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FIA explains diffuser appeal decision
FIA explains diffuser appeal decision
Posted By:   |  20 Apr 2009   |  4:29 pm GMT  |  37 comments

Almost a week after the diffuser appeal was thrown out by the International Court of Appeal in Paris, the FIA has issued a full explanation of how the decision was arrived at. It’s a lengthy document, very technical and it gives all the reasons why the judges found the way they did.

There were multiple grounds submitted for appeal, all of which were thrown out, from procedural error by the Melbourne stewards to going against the spirit of the overtaking working group to unecessary expense involved in copying the device.

At the core of it was a judgement on whether the device was outside the technical regulations. This came down to debates on multiple transitions between the two planes beneath the car and what an ‘enclosed hole’ is.

It’s all pretty dry stuff, but seems very thorough to my non-technical eye. Anyway you can read it for yourself on

There is quite an interesting passage where this case is compared to the Renault mass damper, which was declared illegal. But the bit that caught my eye and which I found quite amusing was the passage referred to by Williams CEO Adam Parr after the hearing, where Ferrari’s lawyer appeared to suggest that Ferraris of recent years were illegal, albeit ‘less illegal’ than this generation of cars… Here’s the passage, judge for yourself.

“At the hearing, Ferrari acknowledged that multiple vertical transitions had been used by many teams in the past, including Ferrari itself, and argued that all such prior uses (including its own) had constituted a technical violation of the TR which had been tolerated.

“However, it argued that where multiple transitions had been used at the front of the car, rather than the rear, this constituted only a minor breach which could have been easily remedied, had it been necessary to do so, without a significant detriment to performance. Ferrari contends that multiple vertical transitions at the rear of the car have not been seen before and constitute a more serious violation which should not be tolerated. ”

Anyway that’s that over with, unless BMW decide to continue with its appeal from Malaysia, which Mario Theissen did not rule out. F1 teams are now engaged in an arms race to build their own versions of this hotly contested device as quickly as possible.

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In Ferrari's defence, Italian law lacks 'legal precedent' so their argument of 'not breaking the law as much' is possibly more logical than appears to our anglo saxon mentality!
Still makes me smile though...
It's going to make it an interesting season.


I chuckled at the Ferrari paragraph too, especially in light of Stefano Domenicali's reaction to Adam Parr's reported comment, in the paddock at Shanghai. My two other "highlight" clauses in that document are paragraphs 65 and 85.

65 - The court's only ruling against any of the three "Contested Design Teams", an outbreak of common sense against Brawn's argument that, essentially, you can connect any two different surfaces with a single line if it's wiggly enough.

85 - A concerning one for any future technological innovations, in light of the cost-cutting Zeitgeist. The court ruled that, even if Renault and Red Bull had presented exact copies of Brawn's diffuser to the FIA Technical Department (Charlie Whiting) for legal/technical guidance, there would be no contradiction in the fact that their design was advised to be illegal while the concept developed by the "Diffuser Three" was subsequently given the green light.

Essentially, if Renault and Red Bull's designs really were that similar to those of the other three teams (although paragraph 84 suggests there were subtle differences), they should have ignored Charlie Whiting, spent significant time and money developing their entire cars around the double-diffuser concept and turned up to Melbourne to find out whether the car was legal or not.

Surely the FIA needs to try and develop some sort of system for ruling definitively on the legality of technical design concepts before the start of the season.


I sure am glad that fans can read this document and rest assured that the whole diffuser question is all cleared up now that the issues have been discussed and the decision explained.

Seriously, does anyone who doesn't have a combined degree in engineering AND law understand this stuff? Could the FIA please provide some subtitles?


Rubbing my hands will read it later depending on what's on telly, sad I know to be entertained by engineering. Now if Fred Dibnah had had an F1 Team!!
Ironically in 10 years time we may well be watching steam driven cars albeit turbines heat sourced by hydrogen.


Every team pushes the boundaries but this weekends race has made the diffuser issue a non-entity anyway with the RBR dominating in the wet without the trick diffuser.

I'm glad they saw sense in the end although I wonder what the decision would have been if McLaren were the first to find this diffuser and take advantage...


Brilliant - all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

Have Ferrari just said that it's ok to violate the rules as long as it's a "small" violation? Is a "little white lie" still a lie???

Get real guys.


I assume the FIA won't deem it necessary to bring Ferrari up on a disrepute charge (although how else you could describe "had been used by many teams in the past, including Ferrari itself, and argued that all such prior uses (including its own) had constituted a technical violation" is beyond me).

Someone with too much time on their hands, or else a professional could try and guage which cars DIDN'T break the Ferrari interpretation of the rules, and retrospectively reassign the titles. But PLEASE don't give them any publicity if they do.

That's about all F1 could cope with, another controversy.


while the others play catchup, maybe brawn can get to work on some new high performance white goods complete with a big ass diffuser. Maybe like this :


Im buying share's in a carbon fibre company they way these teams spend money they'll never see the credit crunch.
James if the teams interpretations of the updated dd and other packages means they are 2sec's faster than the brawns,toyotas & williams could these teams protest, them we could be doing this all year.


Hi James

It seems to me that this ruling has implied that there is no longer any such thing as "In the spirit of the regulations" and that technically as long as it follows the letter of the regulations then it's legal. Do you think this could open up or make the use of loop holes more common place? I also wondered if the loop hole has been closed for 2010? If it hasn't would there need to be a unanimous agreement between all the teams for a regulation change for next season?

Andy Thomlinson

Ferrari are getting really good shooting themselves in the foot on and off the track at the minute. What with full wets on a dry track and then statements like this from their lawyer, I think there may be a case to investigate whether Ferrari are in possession of McLaren data on how not to run a F1 team.

On a serious note why is the BMW appeal on the diffusers still on going?


So let me get this straight....

Ferrari have been cheating for years?

Or just a little cheat at the front of car - undetected

Oh Felipe Baby calm down don't worry its only a small one!


The technical explanation was exactly as we expected, ie there were gaps not holes. RBR and co had interpreted the rules correctly, Ferrari's claim re step plane transition exclusions being only at the front was not written anywhere and was not correct.

The extra procedural detail was a bit onerous but the technical bits were clear. Notably McLaren just sent two guys and no lawyers. (a budget saving already!)

Renault saying that because the tuned mass damper was thrown out the DDD should be too, had no relevance whatsoever because the mass damper was new technology on F1 but there had always been diffusers.

(The mass damper should be re-instated in my view purely because it is a brilliant idea)


comment on the ruling.

I think the ICA is 100% correct with their ruling.
It seems that the plaintiff-appellants based their arguments on the preamble of the 2009 tech regs.

A preamble is not a rule but instead it is a statement used to "introduce" a rule and often times give the reason why such rule was made and the objectives of the said rules.

The preamble is not binding and has no force and effect of rules. This is an established legal concept.

When there is a vague rule where the interpretation is unclear, the preamble is one of the tools used in interpreting the rule, so as to get to the proper interpretation of the rules.

Now in the diffuser controversy, essentially the plaintiff-appellants argue that from the preamble of the rules it is clear that the objective of the rules is to reduce downforce, reduce the wake of the cars in front and etc., and because the double decker diffuser will not achieve the objectives of the rules, thus, there is a circumvetion of the rules and therfore is illegal.

However, the tech regs are clear and leave no room for interpretation. Certain measurments are taken from certain reference points and if it is within the specs provided for in the tech regs then it is legal. Thus, the rule itself was drafted wherein it is either you are in or you are out. When measurements are taken for the diffusser three's diffusers they all meet the specs in the tech regs and therefore legal.

To interpret it in another way would mean that the ICA would be making their own rules, which is beyond the scope of thier jurisdiction.
In other words the plaintiff-appellants in effect were questioning the wisdom of the rule and not the rule itself.

The ICA has no jurisdiction to decide whether or not a rule is wise or stupid. Thier jurisdiction is on the application and interpretation of the rules.

If the plaintiff-appellants really feel aggrieved by the fact that a diffuser can be designed in a way that is within the rules but does not meet the objective of the rules then their remedy would be to have the rule amended following the proper procedure for amendments of the tech regs, which i presume cannot be made anymore for this season unless there is a 100% concurrence of all the teams.

In short it is immaterial whether or not the objectives of the tech regs have been achieved, but the tech regs are clear and the diffuser three cars are within the rules.

The Kitchen Cynic

To summarise the Ferrari argument:

" 'Legal' always used to be defined by the FIA as whatever Ferrari happened to be doing at the time. What's changed?"


Last years 'small' is this years 'big'


Typical FIA response really.

We know best. We make the rules. We decide.

I particularly liked how they made sure to 'recognise' the Art 3 TR preamble when giving each verdict, and then ignore it.

Also why are the FIA intent on undermining their own representatives? As of September 2008 Charlie Whiting has no authority at the races and now, apparently the F1 Technical Department has no authority regarding the regulations.

You have to give credit to whoever writes these documents though for continuing to provide new and innovative was to hide the fact that the FIA just makes it up as they go along.


Confusing. More like the "Spirit of Irregularities". Will it be better? Or has it been this path all along as engineering is under construction everyday. Confuse or cheat or cover up? Too much technical info can drive you insane. As long as they are within 1.5 secs racing will be closer. Wondered what's the upcoming protest. Toyota has a "triple deck" diffuser. Will there be a "four deck" in the making?


Good work, Chris. Keep 'em coming. Think we need some Ferrari merchandise next...


Always. I have another installment in the series to share. This appliance has huge downforce.



Keep the crazy ideas coming, Chris


"..sad I know to be entertained by engineering."

Sad? To work as an Engineer is to be paid to be an inventor. Designing cars is seriously challenging and an immensely rewarding job. I'm surrounded by some of the most clever people I ever met and I love going to work every day! How many people can say that??

I know you meant it jokingly, but honestly it's a shame that Engineering is 'un-cool' in the UK and some other countries. Thank goodness for sports like F1 which showcase how awesome engineering can be! ;o)


I want one, it'll be two seconds faster than any other toaster.

Unless it's raining.


You know what, I'd actually buy that. Brilliant stuff. Has anybody sent it to Brawn's merchandising person? 🙂


Nice one chris, great find!


Agreed, this clearly makes the case for some way of obtaining a binding clarification to the rules before you get as far as a race weekend.


Excellent summary. Thankyou.


Excellent explanation, thanks.

I agree, with technical regs there is no 'spirit'. There may be an intention to steer things in one direction or another, but sticking to a clear black and white legal/illegal is definitely the way to go.


Obviously I meant BrawnGP not RBR. Regret brain malfunction.

It all came down to reading the rules, as it always has.


Thanks guys and thanks for sharing james. I am going to animate it so i will publish it when it's done. I may even expand the range with some more domestic goodness.



LMAO!! I just had to tweet that


Does your point mean that there are going to be new regs for the dds and so the teams trying to catch up can actually go one step further and exploit them even more?

So confusing, seems like the FIA are doing what an annoying teacher does when you have a question and they just answer it with another question, ie give no help.

I bet that one of the teams tries to exploit the rules as much as they can and gets done for it.. hopefully itll be ferrari hahahah


Good question, we still need some clarification, as Mario Theissen said at the weekend


No, they mean it's ok if they do it.


Hear hear with a brick. Or does Max secretly want to send all the teams broke ?

Seriously, this is really weird.

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