FIA says Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers are legal – what happens next?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Toyota's diffusers have been cleared along with those of Williams and Brawn
Toyota's diffusers have been cleared along with those of Williams and Brawn

Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota will be allowed to continue using their controversial ??double decker? diffusers after the FIA rejected an appeal against them by four other teams.

The verdict was handed down at a meeting of the International Court of Appeal attended by the seven teams involved, plus McLaren. So which of the teams will now equip their cars with the feature? And will there be any more fall-out from the hearing?

The FIA’s procedures are under scrutiny once again. The first concerns about the diffusers were raised in January and it has taken until the middle of April to get a final verdict. In this time they’ve been passed once by the FIA, again by their own stewards, and now by the International Court of Appeal. Did the process need to take so long?

Renault are especially aggrieved at the outcome have claimed during the trial that they approached the FIA when they were designing a similar diffuser to judge if their interpretation of the rules was correct. It ceased development after a discussion with the FIA led it to conclude that such an interpretation of the rules would not be allowed. Were Renault misled, or did they just drop the ball?

Nigel Tozzi, the Ferrari lawyer, also made a very strong representation to the FIA. The veteran of the spygate scandal, is quoted by the Press Association as saying: “The position of the FIA is totally baffling. We urge you to save the FIA from itself.”

Ross Brawn appears magnanimous in victory, issuing a statement saying: “We respect the right of our competitors to query any design or concept used on our cars through the channels available to them.” This is in marked contrast to the hammering he took from Tozzi who branded him “arrogant” during the hearing.

The role of FOTA – the F1 teams’ association – has been the subject of much speculation. Some observers have looked at four teams protesting against the work of three other teams and drawn the conclusion that the FIA allowed the diffuser row to go on so long in the hope of eroding their unity.

The seven teams that are not using the diffuser are now expected to try to integrate it into their cars as soon possible. As the next two events are ??fly away? races in China and Bahrain, this may take some teams until the Spanish Grand Prix next month. This could include Ferrari, who have said it will have to make “fundamental” changes to its F60 to integrate the new design. But there are also rumours that McLaren will have an updated diffuser even sooner for their troublesome MP4/24.

Brawn maintained that the diffuser was not the only reason why they were so much quicker than the opposition. Their performance advantage over Toyota and Williams supports that claim. But will the other teams now be able to get on terms with the BGP001s?

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

126 comments on “FIA says Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers are legal – what happens next?”

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  1. As an optimist, I don’t think this ruling will create less overtaking once all the teams have fitted their new diffusers. We’ve already seen the diffuser cars running just as closely as the non-diffuser cars in the first 2 races. Rosberg vs Barrichello vs Raikkonen in Melbourne comes to mind.

  2. I don’t think this is a case of the FIA drawing out the process. This is just the system of appeal. It is of no fault of the FIA if they say “That diffuser is legal”, and the other teams say “could you say that again louder please?”

  3. @iBlaze,

    You may be right. You have to remember though that RAI was on fast-degrading softer compound tires – so that particular example (ROS, BAR, RAI) isn’t much to go by if we’re trying to estimate the impact on overtaking.

  4. “its not a huge surprise that yet again the FIA support anything predominately british based. the fact that the diffuser does not comply with the rules is irrelevant”

    This was a comment I just read on another site. The ridiculousness annoys me quite a bit. Someone who is very obviously bitter towards Britain ignores the fact that one of teams involved was Japanese, one was Japanese owned onaly last year, one of the opposing teams was British and nationality doesn’t matter that much anyway, as quite a lot of F1 parts/expertise/r&d/etc. seem to come from Britain regardless of where the teams’ headquarters are.

    And the diffuser clearly did comply, otherwise it wouldn’t have been ruled as legal and teams opposing it wouldn’t have started making their own versions weeks ago. That shows that those teams knew it was legal, their only problem with it was that they failed to spot the loophole themselves and as a result have damaged pride in their engineering capability and lost performance at the beginning of the season.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      15th April 2009, 16:10

      Yeah, it’s a bit rich considering all the help Ferrari were given by the FIA to beat Hamilton (Brit) & Mclaren (Brit team!) last year…

    2. @ matt
      I knew the moment I read that quote who wrote it and on what website….don’t let that guy get to you,he is very anti-brit and ignorant.Stay on Keith’s website if you want intelligent conversation and posts.

      Glad this diffuser thing is sorted….now on to “liargate” and maybe after that,some RACING!

    3. yeah liargate will be even more fun I expect. Can’t wait. I hope that will be it for the rest of the season. Probably just wishful thinking. Oh well, on to China!

  5. Toby Thwaites 93
    15th April 2009, 15:48

    Apparently Ferrari and Redbull will have alot of trouble with a new diffuser because of the arrangement of main parts near the rear of the car, which they will have to completly rearrange and move them around to achieve a “double decker” diffuser
    BMW on the other hand are already very far in development of their diffuser.
    In my opinion it will make the racing even more competitive :)

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      15th April 2009, 16:07

      I’m not totally convinced that the diffusers are the be all end all of Brawn’s (et al) speed. I’m sure it’s helping, but dont forget, Red Bull, sans conplex diffuser, aren’t exactly that far of the pace.

  6. Why dont we hear anything on this from McLaren? Have they started devloping a new diffuser.
    Suppose they are just keeping quiet and low profile for the time being. Afraid to say anything.

    1. I should hope so to..

  7. …or Barrichello…

  8. David (Brazil)
    15th April 2009, 16:10

    I’m going to stick my neck out and say this gives Hamilton (and maybe Alonso) a good chance of fighting for the WDC, presuming, as seems likely, that McLaren (and Renault) have a diffuser lined up and McLaren don’t get utterly pasted by FIA at the mega-lie, punishable-by-whipping, scandal hearings. If they strike lucky, their own diffusers should push them close enough to Brawn to make the KERS bonus count. Should be interesting. As for Ferrari, their own KERS problems plus the need to develop a diffuser, plus internal mayhem, could be difficult to surmount. BMW will be up there too I guess.

    1. Mclaren’s diffuser had gaffer tape holding a blanking plate (presumably to cover a rear facing hole (a la brawn) during the first two GP’s. Expect a hole in the MP4-24 this weekend at least…there’s a reason why they didn’t speak at the hearing…

    2. David (Brazil)
      15th April 2009, 17:50

      Matt – Yep, I’m half-expecting an immediate surprise package from McLaren too.

    15th April 2009, 16:10

    I’m sure we’ll some serious speed,serious injuries,serious deaths. I would caution vettel & webber against racing, that red bull looks overly radical. Not to mention the presence of Dr death adrian newey. Its going to be a repeat of 1994 i’m dead sure,we’ll see some horrific deaths. The cars are not safe enough thats all i can say. If i were to be the parent of one of these drivers, i would immediately withdraw their superlicences. I’ve a feeling that silverstone could witness its 1st death in decades. I just hope it does’nt happen. Plz ban diffusers. Max u r a idiot.

    1. You are aware all the cars have diffusers, right? What we’re talking about is some cars having different diffusers to other cars.

      Red Bull don’t have the double decker diffusers, so your comments about Newey are ignorant, as well as cruel and verging on libellous.

      I don’t think a technology that gives a potential speed advantage estimated at 0.5-1 second per lap merits anything like this sort of hysterical over-reaction. Even with double-decker diffusers the cars are barely any quicker than they were last year: 2009 F1 cars quicker than in 2008

    2. You’re a very serious young man aren’t you Keith..

  10. I’m an ardent Mclaren fanatic & i’m quite sure the team is working hard at its workshop to catch up with the brawn fellas. I trust & know they have been quitely developing replacement diffusers for the MP4. It might not be so soon but will definately be a sure thing when F1 comes to europe. Watch out!!

    1. Yes, but if the FiA sees McLaren have their car developed so they have a crack at the championship, they will probably disqualify the whole team for 2009. This is the crap that McLaren have to work with. Should they delay their development until after 29/4/09 and risk losing more points or go for it. Whatever happens, McLaren will be penalised. I so wish McLaren were one of the diffuser teams as the diffusers would surely be banned by now if that were the case.

  11. Quite in agreement Huges. I believe the FiA picks easily at Mclaren on every litle wrong (?) step. But who blames them…Da Mc are simply the team of envy! I just miss so much of Dennis…i have this innate feeling the team feels so much unsecured with him not around!
    Remeber the Renault case? They were forced to remove their diffusers…but i cant remember them loosing no point!
    My strong point here is a feeling that the FiA is dying to have a new team (?) win the championship!

    1. Yes Kutigz. That is quite obvious. I don’t think some F1 followers have quite got the hang of how it works yet, because it is so simplistic you see. Anything that McLaren or Lewis touch is to be judged harshly, penalised or disqualified. That’s it, period. This year the FIA want Brawn/Button to win and they probably will looking at how things are going. Last year the FIA did everything they possibly could to get Ferrari/Massa to win, and they just failed on the last corner of the last race. This year, they are going to make sure McLaren/Lewis don’t win from the outset of the championship, so there’s no doubt by the time we reach Abu Dhabi. Simple really!

    2. Scott Joslin
      15th April 2009, 17:12

      Guys, if Mclaren hadn’t lied in the first place they would not be in this situations to be judged by the FIA.

      If it had been open at the investigation last year in to the Ferrari documents and also told the truth at the stewards meeting on Australia then they would not be meeting the FIA again to be punished.

      It’s not as if the FIA are laying this little traps to catch them in – Mclaren are slightly inept at managing the raw competitive nature of their organisation.

      I cannot help but think they certainly don’t to anything the help themselves. Why cannot they just keep their heads down and race without getting in to an funny business, then if they lost they would only have themselves to blame and not have any of the paranoia that fills its team and many fans.

  12. Reading up on the various reactions, it’s increasingly looking like Renault and Ferrari in particular are in deep trouble this season. Renault at least have a driver who is excellent at development. Ferrari not so much.

    Even so, doing a fundamental redesign with a ban on in-season testing (except straight-line) and a forced reduction in wind-tunnel usage means that the development cycle must slow to an absolute crawl.

    In fact, they may be better able to spend efforts on incremental improvements (non-fundamental changes) and get competitive like RBR has done without the DD diffuser. This approach may pay dividends next season if the FIA introduce new regulations to ban this sort of diffuser. So they may want to focus on extracting performance in other areas in spite of having a regular diffuser.

    Of course, BrawnGP and the rest will be doing the same _with_ the DD diffuser, so that brings us back to square one.

    So it’s game over for Ferrari and maybe Renault as far as this season is concerned. I’ll put my neck out and say Ferrari end the season at the bottom third of the constructors championship.

  13. I support FIA’s decision. Let the whining stop and the racing begin, about time we had the first complete race !

    Look out for Barrichello in Shanghai.

  14. Does anyone else feel that if the positions were reversed and it was McLaren/Ferrari/BMW that had come up with the controversial design that they would have been ruled illegal because those teams are so used to having that sort of advantage? Anyway, that being said, LETS RACE! I am excited to see what the other teams come up with now…

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      15th April 2009, 17:40


  15. a number of points
    1. I think we’ll see McLaren turn up on Friday with the rear of their mark II diffusser cut out!! I’m sure it was designed to be a double deck design in the first place just waiting this decision.
    2. As for Ferrari, BMW, Torro Rosso and to a lesser extent Renault, catching up is going to require a new gearbox design.
    3. Jon Tomlinsonm (Williams) has admitted he gained knowledge about Honda’s diffusser from an ex Honda employee who joined Williams. Well if my memory serves me correctly Stepney and Coughlan did the same back in 2007. I guess because of the engine supply and the required shape of the gearbox, Williams let this slip to Toyota. Hence 3 DDD’s. Another spygate then.
    4. The reason this design is passed as legal is more about the top deck of the difusser being part of the deformable crash structure. Which is what I assume the FIA have confirmed.
    Oh dear what a mess Formula 1 gets its self into.

    1. Toby Thwaites 93
      15th April 2009, 17:01

      Only ferrari and redbull need new gearbox designs..

    2. Not too fast Del, the Mc team i suspect wont cut-out & replace the MP4’s diffuser just yet…the Mc team have got the lie-gate scandal at hand with the Appeals team. They’d probably be on hold till a more comfortable time…wat ya think?

    3. Scott Joslin
      15th April 2009, 17:19

      On Point 3 Del, that is not really like the Stepney and Coughlan situation.

      Both were being paid by rival teams at the time. Key personnel move from team to team all the time and key personnel’s market value to other teams in considered in what knowledge they can bring from other teams.

      For example, does that mean Adrian Newey could not work for Mclaren after working for Williams – after all, he would have known a lot about what made that team successful. It just isn’t the same in my opinion.

  16. Engineering loop holes are as much a part of racing as spying and team orders. If i could have one wish it would be that F1 could go back to being a (comparative) minority interest sport. The FIA find it hard to be autocratic these days and the reason is the overwhelming public interest.

    Watching the racing clips on the Jackie Stewart documentary the other night i realised how far we still have to go before the racing is anything like it should be but it is much much better. Carry on FIA, an impossible job.

  17. Delboy, again the details are scarce, but I’d imagine regarding your point3 that the employees in question used knowledge gained from memory rather than printing out, photocopying, and passing on the full schematics of the Honda design in question.

    Anyway, having read this Autosport report I wonder why the teams haven’t yet learned to stop clarifying things with someone who obviously is not in a position of authority or of detailed enough knowledge.

    Marko says Red Bull was angered by the decision to approve the three double-decker diffusers because it had already submitted a similar design for approval and had it rejected.

    “What angers us is the fact that we had approached [Charlie] Whiting for a clarification on a diffuser solution like the one in question and we were told it was illegal, therefore we did not pursue it any further though our design team had similar ideas,” said Marko.

  18. They’re legal. Really no suprise. Score one for innovative engineering and rule reading/interp. Now let’s see how long it takes for the others to adapt.

  19. How does the Double Diffuser make the cars dangerous?
    With the tracks being built lately having run off areas as wide as a small county, the drivers are more in danger of hitting a bird in flight or an errant dog.
    I hear lots of arguments for banning the diffuser, that it makes the cars faster, and I’m talking about readers on here. If the FIA wants the cars to go slower let them run with F3 specs, engine and all. I guess that would satisfy the hunger for slow speed.

  20. By the way Keith, I am seriously concerned about the competency of Charlie Whiting. It seems both during races and regarding technical clarifications, he often seems to say one thing and goes on to implement something else.

    1. First the Spa thing and now this, doesn’t look very good at all does it?

      What I want to know is, when Brawn and the other teams asked if their interpretations were legal, who did they ask? Was it Whiting? If so…

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