The Two Sides Of The Diffuser Debate

The Two Sides Of The Diffuser Debate

As always in Formula One, not everything is as black and white as it perhaps should be, and the diffuser issue that has embroiled the sport since even before the first race of the season is a classic example of this. Brawn, Williams and Toyota have all worked to within a loophole of the rules to design a diffuser that is higher in the middle, thus enabling an advantage. Those teams that chose not to design the part to this specification are now putting their arguments forward to the FIA ICA.

One side of the argument is clear: Brawn, Williams and Toyota have acted outside of the spirit of the rules. While there is indeed a loophole enabling these trio of teams to do what they have done, it is against the idea and purpose for which the ruling was written that should be adhered to.

Anyone with a command of English will tell you it is a hole, so do not let someone attempting to be clever with words defeat the express purpose of the rules. Nigel Tozzi, Ferrari Legal Representative.

However, in a sport that is just as much a business as it is a jolly bit of racing every other weekend, it isn’t quite as simple as following the spirit of the rules.

Brawn, Williams and Toyota spotted the potential to design the diffuser so it fits with the exact wording of the rules, although perhaps clearly not to within the idea behind them. Essentially, these three teams saw the loophole and went for it. Interestingly, Brawn lead both championships, Toyota have shown great improvement over their 2008 pace as do Williams, with Nico Rosberg doing particularly well in Malaysia until the early stoppage of the event.

The fault, in my mind, isn’t with Brawn et al for developing this ‘double diffuser’, nor is it with those who have not and may or may not be complaining. The fault quite clearly lies with the person or people who write the rules. If it isn’t absolutely clear what you can or cannot do, can you really blame competitors for pushing the limit to see what they can get away with?

Before anyone chimes in with the Hamilton/Ryan saga, I consider that different and this is not the post to discuss this matter. Instead, this post is about the teams pushing the technical regulations to the limit, just as they always have done, and forever pushing the boundaries of lap time and reliability.

I hope that tomorrow, the International Court of Appeal give a thumbs up to the diffuser. It may prove that the spirit of the sport is broken, but in all honesty, it was broken many years decades ago. The thing this diffuser has allowed though proves to be much more interesting. It has, in part, enabled three teams to improve, one of those dramatically so. It has shaken the grid up. It has made some teams look very carefully at themselves. It will be fascinating to see how those without the diffuser right now will claw their way back into the title fight.

But what say you? Is it a great shame that the diffuser-trio felt the need to circumvent the rulebook a little in order to improve themselves, or is it just typical F1 innovation at its best?


  • The spirit of the rules is to make the cars uniformly slower.. the spirit of the sport is to go as fast as you can.

    Ferrari of all teams have always understood that following the letter of rules rather than its “spirit” is what gives you a competitive edge.. they are just not happy that someone found the loophole.

    Had the diffusers not shaken up the grid, ie. BMW, Ferrari and McLaren were the “diffuser gang”, nobody would have complained..

  • Frank kind of took all the words out of my mouth. I also believe that the spirit of the sport and the spirit of the rules should be to make sure no one team or group of teams enjoys dominance over the sport for a long period of time. Does anyone really think that fans would be so excited about the still-very-young season if SFM and VMM were at the top of the leaderboards again?? This might be a season for the ages simply because the power structure of the sport has been so suddenly turned upside down!

    Brawn pointed out the potentially exploitable loophole to everyone before and offered the other teams an opportunity to work together to close it. They didn’t bite. The rest of the non-double decker diffuser gang are now just dying of jealousy that they lost out. Ha!!

  • The only time I have ever seen the spirit of the rules mentioned is when someone is accusing someone else of breaking it. The teams all have people whose job is to read the rules looking for gaps. Adrian Newey in an interview a couple of years ago said that when he gets the new rules he reads them twice. Once to see what they say and once to see what they don’t say.

    The only case anyone has is if some teams were told that something was illegal and others were told it was not. Then serious questions have to be asked about the FIA but serious questions need to be asked about them anyway.

  • If it was so obvious that there was a loophole then why is it that nobody added the proper wording to avoid it?

    F1 is always about exactly that: Finding a loophole in the rules. This, to me, is part of the game. Remember Tyrrell did a car with 6 wheels… Now the rule says the car must have 4 wheels…

    If somebody wrote the lines with the idea of a potential cheat in the back of his mind it is a bit unfair but again it was the others responsability to avoid that… Not sure of what are Brawn’s responsabilitues -reading what he said recently- on this matter but the fact is that other teams came to the same solutions so it was possible for everybody -smart enough- to come to the same conclusions…

    Anyway I find it a bit refreshing that small teams can beat the big ones at their own game…

  • Ago is SPOT ON.

    Nobody has circumvented the rulebook. How is the sport supposed to advance technologically and aerodynamically if all-concerned feel universally asphyxiated by restrictive updates? Teams can’t expect the FIA to institute every single engineering revolution. Yes, they provided the groundwork, but Williams, Toyota and Brawn rightly extended the equation in the spirit of the sport and its benefactors.

    I’ll return this debate to the school playground and call Ferrari et al. out for sour grapes. The Brabham fan was banned after complaints, and that same penalty is the maximum extent of what should/can be applied in this case – anything more drastic than a homologated section, and i give up.

  • 6 cars passed preseason scrutineering and were judged legal for 2 races. Enough said. If it takes months to decide if a car is legal in a sport that is measured in thousandths of a second, the problem is clearly with the way the rules are written, not the cars.

    If it’s such a big deal, they’dve already rewritten that spec for next year. To the best of my knowledge, it still stands as is.

    While it certianly is an unavoidable fact that the only three teams without an efficient diffuser are the same three teams that didn’t participate in the Overtaking Working Group, too bad. They missed a detail, and their competitors exploited this oversight. Such is the nature of competition, especially at the highest levels.

    That said, is the hearing over? Is there any news about the results of the hearing? It’s 21:36 on the West coast of North America and I’m dying to know what happened!

    Can we please get back to the racing now?

  • Let’s also keep in mind that the blueprint for the new rules were worked out by the overtaking working group of the teams and then adopted by the FIA.

    ALL the teams were working together to come up with a new formula that would make overtaking easier. Back then Brawn suggested tightening the rules to remove gray areas; the diffuser was explicitly mentioned.

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