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 (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)

  1. Santiago said on 15th April 2009, 9:00

    “Speed is part of the essential attraction of Formula 1. But containing the ever-escalating cornering speeds of F1 cars has been a major goal of the FIA for safety reasons.”

    I do agree. By now the speed is somehow better than las year. By the end of the season will be much higher than that one. With this floor-effect in the cars if one of them gets bumpped a few cms from the ground then the car will became a rocket and fly away to who knows where. it is too dangerous for the sport. As simple as that.

    • Jay Menon said on 15th April 2009, 9:06

      I don’t think this so called floor effect is anything like Ground Effects we had in the 80’s.

      Doesn’t the DDD just reduce drag, by reducing the turbulence when the air from the wing meets the air from under the diffuser? The DDD significant reduces air speed exiting the bottom of the car, how exactly is this floor effect?

      I don’t think the cars will fly off the ground like a rocket like we saw in 80’s, particularly a certain number 27 Ferrari.

      Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. SamS said on 15th April 2009, 10:09

    THEY ARE LEGAL!!!!!!

  3. S Hughes said on 15th April 2009, 10:15

    As I thought, the diffuser 3 cheats have won. I can bet if McLaren had been one of the diffuser 3, they WOULDN’T have won.

    • SamS said on 15th April 2009, 10:19

      they are not cheats, they found a loophole in the same respects as ferrari and thier mirror mounts that look like veins….. good on them!

    • Dougie said on 15th April 2009, 10:39

      How can coming up with a design that is obviously (comfirmed by most of the teams as within the letter of the rules, the FIA, and now the ICA) within the rules be called cheating!?!

      In more Ross offered to clean up the rules and they weren’t interested …probably because each had thought they had stolen a march (by your definition: cheating) on the others in some way… which in my view puts Brawn on a pedestal above the others as he obviously saw where he could gain and offered to close the loopholes.

      McLaren, by definition, and in more than one case, has been proven to be a bunch of cheating scum bags! I say throw them out on the 29th!

    • Dougie said on 15th April 2009, 10:43

      ps. I should also say that I used to love McLaren, especially during the Senna and Hakkinnen/Coulthard days… but having done a lot of reading of reports, and listening to all their press conferences, reading opinion and interpreting between the lines… I have come to the conclusion they don’t, and never should had, have my support.

      Senna will be turning in his grave!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th April 2009, 19:04

      S Hughes – “I can bet if McLaren had been one of the diffuser 3, they WOULDN’T have won.” That doesn’t make the other three teams “cheats”.

  4. Mari said on 15th April 2009, 10:21

    They just ruled the diffusers are legal.

  5. luky said on 15th April 2009, 10:22

    legal wins.
    major losers: red bull, as their car will not adapt correctly to the ddd without major changes – anyway they already are competitive.

    ferrari, renault, mclaren and bmw to spend a bit of money and should catch up the actual 3 ddd teams in a month (or 2); or 3 ;)

    • Dougie said on 15th April 2009, 10:49

      Man, having read the BBC report, I’d love to see the minutes of that meeting!!

      The judges in Paris heard evidence from both sides, with Ferrari’s legal representative, Nigel Tozzi QC, describing Brawn GP team boss Ross Brawn as “a person of supreme arrogance”.

      Brawn defended himself robustly and insisted his team’s diffuser was simply “an innovative approach of an existing idea”.

      And Brawn’s criticism of Ferrari consultant Rory Bryne and Red Bull technical guru Adrian Newey saw sparks fly in the courtroom, with the Englishman refusing to retract his statements.

  6. Hugo Bourgeois said on 15th April 2009, 10:30

    Yey, they’re legal :-)

  7. kurtosis said on 15th April 2009, 10:34

    C’est la via. It will be fun to see the rest of the teams come from behind and attack in the middle and final legs of the season. Until then it will be BrawnGP all the way.

    I wonder which of the three (Ferrari, McLaren, Renault) are closest to deploying an efficient DDD? It’ll hurt if McLaren get competetive quickly again, only to be handed a harsh punishment by the WMC.

    The DDDs should make the KERS correspondingly more efficient – since traction will be available sooner out of a corner with the higher downforce.

  8. Damon said on 15th April 2009, 10:54

    The diffusers ARE legal.

  9. Striay said on 15th April 2009, 10:59

    ITS LEGAL!!!

  10. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 15th April 2009, 10:59

    Happy days :)

  11. Ronman said on 15th April 2009, 10:59

    Hi Keith,

    sorry to get ahead here, but it has just come out that the diffusers on the three contested teams were deemed legal. my vote was right so were those of 1727 other readers.

    hopefully with this matter cleared up we can watch a race without if’s and buts on sunday.

    cant wait for the Mc Laren hearing in a few weeks time to get that issue over and done with as well. because we got some nice racing on our hands so far this year. and it would be very interesting to see which team will be the first to join the diffuser gang, ironically it might Flavio’s….

    • Ronman said on 15th April 2009, 11:46

      dang, is my internet slow or did these comments come out of nowhere? anyway it’s good to know they are legal

  12. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 15th April 2009, 11:05

    Looks like it was an intense meeting, to say the least!!!

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