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?