FIA court backs stewards on Formula One diffusers

FIA court backs stewards on Formula One diffusers

The International Court of Appeal of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the sanctioning body of Formula One, announced on Wednesday that the rear diffusers used by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams F1 are legal and that race stewards at...

The International Court of Appeal of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the sanctioning body of Formula One, announced on Wednesday that the rear diffusers used by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams F1 are legal and that race stewards at the first two races of the season, Australia and Malaysia, were correct in approving for competition the cars carrying them. Red Bull, Ferrari, Renault and BMW Sauber had appealed those approvals because they disputed the teams' diffuser designs.

Diffuser of the Toyota TF109.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Diffusers are aerodynamic body parts that affect forces, including downforce, that dictate handling. The disputed diffusers bear a split level, which protesting teams argued gave the teams up to a half-second per lap advantage. The protesting teams claimed Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams F1 contravened the spirit of rules seeking easier passing. The protesters argued the "split diffusers" did not conform to rules stating the rear diffuser must have an upper edge that runs in a horizontal straight line.

Brawn GP driver Jenson Button won both races and leads the world driving championship ahead of his teammate Rubens Barrichello; Toyota drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock; and Nick Heidfeld of BMW Sauber. Brawn GP leads the constructors' championship ahead of Toyota and BMW Sauber.

In a daylong session both lively and contentious Tuesday, the Court heard testimony and took evidence at the FIA's Paris offices.

A statement from the court read: "The FIA International Court of Appeal has decided to deny the appeals submitted against decisions numbered 16 to 24 taken by the Panel of the Stewards on 26 March at the 2009 Grand Prix of Australia and counting towards the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship.

"Based on arguments heard and evidence before it, the Court has concluded that the stewards were correct to find that the cars in question comply with the applicable regulations.

"Full reasons for this decision will be provided in due course."

Ross Brawn, owner and team principal of Brawn GP, said in a statement that he "respected the right of our competitors to query any design or concept used on our cars through the channels available to them."

Diffuser of the McLaren Mercedes, MP4-24.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The statement continued: "The FIA technical department, the stewards at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix and now five judges at the International Court of Appeal have confirmed our belief that our cars have always strictly complied with the 2009 technical regulations. The decision of the International Court of Appeal brings this matter to its conclusion, and we look forward to continuing on the track the challenge of what has been a very exciting start to the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship."

Toyota, too, was quick with a statement in which the Japanese factory-backed team asserted its scrutiny of rules changes for this season produced a legal rear diffuser.

Per a Toyota statement: "Toyota Motorsport is pleased to hear the FIA International Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the Australian Grand Prix stewards concerning the rear diffuser on our car. As we have maintained throughout, our team studied the wording of the new 2009 regulations in precise detail to ensure we interpreted them correctly.

"We also made full use of the consultation procedure with the FIA, which was a helpful process to ensure our interpretation of the technical regulations was correct. Therefore, we had every confidence that the design of our car would be confirmed as legal, firstly by race stewards in Australia and Malaysia and subsequently by the court of appeal."

Toyota's chairman and team principal Tadashi Yamashina also expressed satisfaction with the Court's decision: "I was confident the court of appeal would reach this verdict, and I am satisfied with it. It is important to stress we studied the technical regulations in precise detail, consulting the FIA in our process, and never doubted our car complied with them. This has been a challenging period for Formula One, and I am pleased this issue is now in the past and we can focus on an exciting season on the track."

Williams F1's Adam Parr told Reuters that the decision will result in other teams bringing forward designs. "Now we've got to make the most of having a competitive car," Parr told the news agency, "which we haven't done so far."

The Court's decision bolsters the career of Button, who thought his F1 experience might be over when Honda in early December offered his team of six years for sale. And it sends seven other teams in the championship looking for ways to improve their rear diffusers.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said his team would need to revisit "fundamental areas" of the F60's design to become competitive. Renault was set to drop a new diffuser on the R29.

Practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, the third race of a 17-race season, begins Friday in Shanghai.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Rubens Barrichello , Nick Heidfeld , Ross Brawn , Timo Glock , Adam Parr
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Brawn GP