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)

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  1. pSynrg said on 15th April 2009, 11:07

    Lol, lots of simultaneous duplicate posts there… Big news, cause for celebration…

  2. Andrey (russia) said on 15th April 2009, 11:17

    The Diffs were declared legal! Congratulations :)

  3. Dane said on 15th April 2009, 11:23

    Wonder how many will cars have the new diffusers for China?

  4. Renault will (and my speculation is BMW may also) have an early attempt at a DD. Ferrari will have a new aero (but no DD) for China.

    I think the teams that stand to benefit the most by adding a DD is Renault and McLaren. BMW, Ferrari and especially RedBull are not doing that bad with their current flatD.

  5. jamie said on 15th April 2009, 12:25

    jus seen on the bbc f1 wesbite they are legal so looks like a gd season is ahead for brawn and others but looks lyk mclaren, ferrari and renault are going to have to recreate this diffuser or risk falling soo behind ;)

  6. beaker said on 15th April 2009, 12:55

    my guess is the first teams to get DDD will be Ferrari and Mclaren, at the earliest Spanish GP.

    i can not imagine any team would transport a car to China in advance or at such short notice, especially as it would be completely untested on the track.

    Having said that… you could argue that given the current performance of the Mclaren, even an untest DDD must be better than the current car! ;)

  7. Xibi said on 15th April 2009, 13:12

    Maybe McLaren took the position of being against the DD diffusers without protesting for a reason. I have noted that in the last races that their diffuser is already a little bit more sculpted than the normal ones, especially when you look on the sides of it.

    • glamourBob said on 15th April 2009, 13:23

      It was probably mostly down to the fact that McLaren are now ‘engine mates’ with Brawn. They are both part of the Mercedes family.

  8. antonyob said on 15th April 2009, 13:22

    any comments now anonymouse?

  9. Rob B said on 16th April 2009, 19:42

    http://premium.f1-live.com/f1/photos-hires/2009/gpshanghai/diapo_624.jpg

    Mclaren have removed the duct tape to reveal a DDD…

    Anyone suprised?

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