FIA to rule on legality of Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers (Poll)

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Williams' diffuser design is among those under protest
Williams' diffuser design is among those under protest

The FIA International Court of Appeal will today finally rule on whether the ‘double decker’ diffusers used by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams are legal.

Should the Brawn / Toyota/ Williams diffusers be banned?

  • Don't care (2%)
  • Don't know (5%)
  • No (69%)
  • Yes (23%)

Total Voters: 2,847

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The technical decision

Back in January John Beamer described the new diffuser regulations as ‘opaque’ and it seems the result of that lack of clarity has been a protest against three teams who many of the other believe have interpreted the rules incorrectly.

Last week John offered this view on the likely outcome of the technical side to the diffuser debate:

(1) The rules don?t prevent double-decking as the diffuser is defined in the articles labelled ??bodywork facing the ground? – the upper tier does not face the ground.

(2) The reference plan and step are not treated as a single continuous surface so holes can be carved in the step transition to feed more air to the diffuser.

(3) A longer, higher central section that integrates with the rear crash structure is allowed – Toyota exploits this (think of this as a narrower version of the central section allowed last year).

The prevailing view in the paddock is that the FIA will not outlaw the double-diffuser, at least not this season. Expect 75% of teams to be running them when the F1 circus lands in Europe.

See the links below for more on the technical side of the discussion. But as ever in F1 the implications of today’s decision could go far beyond the technical…

The political decision

Anyone who remembers the Ferrari barge board controversy of 1999 knows that technical accuracy means little next to what the governing body thinks is in the best interest of the sport. On that occasion, allowing the championship battle to continue into the final race of the season was viewed as being more important than punishing a team whose interpretation of the rules was, at best, questionable.

The situation is complicated in that the FIA originally said the diffuser designs were legal. When the cars were scrutineered at Melbourne they were passed as legal, and now several teams have protested against that decision.

Here’s some of the poits of view on the debate the FIA may take into consideration:

  • “Brawn GP have benefitted from the diffusers more than anyone, and as they represent the FIA’s vision of future, inexpensive F1 teams, they will get an easy time from the stewards.” I’m not really convinced by this argument as Toyota – F1’s most profligate team in recent years – have the same technology.
  • “Because of the diffusers, F1 cars in 2009 are faster than the FIA intends them to be, so they will ban them.” I think this argument has some merit but the way Flavio Briatore put it forward smacked of sour grapes.
  • “The designers have gone against past precedent in their interpretation of the rules.” This was a view put forward by Ferrari’s Rory Byrne, but what confuses me is that if it was this simple, I don’t see why the FIA wouldn’t have passed the diffusers as legal in the first place (of course, this link of thinking can be used against many other arguments). Besides which, recent rulings have shown past precedent carries very little weight in FIA appeal hearings.
  • “The FIA will not re-distribute points from past races because it would further tarnish the sport’s reputation.” If they have an ounce of sense, they’ll leave the results of the first two races alone.

My instincts tell me the diffusers will be passed as legal.

Although technical reasons will be put forward by the FIA as the justification for their legality, this will be a decision taken more out of political pragmatism.

F1 has these ‘interpretation of the technical rules’ argument from time to time, as Williams’ counter-protest against certain teams’ side pod wings made clear. The wiggle room in the regulations seems so great we might as well toss a coin instead of going to the time and expense of having a hearing.

In short, the FIA can pick whichever decisions suits them best and then find a technical means of supporting it.

The FIA has recently proposed F1 has two sets of technical regulations next year in order to make its budget caps proposal work. It can’t very well do that and then hold hearings where it contradicts previous decisions made by itself and its stewards, which undermine the results of the first two races of the championship. It has to demonstrate its competence.

Do you think the diffuser appeal will succeed or fail? Vote above and leave a comment below.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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149 comments on “FIA to rule on legality of Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers (Poll)”

  1. Max wants F1 to be road-relevant. These diffusers are innovation.

    Of course, McLaren’s independent rear brakes were rules legal, only to be banned on appeal.

  2. the Sri lankan
    14th April 2009, 7:47

    believe it or not these diffusers add more spectacle to the sport and give three teams a clear shot at the championships rather than keeping the “dull” ferrari vs Mclaren saga up. hope the diffusers stay so we can concentrate on more important things like the actual races for example. however, it would be hard on other teams because they will effectively need a b spec car rather than a simple change to the diffuser.

    1. the B-spec goes both ways. If the ruling is against the doubledeckers Williams, Brown and Toyota will need a B-spec ;-)

  3. I do think also that the diffusers are legal … it’s just a simply way of saying “clever design” … I know other teams will be able to catch up specially Ferrari but when will they start it? When will we see a big change in performance? … I can’t really wait for the Chinese GP where Ferrari said they’ll have an interpretation of that double diffuser if the findings goes to the way of the 3 teams.

  4. I thought I read this somewhere before the Australian GP:

    Christian Horner of Red Bull said they had of a similar idea when designing the RB5, and asked the FIA it would be acceptable. The FIA said no.

    Did I just dream that? Wouldn’t that make for a strong argument?

    1. I thought I read this somewhere before the Australian GP:

      Christian Horner of Red Bull said they had of a similar idea when designing the RB5, and asked the FIA it would be acceptable. The FIA said no.

      I haven’t seen a quote like that anywhere – but I have seen a quote from Adrian Newey admiring the way the diffusers have been designed!

    2. Flavio Briatore said more or less that when he first started complaining about the double diffusers. It was implied that Renault had asked the FIA for a ruling, rather than stated in so many words, and the Flav said that the FIA had turned the idea down.

      Since nothing further has been said about this, I take it that Briatore was being somewhat inventive and the actual question (if it ever existed) asked of the FIA covered something in the same area but not double diffusers.

    3. Well, besides his word on it we haven’t seen any proof that is correct. Maybe they did something completely different to diffuser teams which doesn’t stand. Also, I find it ridicoulous that you can ask for clarification by FiA’s technical comission – get the blueprints approved, get another approve by head of technical comission when he visited Barcelona test. Then you get approved by stewards in 2 regular pre-race scrutineering and on another ruling after appeal and you still have to go to the court of appeal. This controversy was suposed to get untangled in January when the first cars with DDD appeared and not allow it to drag for months.

    4. I found it! …well.. I found something.
      Not sure it’s a reliable source, but here it is.

      Apparently, “[Helmet Marko] claims both Renault and Red Bull discussed the legality of a similar aerodynamic concept with the FIA early last year and “at that time there was a negative answer”.”

  5. The FIA is one big mess, I’m suprised people still take them seriously. What kind of governance is this when teams can seek approval from the FIA about specific design concepts, have them approved, yet still require that stewards decide the legality of those designs.

  6. i’m intrigued… several people have voted that those diffusers should be banned.. on what grounds? have all of you more technical knowledge and experience with those diffusers than the stewards at two races? or did you vote “illegal” because the “wrong” teams are faster than your favorite team? if so, what exactly is the driving force for you watching F1? :)

    @Oliver: nail on the head..

    1. ricardo yoyo norketti
      14th April 2009, 8:55

      @ saab…spot oon mate, cld not agree with you more.

    2. ricardo yoyo norketti
      14th April 2009, 8:55

      @ saab…spot on mate, could not agree with you more.

    3. gospeedracer
      14th April 2009, 15:52

      spot on saab! I haven’t been this excited about f1 in a very LONG time – if the passing that has occurred in the first two races is any indication, it’s going to be a fun season. it’s no longer the same-o same-o teams teams in the running, we actually have five or six teams that are very closely matched. the results are no longer predictable – so we tune in and not fall asleep. if the FIA is truly interested in maintaining interest in the sport and their own competence in the eyes of the public, they should allow the diffusers. the alternative would be disastrous in so many ways.

    4. No, those of us who voted yes haven’t got more technical knowledge than the race stewards. But I’m sure the teams who want the diffusers banned and their engineers have more technical knowledge than you and that is what they are basing THEIR argument on. Silly argument!

    5. Toby Bushby
      15th April 2009, 1:40

      S Hughes –

      But I’m sure the teams who want the diffusers banned and their engineers have more technical knowledge than you and that is what they are basing THEIR argument on. Silly argument!

      And what about the three teams that did design the diffusers? How’s their technical knowledge?

      The unfortunate fact is, every team is going to fight tooth and nail to get the best result for their own interest. Red Bull, for example, have finally designed a mega car, but then find that three other teams are faster or at least matching them. These three teams have a design in common, so it’s easy to then protest it. Brawn, Toyota and Williams have fast cars, which may or may not be only down to their diffusers, but of course they don’t want them banned. Unless we all become technical guru’s, we can’t give an accurate opinion on this stuff, so we have to rely on the FIA’s ruling. I voted ‘no’ because the FIA techies(including Charlie Whiting) have told the three teams that their designs are okay, the stewards at two races have said the same, so for me they’re legal. In fact, even Ferrari’s lawyer can only argue that it is an exploited loophole and resort to personal attacks. Where’s the proof that the regs were broken?

    6. No, those of us who voted yes haven’t got more technical knowledge than the race stewards. But I’m sure the teams who want the diffusers banned and their engineers have more technical knowledge than you and that is what they are basing THEIR argument on. Silly argument!

      Well the teams that want the diffusers banned obviously don’t want to have to rush a desgn of their own, so I expect that they do think the diffuser’s within the rules, they just want to avoid any development. I doubt it would make their cars as fast as the others intitially even if they do make one. In comparison, if the diffuser was found to be illegal, teams running it now probably wouldn’t find it as hard to redesign a normal diffuser.

      The fact that everyone knew it would be found legal (teams like Ferrari supposedly started designing double-diffusers weeks ago) shows that everyone in the paddock is aware it is legal, they just wish it wasn’t.

  7. i think they should be legal.

    on a separate note, i wonder how toyota are feeling this season being 2nd by a good margin in the constructors points.

    they were really hoping for improvements and i’m sure the diffuser is a part of it. if they lose performance, and points i’d hate to see them drop out.

  8. Hi all, this is actually my first post here.

    From what I understand, the hearing will be at 10am CET, in Paris, which is about 20 minutes from now. Does anyone know approximately what time we’ll get a verdict?

    1. Welcome Chua – thanks for the tip!

      We know there are three teams defending so presumably they’ll all have submissions to make. Red Bull, Renault, Ferrari and BMW are all involved in bringing the appeal about (BMW bot on board rather late) so presumably they’ll all have something to say too.

      So I think it could take a while! I don’t think we’ll get the verdict before 5pm.

    2. I think I read on the BBC F1 site that the verdict won’t appear until tomorrow.

    3. gospeedracer
      14th April 2009, 20:47

      Are you Alex from Singapore that worked at DTRIC in Honolulu?

  9. Hugo Bourgeois
    14th April 2009, 8:37

    Anyone have any idea at what time (GMT) we are expected to hear the result of the hearing?

    1. I belive the hearing is today but we wont have a result to tommrow.

  10. Commonsense says that the diffusers should be legal and the other teams should live with their misinterpretation of the rules, and start catching up with Brawn and Toyota.
    F1 should be about technical innovation and thinking outside the box as much as driver stamina and quick-wittedness.
    If the FIA do ban the diffusers, its a sign that they would rather have the same old battles between the Red and Silver cars, no matter what Max says about smaller, cheaper teams….

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      14th April 2009, 11:48

      Common sense??? When has that ever applied to the FIA?! Interestingly, the people who will make the judegment have no technical knowledge of the sport…..

    2. Hmmm, and these people actually run the motorsports events? Are Brawn etc liable to be asked to give evidence for their interpretation?
      And thinking about it, surely Brawn would have to explain how he found a way round the rules he helped to draw up – a man with two hats?

  11. If F1 should be more about innovation, then, really, the regulations should be made a little looser.

  12. Whatever the outcome, I’m not fussed. This technology battle is what I like about F1. All teams throughout the years have found some terrific ideas that have then been banned. Keith wrote some great articles on this that are stuffed somewhere around in the archives.
    Although, I doubt many F1 fans will look back on a double diffuser with as much fondness as the Brabham fan car.

  13. I voted No, as long as the rules are not mistreated. if they are opaque and are as leaky as a fishnet, then it’s the rule makers problem. not the good engineers that worked through the loopholes.

    Lawyers are educated and later on tapped on the back to navigate through loopholes in Law. if there is a loophole close it. Brawn as he said offered to do so, but they rejected his proposal.

    I’m for making F1 on the razor sharp edge of automotive engineering. and making the maximum with the strict(er) limitations is part of any sport.

    so i think the other teams should catch up, but HEY! RBR have a bloody fast car that is Diffuserless? might they have something illegal? or just an incredibly talented design Guru? same applies to the diffuser 3. “i cant believe we are calling them that”.

  14. One should blame FIA for lacking imagination while creating the rules, and not Brawn and co. for having one while creating the car.
    Why would you wanna penelize creativity?

    And in the end, it is the teams who fall victim of the not-precise-enough rules.

  15. The double-decker diffusers are legal (probably) but are clearly against the spirit of the rules. It’s just not cricket!

    I wish the controversy was over something much more innovative and unique than a double-decker diffuser – it seems likely that any team could have created one if they had thought it was legal.

    If the advantage was highly innovative, even if illegal, the innovator would have received some grudging respect from the other teams. Now it just looks like these three DD teams are playing dirty.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      14th April 2009, 11:57

      I never understand this “spirit of the rules” nonsense. This is a highly technical sport where there are boundaries that are set in measureable terms. Brawn et al have interpreted these rules in a certain way which have already been given the go ahead. If these non technical ‘judges’ @ the FIA deem the diffusers as illegal, i’ll eat my hat (once I’ve bought one).

  16. Seems to me that everybody (teams) are allowed to do as they like, only Mclaren and Hamilton are must follow the so called RULES, of cause existing and non existing ones, no wonder Mclaren didn’t take part in this altogether.

  17. We all know that the Brawn diffuser won’t be banned, just as we all know that McLaren and Lewis will be hauled over the coals on 29/4/09 and given a draconian and totally out of proportion punishment. Why do we know this? Because the FiA favours Ferrari and Brawn/Button, and is prejudiced against McLaren/Lewis. Button is already strutting around saying he knows that the diffuser won’t be banned. Just like when Charlie Whiting took an absolute age to call out the safety car after Nakajima’s accident in Melbourne, and did so as soon as the Brawn cars pitted. F1 is not just about fast cars and great driving. It is about corruption, biased stewards and an incredibly biased governing body. “Justice” won’t be done, because “justice” doesn’t exist in F1.

    1. I don’t think FIA is pro-Ferrari – they slapped them on the wrist in the past as well. They are allways trying the championship to be determined as late as possible as it increases viewing figures. They changed points system to make it more difficult for Schumacher to walk away with championship too early.

    2. OMG!! First the FIA favours Ferrari, now it favours Brawn as well!! It seems like the favour all teams except your beloved McLaren.

      If I had to be sceptical about this all… I would say that at some point in the past, McLaren have been trying to stitch up Mosley or in some other way have pissed him off! so now there is a political battle between Ron & Max… and this is the result.

      Personally, I don’t think so, Spy-gate they got caught red handed (and tried to play the upper-management innocent line)… here, the evidence is very much against them (and again the try to play the upper-management innocent line)… so I can only presume that Ron, Martin & Norbert are like the three monkeys (deaf, dumb & blind)… well dumb certainly for all three! …they know full well what is going on on all counts.

      I used to rate and like McLaren very much… now I say… throw the ****** book at them!!… and Lewis, get out of there while you still have some dignity!

  18. KingHamilton
    14th April 2009, 9:49

    lets look at the facts:

    1. Stewards ruled them to be legal
    2. They are perfectly within the wording of the rules
    3. Brawn himself said that there was a little loophole in the rules nearly a year ago, but nobody listened. until now

    So to me that makes the diffusers perfectly legal. however, the pathetic FIA will probably have other ideas………

    1. I don’t think “nobody listened”… If I recall correctly they thought it was illegal, not that they didn’t care.

  19. … WITH THE VERDICT TO BE ISSUED TOMORROW AFTERNOON… (according to autosport)

  20. I voted Yes.

    My reasoning is that although they are probably legal they contradict what teams have been trying to achieve. Reduce wake and improve overtaking.

    In the end, if they are deemed legal it is the fans like us who will suffer

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      14th April 2009, 11:59

      If the rules have been drawn up in a cockeyed way, how is that Brawns fault…?

    2. David (Brazil)
      15th April 2009, 0:10

      I agree Giuseppe. I think just about everyone is missing the boat on this issue. Okay, so the first two races have been enthralling because the usual suspects are nowhere near the front of the grid.

      But let’s think this through. If the diffusers are declared legal, within a shortish time span the other teams will develop and use their own, quickly reducing the advantage held by Brawn and co. So my question is, are diffusers for everyone going to be good for racing? Since they improve aerodynamics and probably make overtaking more difficult, the answer has to be no.

      Personally I’m in favour of declaring them illegal but allowing Brawn to keep the points. I suspect the non-KERS cars are more aerodynamic anyhow, so we would still see a performance difference and some serious competition.

      The fact is FIA is deliberately skewing the rules to allow more competition – pretending it will enforce KERS, then allowing teams off the hook, telling Renault diffusers are probably illegal, then allowing Brawn etc. to go ahead. It’s short-termism. For example, if Mercedes decide they’ve basically had enough of FIA’s p*ssing around, will them leaving be good for the sport?

    3. Toby Bushby
      15th April 2009, 1:55

      The hearing should have the right kinds of evidence presented to give the right verdict. If we were to actually trust any decision given by the FIA (hypothetically, of course), it must be proven to the court that having additional elements around the diffuser does in fact create more wake that actually makes it harder to follow a car. The overtaking doesn’t come into it. That is what having a faster car means – it’s harder to overtake. As soon as this evidence is presented, then the FIA can judge whether the parts are illegal.

  21. @ Giuseppe

    totally agree with you

  22. The rules should make it possible to reduce turbulence in a car’s wake, but it is not a teams responsibility to make their cars overtake friendly.

  23. Contrary to popular opinion, I think the diffusers will be declared illegal – but with the results from the first two races to stand. I have no rational basis for my opinion, other than that the FIA have a habit of doing the opposite of what almost everyone thinks is reasonable and correct!

  24. I guess it is just a matter of understanding and interpreting the rules correctly. There might be loop holes in it that not all designers saw and took advantage of it. Ross Brawn did exactly what that loop hole is and gain every advantage from it. Now, is it illegal to be wiser and smarter than everybody? if it is, then ban those three teams.

  25. Bigbadderboom
    14th April 2009, 10:26

    @Giuseppe “If they are deemed legal its the fans who suffer”
    Not sure how the fans suffer, there has still been vast improvements in reducing wake due to the front wing rule changes. And I think the first 2 races has shown better overtaking and closer racing action.
    If deemed Illegal then its the sport as a whole that suffers, F1 looses any credibility it has left. If the stewards decision is overturned and the diffusers declared illegal, then I fear it would be more to do with the protests from ferra

  26. I have a simply question to ask.

    What is the difference between the wake a car with a Double Decker diffuser leaves behind it when compared to a ‘normal’ diffuser?

    If the wake is worse, they should be banned in my opinion. Though the FIA must have clarified this about late February for sure (and this is a lot of time I’m giving them). Lately, the FIA has been acting very strangely as well on other circumstances, such as the ‘lie-gate’ saga. But I won’t go off-topic.

    1. My understanding was that the double/triple deck diffusers had a cleaner airflow exiting them, but I am no engineer/designer and know nothing about it really… I just read that somewhere, or read something and understood/misunderstood it as that.

      If I understood right, then thoeretically that would make overtaking easier with the “controversial” diffuser design.

  27. Having read this…

    …I’m wondering if maybe it would be better for the sport to ban them after all. Not officially declaring them illegal, but banning in the interests of the sport and therefore keep the results of the first two races.

    1. Thanks Dougie, that should make an interesting read.

  28. I think the FIA will leave the results of the first 2 races alone no matter what they decide about the diffusers.

    As the FIA has shown before decisions of this sort are often influenced by politics, rather than what is the correct interpretation of the rules, for example banning new technology because it gave someone a performance advantage not because it was against the rules. For this reason I think it is more likely the diffusers are deemed legal because the teams who currently have them are teams that have not been successful recently and also other teams like the Red Bull are not that far behind at the moment in terms of pace. If the only teams with the diffuser were McLaren and Ferrari and especially if just one of those two had the diffuser, I think there would be a higher chance of them being banned as those are the teams who have dominated F1 in recent history.

    If I had to predict the outcome it would be that they will be ruled legal for this season but the FIA will probably redo the regulations for next year to ban them. Or if they go ahead with the stupid idea of two sets of regulations for different budgets, they will allow it for teams who choose the budget cap but not for those with limited budgets.

    Does anyone know why McLaren decided to join in the protests late? Does it make any difference how many teams protest it?

    I have a question for the technically minded out there, I have seem some people claim on message boards that the ‘double decker’ diffusers make it harder for cars to follow due to increased turbulence, and also some people claim that it actually cleans up the airflow making it easier to follow the car in front. Which view is the correct one?

  29. KingHamilton
    14th April 2009, 12:27

    does anyone know at what time the case is to be heard?

    Im very anxious to find out the verdict………..

  30. KingHamilton – Verdict won’t be out until tomorrow afternoon.

  31. KingHamilton
    14th April 2009, 12:59


    I have to wait over 24 hours for a probably unfair verdict? Blimey……….

  32. I think the case should be decided on whether the Brawn-type diffuser goes against the effort of making it easier for cars to follow close behind. If it dirties the air more it should go.

    Regardless, the results of the first two GP´s should not be affected.

  33. I read that diffusers of that type (and floor design) were not used anymore after Sena’s accident, because of safety isues. If this is that way, it would be a pity that either Buton or Rubens (or someone else) have a bad accident one day.

    1. Never heard of a diffuser having anything to do with Sen