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Possible outcomes from the diffuser appeal
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Possible outcomes from the diffuser appeal
Posted By:   |  14 Apr 2009   |  4:02 pm GMT  |  0 comments

Today in Paris the International Court of Appeal has been hearing the two sides of the debate into the legality of the so-called double decker diffusers, as used by Brawn, Toyota and Williams.

It all got quite passionate as the lawyers for Ferrari and Renault in particular stated their cases.

Andrew Ford for Renault said that the FIA had already established that a design which incorporated holes to improve the efficiency was illegal in F1, “It is not that Renault missed the boat, as Brawn have pointed out, it is because the FIA said it was illegal. It was at that point the diffuser was abandoned,”

This all goes back to a ruling the FIA made in 2001 about a design on the Williams car and a subsequent clarification the FIA issued in 2002 about where holes were not permitted in the floor. The three diffusers under scrutiny now, exploit a loophole in the wording of that rule.

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion in the media over what might happen if the appeal is upheld and the diffusers are banned.

The problem is that there are many possible outcomes, which the court has the power to impose. The most extreme is that the cars with the trick diffusers could be disqualified from the results of the first two races.

Another possible ruling is that the points from the first two races could stand, but a ban on the diffusers could come into force at the next Grand Prix, this weekend in China. Or, given the logistics involved a ban could be deferred to the Bahrain or even Spanish Grand Prix.

Another possibility, which would really cause confusion and unhappiness among the teams, is that the court could rule that the FIA should clarify the technical rule, thereby putting the ball back into its court.

Such a clarification could take several weeks and leave the teams in a kind of limbo through the remaining fly-away races and the early European ones.

This outcome would be very hard for the public to understand.

If the appeal is thrown out, then that is the end of the matter and the other teams will have to copy the double decker design and accept that they have lost the first part of the season.

A lot is at stake here, the difference in performance between the double decker and a normal diffuser is 15%, which equates to around a second per lap.

The plaintiff teams believe that the double decker violates both the letter and the spirit of the rules and are particularly aggrieved by the latter as the whole point of establishing the ‘overtaking working group’ was to find a joint teams’ solution to the problem of overtaking in F1. The teams worked together to find a way of making the cars more easily able to follow each other and overtake and part of that was an acceptance that the effect of the diffuser needed to be reduced by half and that it should not interact with the rear wing.

These diffusers fly in the face of that joint initiative.

The three diffuser teams argue that once the rules were set and defined, it was up to each team to find the loopholes and devise the cleverest solution, as has always been the practice in F1.

The word is that the idea of the step, or double decker diffuser was dreamed up by an aerodynamicist at Honda, who then moved to Toyota. Honda became Brawn over the winter and that is why the Brawn unit is the most sophisticated and effective,  because it is the one which has been under development the longest.

The ICA is due to make its ruling some time tomorrow.

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  1. PhilW says:

    I haven’t done a stroke of work all day waiting for this announcement – and now I find out that it’s coming tomorrow. Argh!

  2. Tony says:

    Great stuff, James. But “equates to around a second per lap” just doesn’t make sense to me and sounds like something Flavio would say, not an objective source.

  3. Darkstomper says:

    I understand the need for this fully, I just find it very frustrating that my favourite sport is once again shooting itself in the foot.

  4. xmbs says:

    I’m just astonished that Ferrari’s legal representative can stoop to the level of describing Ross Brawn as being of “supreme arrogance”, it really seems unnecessarily nasty given all the success Brawn helped Ferrari to.

  5. Victoria says:

    We’re all on tenterhooks waiting for this ruling, it could have such an enormous impact on this season.
    Am I correct in thinking that Red Bull and Ferrari will struggle to get the diffuser into their current cars because of the design?
    I wonder if McClaren are not involved with the fight because they have their own diffuser ready to go, or whether they are just trying to stay out of the speculation for once…

  6. athlon says:

    We’ll see. But the changing of the first two GP’s result would kill the F1.

  7. tarun says:

    If the diffusers are deemed to be illegal the best possible solution would be to award the teams the points earned in the last 2 races and ask them to redesign the rear of the car for China…
    I dont think this matter is that simple to rule, its not like only honda thought of making the double diffuser
    there could be some truth in renault talk of their similar design was rejected by FIA
    I personally think all the cars should be similar in terms of the rules written you could see in the races that diffuser design is very advantageous there shoudn’t be a 2 league sort of championship
    the teams should be even on atleast the design of cars is concerned

  8. jon says:

    To PhilW….lets hope your boss doesn’t see this forum!!!

  9. sambo says:

    I find it harder and harder to believe that the FIA court will rule against the diffusers if they can show their loophole. It would certainly be even less likely for them to strip the points from the three defendent teams, given the fact that the FIA race director and the two different sets of stewards passed the cars as legal for each of the preceeding races.

    If there were to disqualify the three teams from the first two races, I think I would find it hard to retain any faith in F1 and its administration any longer. Even worse, I don’t think I would be able to convince myself to care about the results or even bother to watch the races anymore. So here’s hoping they don’t stuff this up.

  10. AndreasM says:

    Go Diffusers! Loopholes are meant to be found and used. Without the teams pushing themself to the limit trying to manufacture the fastest possible cars and at that time trying to find the possibilities that someone else have overseen is part of F1, or should at least be a part of it.
    Otherwise we can just have 1 manufacturer with a stock car that everyone drives and we (the aduience) can see who is the fastest driver? No, a big part of F1 is to see the development and the innovations of the engineers, please do not take that away from us.

  11. rpaco says:

    Tozzi’s tirades so far, seem desperate and in decrying Ross Brawn for arrogance is himself guilty of the same. Using the argument that “How can Brawn be right when others disagree” is basically saying no one must invent anything new. If Ferrari does not have it then it must be wrong. (This was of course the apparent FIA stance in previous years) He is also mis-quoting the rules which we can only hope the FIA correct him upon.

  12. rpaco says:

    Remember back before the season started, when we wondered why Brawn did not take the McLaren gearbox as well as the engine. Of course it is now clear.
    Red Bull may have the hardest job of changing their diffuser because of the pull rod system the have at the rear, but since they are well up the field they may not bother. bur our Aide is very clever so may add a couple of bits instead.

    As I said in another thread here, as far as I can see the rear wheel covers are illegal if they affect airflow, and if the don’t then there seem no reason for them. Of course if they were made so as to suck air through the wheel to the outside then they could also create downforce.

  13. john g says:

    i don’t understand how the results of the first two races could be affected by this decision given that the cars were passed legal to race by the stewards at the time, which i understand is all that is required, unless some infringement was made that the stewards were not aware of.

    what should happen is that the diffuser 3 are allowed to keep their points so far but then the diffuser is ruled illegal through a tightening of the regulations (as brawn is supposedly said to have proposed last year). shouldn’t take more than a day to close the loophole in writing (although of course being the FIA it probably will).

    all i can see happening is that they are all declared legal, everyone else has to develop their own at considerable cost, and we start an expensive aerodynamic war waged on the underside of the cars and the cars get quicker, the new clean wake is soon dirtied, and we are back where we started. seems consistent with all previous efforts towards max’s ideal of budget cuts, increased overtaking, and limiting speed for safety.

  14. Chris Hill says:

    How has the diffuser row (at least in ferraris eyes) turned in to a Ross Brawn character assasination. If I remeber correctly there are 3 teams in the dock. So why are ferraris lawers picking on RB particularly (mmm me smells sour grapes)

  15. Ben G says:

    Great gig being a Ferrari barrister. Wonder if he gets free cars.

  16. Matilyn says:

    Funny, I thought it was an open and shut case. Now it seems not.

  17. DanB says:

    This “spirit of the regulations” argument strikes me as a load of old bull. How is the exploited loophole for the diffusers any different to the exploited loopholes that allow shark fins, sidepod winglets, airbox winglets etc on the Ferrari/Red Bull/Renault/BMW cars? The aero junk was supposed to be banned too, but they exploited the wording of the regs to add them…

  18. caanan says:

    I’m thinking the diffuser camp may not be as comfortable now as they were yesterday. should be an interesting ruling to say the least.

  19. Geoff says:

    I’m expecting whichever outcome will be worst for McLaren.
    Since they don’t already have the fancy diffusers on the car, that means the diffusers will be ruled legal.

  20. jed says:

    Ferralari, et.al. vs. Brawn Gp, Et.al.

    First and foremost i would like to make it clear that all the information i have comes from what i have read in the various f1 sites, and this is my two cents.

    To my mind the legal questions involved in this case is very interesting and not at all demeaning nor damaging to the sport.

    Making of technical rules is not as easy as one thinks, it is a difficult process and there are times when certain provisions of rules are ambiguous. This is normal everywhere and not only in the FIA. Otherwise, there would be no legal profession to speak of and lawyers would just be redundant.

    obviously the 2009 technical regulations were drafted by a group of people appointed by the FIA (the ovetaking working group) and these rules were then adopted by the FIA.

    It is not Charlie Whiting or any of the stewards in australia or malaysia that drafted these rules. However, Chailie Whiting’s and the stewards opinion carries great weight as they are “experts”, so to speak, when it comes to the interpretation and enforcement of these rules. It is the international court of appeal that has the final word on the interpretation of the rules.

    This is a good thing because it shows that the interpretation of an ambiguous rule has to go through a certain process and therefore thoroughly scrutinized and in the end the greater the chance of having the most fair and just interpretation of the said rule.

    Normally, if the rule is clear and there is no other way to interpret it then the rule is applied to the letter.

    when there is a doubt as in this case, the certain provision of the rule (the provision on diffusers for this case) has to be interpreted in the light of the spirit and intent of the way the 2009 regulations as a whole were drafted. If no clear interpretation can be inferred for that certain provision on the diffusers can be found after reading it together with the 2009 tech regs as a whole then the ICA will have to interview the people who drafted the rules as to what they meant. Their intention would be pivotal to the outcome of this case.

    However, for the reason that this rule is ambiguous, I do not see why the diffuser three would be punished for using their “trick diffuser” if the ICA ruling does not go their way in the races prior to the ruling as it is not their fault that the diffuser rule is ambiguous.

    Once the ruling of the ICA comes out, whatever it is, we the public should be happy that it has come this far as this would be a victory for justice as an ambiguous rule has been thoroughly scrutinized before it was interpreted and clarified, hence, having the fairest possible outcome.

    People thinking that the FIA screwed up on this one is totally wrong. the 2009 tech regs were drafted to make racing more interesting. All we have to do is endure the growing pains of this new regs and once in place we will witness great racing.

  21. Megan says:

    James, I don’t understand where this 15% = 1 second a lap faster comes from. The most extreme figure I’ve seen is 0.5 seconds and that was from an aggrieved team which is probably worth taking with a pinch of salt.

    Either way the lap times on the track don’t back that up, only the Brawn has shown that kind of pace but if that figure was true then Williams and Toyota would be showing similar dominance over the rest of the field, which they don’t.

  22. Paul_G says:

    I was interested to read that it was an engineer from Honda who took the idea with him to Toyota. How then, did the idea get to Williams? I know that they use the Toyota engine but did not realise that they had a technical collaboration beyond this.

  23. lower-case david says:

    let me read from my list of double-decker teams … honda, williams, toyota … oh hold-on a minute, that’s my list of teams that had to start winning this season or be out of business.

    global events overtook honda, williams is subsisting well above its means on RBS loans and bernie brown-envelopes, and toyota have been told to win this year or else.

    are we all 100% confident of the FIA firewalling on requests for technical clarification, and do we know for sure what any of the other teams enquired and were told.

    i generally have zero-interest in conspiracy mumbo-jumbo … but as a student of probabilities it just seems curious that the three teams on a shaky nail all have it, none missed it … and all the other (fiscally secure) teams didn’t do a double-up, not even one of them, absolutely no overlap at all in datasets, that’s weird? eh?

  24. sean says:

    I note that in all this debate that noone has considered that this decision today may not be the end of this debacle.Give this scenario . Say the fia approves the DD thus forcing the other teams to redevelop there cars to compete and at the first practice the new cars are 1sec a lap faster than the DD cars . So brawn protest the diffusers on the ferrari ,toyota on the mclaren for example then the stewards ok the diffusers the mclaren wins the race in a canter so brawn appeal to the fia this could go on all year keep in mind the DD on the three offending cars are all different so there competitors cars will also be different in theory.The fia have to rule them illegal for the betterment of the sport.The stewards should of outrlawed them in aus but they didn’t realize just how quick they would be now we are in this predicament.

  25. Heinz-Harald from Sydney says:

    Is it true that many teams questioned the FIA about the legality of these diffusers before the season started and received an answer in the negative? Or in some cases, no answer at all? If this is the case, then I can see where the anger is coming from.

    On a general note, I want to pronounce my displeasure as to the direction Formula 1 is taking. New rules, double standards, unilateral decisions – none of which have made racing better nor the sport cheaper. All that has transpired are two races where the BEST CARS are the BEST CARS by virtue of the failure of the BEST TEAMS to exploit a loophole (or by their success in obeying the rules?). I was always attracted to F1 by the fact it pushed the boundaries of speed, innovation and commercial presence and if teams like Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Renault are not fighting for the championship then it is highly unlikely that the aforementioned boundaries are being “pushed”. After 2008 – one of the best (if not, the best) F1 World Championships in memory – F1 is descending into farce and in doing so is destroying decades worth of sporting history in the process.

    @lower-case david: I tend to agree….
    Could you imagine the English Premier League without Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal at the top? By all means, your Evertons, Aston Villas, Manchester Cities (and their Arab counterparts) can join them if they are up to it. BUT, if all of a sudden Scunthorpe United, Dag and Red and Rotherham are allowed to play with 12 men and a year or two or three down the track they find themselves in the Champions League Semi-Finals, you’d surely think something was up.

  26. manatcna says:

    Loophole? – It’s not a loophole, it’s just the way the FIA wrote the rules.

    The DD thing was always there to see, It’s just that some teams weren’t looking that hard, and now they’re crying foul.

    This is just childish.

  27. Peter S says:

    What’s your take on Ross Brawn’s body language after the hearing?

    See link below.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/7999068.stm

  28. monktonnik says:

    If the FIA and the Stewards, and Charlie Whiting have passed all 3 cars as legal I don’t see how they can in all good faith change the rule this year and not penalise the teams who exploited the rules to their fullest. Much talk is being made about the cost to Ferrari and Renault et al, but what about the cost to Brawn, Toyota and Williams? They have designed cars that are deemed legal, and now they may have to redesign because of the protests.

    Whilst I understand the frustration of the other teams, the fault does not lie with Brawn GP etc, but with the FIA. The other manufacturers have a legitimate case to ask to clarify the rules, and work to change them for next year, but I don’t think it is reasonable to do so for this year.

  29. Sasquatsch says:

    Exploiting a loophole doesn’t mean the diffusers are illegal. On the contrary a loophole means that they are (technically) legal. And since these diffusers have been cleared twice by the stewards at two different races they think the same. As did the FIA over a year ago when Williams’ design was approved, according to Sam Michaels.

    But does it prevent another car from overtaking or driving in its slipstream? From what I have seen these two races, no, it doesn’t prevent that. So even in the spirit of the rules I think they are legal.

    So I think it would be strange that these diffusers will be banned. It certainly will undermine the authority of the stewards at the races, and the FIA as well (because of the approved Williams design) because they will not be able to tell if a car is legal or not. To be honest, there is only one possible outcome. The diffusers are legal.

    Every other outcome will have a negative effect on either the stewards of the race as well as the FIA itself.

  30. Adrian says:

    I did think that Brawn looked a bit rattled in that ‘interview’. It’s clear that he wanted to get away, but it would have been in character to give them a one-line, ‘we’ll wait and see’. I thought it interesting that Brawn refused to answer whether he thought they’d had a fair hearing, possibly suggesting that he doesn’t and if it goes the wrong way, he’ll try to take the matter further.

    I imagine Brawn is surprised by how full-on Tozzi QC’s attack was – I doubt Tozzi’s gone out on a limb – he’s probably been instructed to give Brawn a good going over. Ferrari seem to be seriously ****ed about this whole business, even though they’ve mainly got themselves to blame for how badly the season has started for them. When Ferrari get ****ed, things seem to go their way.

    Re the hole/slot point – the relevant difference seems to be that a hole is fully enclosed – a slot is not. If apertures which were not fully enclosed were illegal then the whole of the side of the car would have to be one uniform straight line, which is clearly not the case.

    I was reasonably confident that the appeal would be unsuccessful but am much less so now.

  31. GKN says:

    Stewards in Australia and in Malaysia has already approved the diffusers . FIA has no choise as but to do the same.
    End of story.

  32. vicweir says:

    Two thoughts quickly before the Paris outcome is announced…

    1. Why did the Renault diffuser fail the FIA test last year ? What precisely was the problem?
    2. Why can’t F1 cars be scrutineered before the first race of the season by the FIA?

  33. Darkstomper says:

    Yes yes yes!!! Diffusers are 100% legal!!!

    Go Brawn….

  34. AdrianJ says:

    It’s official, they’re legal!!

  35. James H says:

    So – there you have it – Legal!

    Jenson must be smiling harder than ever now :)

  36. Ed H says:

    Yeah, I mean, surely the FIA with all their “sensible minds” would surely know by now that this is fast becoming extremely ridiculous and out of hand, would have legalised the diffusers and sent everyone on their way. (Though I suppose seeing the interview with Martin Whitmarsh just to make sure is nessesary…)

    The only reason the rival teams are pushing on with this is not because they believe that the design breaks the rules, it is because they are jealous because they didn’t think of that, and want all the points they can get their hands on, in whatever way nessesary. How pitiful.

  37. Mooks says:

    I was waiting all morning, until i switched the BBC News channel on at lunch on my PC, for them to say it won’t be until tomorrow. I think a bit of tossing and turning will happen tonight.

  38. Lee Gilbert says:

    Phil, it was always stated that this announcement would come on Weds – 24 hrs AFTER the hearing – we knew that over 2 weeks ago

    Media agencies like BBC News and Sky News have been making out all day that “Jenson wil discover today” – and I have just been laughing in their inept journalist faces for the last 24 hrs – do they not read what has been in the public domain for weeks!

  39. rpaco says:

    Obviously when the facts do not support Ferrari, another form of attack has to be made. Who better than the one who is leading the championship?

    I am sure that he (Tozzi) must get a very useful discount on his transport. not that he needs it.

  40. Lee Gilbert says:

    They get Fiats!

  41. Luciano says:

    My thoughts exactly.

  42. Mon Pen says:

    Too right! How often have we seen developments that have been within the “spirit of the regulations” banned but outside the minute detail eg McLaren’s front wing a few years ago when the bumps at Brazil dislodged it, or Ferrari’s bargeboards were they weren’t they? Whereas here clearly this is within the “letter of the regulations” but somehow called into question?

    Isn’t it time for a cull of the fat bald Italian guys running the FIA – get Silvio to send them on a camping holiday in an earthqueake zone maybe – and get someone running the sport who has a clue?

    These guys ought to stop playing with their willies and concentrate on the sport in hand. As it were.

  43. Journeyer says:

    “People thinking that the FIA screwed up on this one is totally wrong. the 2009 tech regs were drafted to make racing more interesting. All we have to do is endure the growing pains of this new regs and once in place we will witness great racing.”

    But why take so long? Surely, we can go through this process a lot quicker than how we’re doing it right now? The FIA screwed up in that its process has been slow and unwieldy and has generated a lot of negative attention. Why couldn’t there have been a meeting regarding this in Sepang prior to the Malaysian GP? Or why couldn’t have we had this last week?

  44. rpaco says:

    RBS loans? That’s our money mate! So they had better start winning to attract more sponsors so we can have our money back. (oh what the hell, Gordon Brown would only nick it again and spend it on MP’s luxury living, so this is probably the best place for it after all)

  45. rpaco says:

    They read the rules properly!

  46. RB says:

    Wrong Lee, Ferrari don’t give him anything like that, he just get’s his pay.

  47. Lee Gilbert says:

    That was actually a joke

  48. James Allen says:

    Very interesting, thanks for that, Peter. There are two sides to Ross, he can be the genial, chatty character or he can be the tough guy who doesn’t give anything away and what we see here is the latter. I don’t think you can draw too many conclusions about what happened in there and what he feels the outcome will be just from his body language in this clip. He looks more annoyed that he’s not being shepherded through the media into a waiting limo. I’m sure Ferrari’s lawyer implying that he is ‘supremely arrogant’ will have stung him, coming on top of the comments Flavio Briatore made in Melbourne. But as Ross always says, this is a tough sport and you must give no quarter..

  49. AdrianJ says:

    Why do you not include Williams in that list? They’ve won more Championships than any current team except Ferrari and McLaren and, to me, are as important a part of the sport of either of those 2. I would also challenge your assertion that Toyota and BrawnGP cannot push the boundaries of the sport.

  50. AdrianJ says:

    James,

    Do we know what time the FiA are expected to make their announcement today?

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