Toyota wings disallowed, Williams withdraws protest

Going into the Australian Grand Prix weekend at Melbourne, the diffuser row was at the top of everyone's mind -- the rear diffuser designs of the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars pushing the envelope of the rules, and multiple teams threatening a protest.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota Racing, TF109.
Photo by xpb.cc.

In the event, the FIA stewards ruled the three teams' diffusers legal, although the protesting teams -- Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull have appealed the decision, and FIA's Court of Appeal will not rule on it until 14 April, after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

In the meantime, that was not the end of the questions on the 2009-spec Formula One rules. The the post-qualifying scrutineering, the stewards observed that the Toyota upper rear wing was flexible, violating Article 3.15, which forbids any degree of freedom in the wing planes.

"The Stewards have received a report from the Technical Delegate that the upper rear wing elements of cars No. 9 and 10 are showing extreme flexibility in contravention of Article 3.15 of the 2009 Formula One Technical Regulations," the stewards' official statement said. "The Stewards have heard the explanation from a representative of Panasonic Toyota Racing and have examined the cars in question."

"The Stewards concur with the opinion of the Technical Delegate and find the cars contravene the requirements of Article 3.15 of the 2009 Formula One Technical Regulations. It is the Stewards' decision that cars number 9 and 10 be excluded from the Qualifying Session Official Classification."

The two Toyotas will now start from the final row of the grid, behind Lewis Hamilton's McLaren, which has already been penalized for a gearbox change. The team, which has said that it will not appeal, will need to make some quick changes to the wings in advance of tomorrow's race.

"We naturally accept and respect the decision of the race stewards," said the team's statement. "We intend to modify the components overnight and we are confident these modifications will not result in any performance drop."

In addition to the two Toyotas' times being disallowed, Williams lodged a protest against the aerodynamics of the Red Bull RB5 and Ferrari F60 cars. According to Autosport, the area under protest was the detail of the front edge of the sidepods.

The race stewards' already-long day was further extended until nearly midnight local time, as the three stewards studied the two cars together with representatives from Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull.

However, the Williams protest was withdrawn jus before midnight, and so the results of qualifying now stand as is -- notwithstanding, of course, the hearing of the diffuser appeal.

"Williams recognises the possibility that in this area there could be more than one interpretation of the rules," the team' statement said, "and therefore does not feel it appropriate to continue with the protests."

Ironically -- or perhaps intentionally -- this is exactly the team's point in the diffuser controversy.