Brawn, Toyota & Williams Cleared To Race: Their Diffusers Are Legal For Now

Brawn, Toyota & Williams Cleared To Race: Their Diffusers Are Legal For Now

It was announced yesterday in Australia (local time) by the FIA that Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull Racing had lodged protests over the diffusers on the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars. The issue has been bubbling away for a while now after the teams saw what each other had done regarding the rear end of the 2009 machines. The complaints centered around a loophole in the regulations that essentially allows the diffusers to be extended higher than had previously been thought.

Essentially, this all boils down to two things:

  • Those teams that spotted a possible loophole and utilised it.
  • The rules were not clear enough to begin with, allowing the loophole.

Those teams that saw the advantage should in a way be congratulated. They have spotted a way of making their machine go faster while keeping within the rules as they were written and in their belief. The teams that complain are essentially just complaining at themselves for not seeing what others saw. However, is this really the spirit of the sport? Perhaps not, but when millions of dollars ride on a successful campaign, it is understandable (from a business perspective) that spirit gets sacrificed in favour of performance.

So representatives from Williams, Brawn and Toyota attended a meeting with the FIA stewards to discuss the protests lodged and to consider if the teams had in fact broken the rules. The meeting, held at Albert Park’s race control lasted for more than four hours during which time presentations were made from the accused teams and the FIA stewards. It was judged that the trio are clear to race this weekend.

This isn’t the end of the matter though, and Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull have each said they will lodge an appeal to the decision. Unfortunately for the sport, this appeal cannot be heard until after the Malaysian Grand Prix. Should the appeal be deemed in favour of Ferrari et al, the results of the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix could be altered. This poses a significant problem to Formula One, but it isn’t one that is new.

The issue surrounding the changing of race results is something I personally am against. It is my opinion that once a driver stands on the podium, or for other points scorers, once the podium celebration has commenced, that the result of the race stands. Once drivers are seen on televisions all over the world celebrating their performances, it seems utterly ridiculous to me to change the result.

Of course, there are some circumstances where it may be necessary to adjust, and I understand when drivers get disqualified after a thorough weigh-in is completed, or other such inspections that may take some time. As an example, I would understand that an investigation would be needed had Michael Schumacher won the race (and championship) at Jerez in 1997. That would apply to any of the drivers on the grids past and present. But the way the process is currently set up, it would appear that teams can lodge complaints and these are not always heard until weeks after the event. Weeks is far too long. At most, it should be following day.

Also, I find it insane that the FIA stewards have deemed the Brawn, Williams and Toyota cars okay to race, yet all their hard work could be undone. The stewards have decided that these cars can contest the Australian Grand Prix. Therefore, whatever results they claim should remain. If the appeal meeting cannot be held until after the Malaysian event, then any results gained from there by the trio should also stand.

If the FIA then decide that these teams need to alter their diffusers, then they should be told to do so and their cars should be inspected at the following event before being given the all-clear to race. If the diffusers still don’t satisfy the FIA, then the team does not race. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that in this scenario, the diffuser would comply and be adorned with I Heart FIA or Max For President sticker.

To me though, this seems better than altering results. Miles better. Yes, the Brawn, Williams and Toyota cars may be running with a component that sits outside the regulations, but it is too late to change. And the alternative of banning the trio of racing is so ridiculous it doesn’t even merit any more of a mention.

As I just wrote in a short ditty to the London Evening Standard (they wanted my thoughts, apparently, although not published yet), these issues should have been raised weeks ago. They should have been dealt with weeks ago, and there should be no reason for a protest unless a team has changed something very recently. It is my opinion that the incompetency of FIA to draw up rules that are not clear and concise combined with teams that are upset at themselves has once again caused Formula One to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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12 comments

  • Ridiculous!

    What I don’t understand is why the complaining teams don’t set up diffusers like the supposed ilegal ones. As it has been done in the past.

  • What I don’t understand is why the complaining teams don’t set up diffusers like the supposed ilegal ones

    Because then they wouldn’t be able to kick up a stink. What they should have done, in my somewhat crafty opinion, is develop a potentially offending diffuser and pack it in the truck with the rest of the parts. Once in Australia, they should have checked (not complain or protest, but check) with the stewards. If they said they couldn’t see a problem, then the others could have bolted on the different diffuser and all would have been equal.

    The diffuser is pretty integral to the way the car handles, and therefore may not be as simple as I’ve just stated. But to me, this whole saga just screams like a spoiled child.

  • Kick up a stink meaning complaining?

    I think this is a recent trend, I seems to me that the old custom was just to do the same offending thing than the others and be done with it, and that contributed enormously to the development of F1 and its technology.

  • Kick up a stink meaning complaining?

    Yeah. Although often, “kicking up a stink” refers to complaining just for the sake of complaining. As opposed to complaining because there is a real need to. Sorry, my English-isms coming through there! 🙂

    It seems to me that the old custom was just to do the same offending thing than the others and be done with it, and that contributed enormously to the development of F1 and its technology.

    To a degree, I would have to agree. Providing the issue in question isn’t too far away from the rules (ie, a loophole like in this case is fine by me), and providing it doesn’t hinder safety, then I think it should be allowed if the stewards/FIA say it is okay. And therefore, an appeal should not be allowed. It should either be copy the idea, develop your own take on the idea, or do neither and keep quiet.

  • There’s nothing to disagree with in your post.. it’s obvious that once the teams get the all clear for the design that should stand and once a race is over and the results announced those shouldn’t be changed unless there are exceptional circumstances.

    You’ve been very good not to put things a little bit more aggressively: you could have said the current F1 setup is a ludicrous mess. Why can’t the FIA take a first and final decision when the design is first checked? Why does it take several weeks to set up an appeal? Why is there an appeals process anyway? Especially since FIA procedures hardly meet any standard of due process anyway? Why do race stewards have to do more than to check that the cars haven’t changed in an illegal way since they were approved last time?

    There’s too many cooks. Too much politicking and too little impartiality. It could be very simple indeed and I don’t think it would lose the sport any fans.. on the contrary.

  • You’ve been very good not to put things a little bit more aggressively: you could have said the current F1 setup is a ludicrous mess. Why can’t the FIA take a first and final decision when the design is first checked?

    Thank you Frank. You’ve summed a difficult paragraph for me write rather succinctly and neatly.

    Of course, to add to it, checks should be made at regular intervals to avoid development of dubious parts, but at the end of the day, what is the point of appeal? The FIA write the [potentially ambiguous] rules, therefore, after their checks, the ruling should stand.

    The rules shouldn’t be ambiguous to begin with, but once deemed okay, the ruling should stand.

  • One thing is clear: the doubledecker diffusers are legal according to the letter of the law. That has been confirmed by Max, Charlie Whiting and the stewards. What the other teams are saying is that the diffusers offend against the spirit and intent of the rule.

    That may or may not be true (it depends on a subjective judgement, after all) but it is also irrelevant. The designers have to attend to what the rules say, not to what they are intended to say. Otherwise we have endless arguments over what the spirit of the rules is.

    The plain fact is that the diffuser rule has been written in such a way that it allows for something that was not intended. That is a fault of the rulemakers and the designers cannot be blamed or penalised for taking advantage of it. The lesson is that the legislators need to try harder, that’s all.

    Rather than lodging an appeal that should not succeed (of course, it may be upheld, judging by the Appeal Court’s awful record in such disputes), but, for the sake of the sport and justice, the protesting teams should accept that they missed a trick and devote their energies to getting their own fancy diffusers.

  • I really dont care about those details, when it comes to such things, one has to look at the fancy aero packages that, say, Honda had and think about the advantages they had…none. If we talk about the engines, or kers or Electronic help then it matters to me.

  • A great piece on the ongoing saga, I’m glad I found your blog. Today, of course, sees the decision in Paris by three officials and I refuse to get drawn into calling their decision.

    What I wanted to point out is that the effect of an outcome in favour of the defendants could also be seen as a method of the FIA reasserting their authority on the big teams. As mentioned above, it’s not as simple as adding a new diffuser for the teams without one as other aerodynamics need to be altered to run in tandem. As I understand it, Red Bull would be forced to re-design their rear suspension unit to accommodate any changes, so a hefty cost of time and finances is involved.

    Ironically, in the past, teams with money to invest in new technologies were allowed to hold an advantage over the poorer relations (remember the advent of semi automatic gear boxes?) but in this case, budget has not led to the advantage.

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