the regulations some time ago.
    When the OWG rejected this observation they effectively accepted this condition.

    This ‘Spirit of the Rules’ business is just nonsense. This argument requires strong hard fact objectivity not some airy fairy ideology that is instantly swamped by tens of millions of dollars as soon as you show any sign of competitiveness.

    The double decks should stay and the engineering prowess that developed them should be applauded. This is precisely what drives F1 above all else. Ground breaking engineering solutions within the limits of the regulations. With no need to get spiritual!

    Did for example Ferrari (or Renault or…) have such a design, on paper – ready to test but then turned to each other and said “No, that would give us a advantage – maybe we should consider instead the spirit of the regulations. So what if we look like crap during the season..?”
    Nah, they just didn’t have it and they are simply envious of superior design.

    • Clare msj said on 14th April 2009, 17:36

      I was going to put a nice post on this topic about what I think on this – but this pretty much sums up everything i was going to say perfectly pSynrg.

      ‘Spirit of the rules’ is what amuses me most. That is effectively saying they dont think it breaks any real regulations, just that it isnt fair that some people have it and others dont – if they want to restore the ‘spirit of the rules’ – then they should catch up with the others! Since when has any team given up any legal advantage (and technically it is legal at the minute, unless the appeal proves otherwise) they have just because a couple of other teams dont have it?

      Plus, surely if the appealing teams are already coming up with their own new diffuser designs, does this not undermine thier appeal in the first place. If they truly 100% beleive it is illegal, then they shouldnt be making a new design. By making a new design, they must, at least in part, beleive that the design is legal – else why spend the money on it. If they dont beleive the design is 100% illegal, then their case, in my opinion, is massively dented.

      Goodness me i really hope this appeal gets dismissed and everything continues as it is.

  5. Maciek said on 14th April 2009, 14:17

    Well – as all people with a smidgen of common sense would agree (and that means even you, Ferrari fans) the diffusers are legal, and ought to be ruled as such especially if you take into account the history of the debate so far, beginning with the development work last year.

    Common sense, of course, is what you get under the heading of “Antonym” when you look up FIA in your thesaurus. This should have been ruled on (one way or another, for better or worse, but CLEARLY) as soon as there were grumblings from some teams before the first race.

    I wouldn’t bet on getting what our guts tell us from these hearings. If we do – so much the better, but I’ll brace for more ridiculousness. To paraphrase Murray Walker: “Anyhting can happen at an FIA hearing, and it usually does!”

  6. Choltz said on 14th April 2009, 14:40

    I voted legal because of all of the information I have read up to now, and the key reason being that the FIA has already deemed it legal.

    There have been many regulations mentioned in the articles about the design of the double diffuser, and both sides seem to be able to explain their way around them and in the end, both sound right. So the problem is that the rule(s) needs to be clearly defined, and this is something Brawn, who heads the Technical Working Group, already tried to do (http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/05042009/58/brawn-diffuser-row-avoidable.html)

    So the other teams are now embarrassed, because they didn’t care then, as they were arrogant, and this is what happens.

    I see no reason to ban them. Clarify the rules, maybe don’t allow more steps, maybe ban them for 2010, but to ban them because some enginnerres are embarrased that they didn’t figure it out… really doesn’t cut it.

    As for the whole “Spirit of the rules”, really, that’s a joke, certainly in F1, when you always try to find that edge. If I have to choose between rules or racing, I will go with racing, some great races occurred when Ferrari ran a flat 12, Renault was running a turbo, and Williams was running a Cosworth V8 with it’s first wing car design. The start of this season reminds me of that time, with some running the magical diffuser, some running KERS, and some more focused on an electronic pit lolipop. :)

  7. kurtosis said on 14th April 2009, 14:41

    @pSynrg,

    Is there any indication that DDDs are examples of engineering prowess and innovation? Or are they just clever interpretation of the rules? (or both).

    Given the insight into the “loophole,” was there any _engineering_ innovation (new understanding of airflow characteristics, materials, interactions, etc.) after that insight?

    I’m not claiming this is germane to whether they should be banned or not, just curious.

    • pSynrg said on 14th April 2009, 17:27

      I would have to say ‘both’. In my mind at least, engineering is the practice of manipulating physical characteristics/constraints to suit a particular purpose.

      Should limits to these manipulations exist, be it artificial (constraints) or physical (characteristics) then the engineering solution that best interprets these boundaries should be the most successful.
      This is the driving force behind F1 development since the beginning.

      Yes, there is a requirement for clarification should ambiguities emerge.

      But the creative teams that expose these ambiguities in the artificial is to be applauded. Certainly not penalised!

      If necessary rewrite your regulations removing this ambiguity but do not impose their influence retrospectively.

  8. Well said pSynrg and Maciek.

    Common sense not being the major constituent of the air breathed at FIA Bloody Assizes where a Witchfinder General giving evidence would not be out of place !

    In a sense though, it would be good for a certain amount of politics to intervene in any decision about diffusers. A political decision for example, which rested on the effect for good or evil on F1’s fan base and TV audience would force these guys to realise that the only decision worth making is for them to leave well alone. Diffuser Three Go Free !

    Wrapped up in clever technical jargon of course !

  9. i hope they ban them

  10. kurtosis said on 14th April 2009, 14:56

    @Choltz,

    As for the whole “Spirit of the rules”, really, that’s a joke, certainly in F1, when you always try to find that edge.

    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?

    To me, it’s no coincidence that the teams that were part of the OWG all don’t have DD diffusers. I wouldn’t blame them at all if their respective designers are a bit unhappy with how the rules have been interpreted by the other teams. In fact that’s a fundamental conflict of interest.

    Imagine if only the three OWG teams had come up with these DD diffusers; there would have been a huge hue and cry about conflict of interest, inside knowledge, FIA being Ferrari biased, ad infinitum …

  11. koper said on 14th April 2009, 15:11

    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.

    • Broer Sammy said on 14th April 2009, 16:58

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

  12. Chris said on 14th April 2009, 15:24

    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.

    • SimonRS said on 14th April 2009, 15:33

      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.

  13. 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.

  14. SimonRS said on 14th April 2009, 15:51

    For people still confused (I was) I found some very useful illustration of formula1.com:

    McLaren diffuser:
    http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2009/0/621.html

    Brawn diffuser:
    http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2009/0/640.html

    Toyota diffuser:
    http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2009/0/622.html

    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.

  15. John H said on 14th April 2009, 16:18

    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.

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