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. The Limit said on 14th April 2009, 21:39

    I think this is a clear cut case of the big teams getting caught with their pants down in many ways. The smart play was to ‘shelve’ development on 2008 spec cars in favour of 2009 ones.
    This obviously was not done by Ferrari and McLaren, as they were fighting for the championship, and BMW Sauber, if reports are to be believed, did not curtail
    2008 spec development until mid season.
    I must admit, when I read reports last year that Honda’s 2009 car could be a title winner, I nearly wet
    myself. After two terrible years, how could they make that big a jump?
    Now, I admit that I was wrong. When Ron Dennis suggested on the Melbourne grid that McLaren ‘would’ be good again come the European rounds, surely that must mean that their new difusers won’t be ready until
    Barcelona! Either way, these hearings are only a way
    of appeasing the teams who did not go the way of Brawn, Toyota, and Williams.
    In many ways, I am glad. Three months ago, Toyota were
    tipped to pull out of F1, which would have also left
    Williams without an engine supplier. I hope they both
    prosper this year.

  2. Oliver said on 14th April 2009, 21:48

    Sorry I forgot to add the link to the quote its from racing live.
    http://en.f1-live.com/f1/en/headlines/news/detail/090414151443.shtml

  3. John H said on 14th April 2009, 21:56

    If they rule the diffuser cars illegal, surely this will make KERS play a much more significant role in the speed of the cars – probably just what Max wants, but the FIA initially said they were an ingeneous interpretation of the rules.

    Whatever happens, it will certainly make China more interesting than the usual relatively tedious races we get!

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th April 2009, 22:31

    According to the Daily Mail the diffuser appeal will be lost:

    A paddock insider has revealed the court will be reluctant to contradict two sets of stewards who declared the diffusers legal before the Australian and Malaysian grands prix.

  5. DaveG said on 15th April 2009, 0:16

    I find it interesting and a bit confusing that KERS was not made mandatory to be run by all teams – keeping all teams equal. It’s supposed to add 80HP. It seems to me the teams running with KERS have an advantage over the teams who can’t afford to develop it.
    So the diffuser on the Brawn car kind of levels the playing field. I still don’t understand how the Brawn diffuser works – I’d love to see a working animation of it.
    Anyway, it’s too bad this couldn’t have been worked out in testing.

    • Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 15th April 2009, 0:53

      So much of an advantage that a Kers car has yet to win…… It’s not down to cost, more down to weight it seems. Just look at BWM, ‘tiny’ Heidfeld has it, but Kubica ‘the large’ doesnt.

  6. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 15th April 2009, 0:54

    I mean BMW of course.. :)

  7. DaveG said on 15th April 2009, 1:22

    I don’t think KERS adds more weight – it leaves less weight to distribute around the car for balance. That’s why Kubica the large prefers balance over KERS power.
    I want equality with all the teams – just not clones of one another.
    So if a team is “Clever” about a diffuser and not cheating in any way – let em race.
    This can be a really exciting year not knowing which car will be the best at any given track.

    • Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 15th April 2009, 9:01

      I didnt say it adds weight, although, the kers device is about 35kg. It’s alot down to the distribution of that weight.

  8. Dane said on 15th April 2009, 1:34

    I think it will be easier to declare the diffusers legal & get on with the show.
    But it is interesting to hear that the diffusers are breaking the rule of seeing equipment through a hole. Along with Renault claiming they were told it was illegal, so they changed their designs.

  9. The diffuser would be legal,as a paddock guy told.and teams like BMW and Renault are already designing the new DD diffusers and they would be out with them in next month.Until then,the Brawn Fairytale would keep going

  10. m0tion said on 15th April 2009, 3:40

    If Byrne is right about DDD’s and later derivatives needing completely clean air to optimise downforce then they should be banned and it is just about the timing. This is beyond just a ground effects issue and would just be about the ability to race the car in front of you. I have not however seen evidence of Byrne’s argument being borne out yet in this year’s races and maybe there is a case for saying that existing DDD cars are not allowed to run KERS in 09 and bring out a new ruling for ’10.

  11. Jay Menon said on 15th April 2009, 3:50

    Teams need to stop bickering. They just need to own up an accept that the designers in the “diffuser” teams were more innovative. Its not their fault that the other were not sharp enough to optimise the rules.

    I wonder what would have been said if a Ferrari or a Mclaren were sporting the DDD?..my bet…nothing.

  12. Polak said on 15th April 2009, 3:56

    This should be decided by a ruler and protractor. If the physical design doesn’t break any rules specifying physical aspects then the FIA should let it fly. Check the aero dynamics of the diffusers and check the dimensions. That’s it. Very simple. FIA engineers should handle this.

    Like Newey said “fortunately there is no such thing as the spirit of a regulation”

    I strongly believe that F1 teams have and should reach the absolute limits of the technical regulations. Its not just two drivers and a pit crew. Let all the engineers with bright ideas have a playing field too.

  13. sean said on 15th April 2009, 6:01

    seems to me there is a fair amount of bias coming into this argument.If they do allow the dd the other teams will pour millions into catching them which totally goes against what the fia are trying to achieve.Two of the teams haven’t got the money to compete against them’ toyota wont be overly keen if there all of a sudden fighting for 6th in europe because there design is now obsolete. A week is a very long time in f1.I personally hope they ban them and every one is on the same level[excluding kers]these teams have a massive advantage which will not last but how much money will everyone have to spend to catch up makes the whole “budget teams” a joke as if they find themselves 2sec off the pace next year what do they do appeal or go home.

  14. Martin Bell said on 15th April 2009, 8:12

    Far to sensible a solution for the FIA to adopt it. We all know that whatever the outcome, we are going to be left mystified and dissapointed.

  15. Martin Bell said on 15th April 2009, 8:15

    That didn’t work properly, I meant to quote mOtion’s suggestion about the diffuser teams not being allowed to run KERS. It’s a bit early in the morning for me yet.

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