Diffuser discontent

Formula One (F1) stewards have rejected a protest against diffuser designs on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars ahead of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.

Formula One (F1) stewards have rejected a protest against diffuser designs on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars ahead of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.

The complaints were made by rivals Renault, Ferrari and Red Bull against the diffuser – an area of lower bodywork that organises the airflow as it leaves the vehicle. The protesting teams argued that the designs are not in the spirit of the regulation changes introduced to increase overtaking and competitiveness in the sport.

John Wood, chairman of Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Formula Student, said: ‘Aggressive rear wings on a racing car can generate significant air turbulence behind it, which in turn makes it more difficult for a competitor to overtake. Changes to this year’s regulations have meant that the size of these wings must be reduced and as a result, less turbulence will be created so other cars have a better opportunity to overtake.

‘When rule changes occur, teams will seek to gain maximum benefit while staying within the rules. There is nothing new in the concept of the diffuser; they have been part of a race car’s aerodynamics for many years and their purpose is to move the air from underneath the racing car to enhance underbody airflow.

‘Small changes to the diffuser can have a big impact on the amount of downforce, and therefore grip and speed, the car can produce – a vital aspect of a car’s competitiveness. The new regulations appear to have been interpreted differently, but correctly, by the teams using the questioned diffusers and that seems to be the explanation as to why they have been approved.’

John Howett from Toyota said: ‘As far as we are concerned we have studied the regulations in detail and we are very confident that we have interpreted them correctly. We’ve used the consultation process with the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) technical department and we are satisfied that it has verified our interpretation.’

The ruling means that the issue will now be taken to the FIA international court of appeal after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Speaking at a press conference about the significance of the decision, Red Bull driver Mark Webber, said: ‘I think that they will be very keen to keep this advantage if they can, legality-wise, which so far they seem to have done. But I don’t fear that there will be two different championships in the race. I think it will still be a competitive Grand Prix and that should not get in the way of what the ruling is. I’m sure it will be looked at a bit further, by the sounds of it, and we will go from there.’

Ellie Zolfagharifard