Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP: Are Their Diffusers Right?

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Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP: Are Their Diffusers Right?
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

F1 in 2009 will see the introduction of a radical new set of aerodynamic regulations, so different in fact that every team has had to design their new cars from scratch. So what exactly happens when a new set of regulations are introduced?

The teams are provided a set of regulations by the FIA, and the design offices interpret them with their own design philosophies. If the regulations say that the front wing must be of a certain width, then the teams cannot deviate from the black and white printed text and must build a wing of that specific width.

However in a majority of cases, certain regulations are not this straight forward and the teams call these 'grey' areas.

For example the regulations say that the rear diffuser must be a specific height and no higher, however the regulations do not say that rear crash structure, the part the the diffuser is mounted on, cannot be shaped to enhance the effectiveness of the rear diffuser, as Williams and Toyota have done.

In fact this has been done in one form or another for years in F1, and both these teams have confirmed that they checked the legality of their designs with the FIA and received an all clear. Brawn GP have taken this design further and have effectively created a 'double decker' rear diffuser, which in their interpretation of the rules, led by Ross Brawn, is completely legal.

So what is the issue then? The other teams in the field, notably Red Bull and Renault, insist that the designs are illegal and cannot be raced, and have threatened to lodge a protest if the cars pass scrutinising on the Thursday before the race.

Is it a simple case of jealousy? Have these teams realized that they haven't interpreted the rules correctly and don't want to look silly? Whatever the reason is, it's not the first time that slower teams have complained about the designs of other cars and it'll definitely not be the last.

If the designs are deemed legal then every team will have a new diffuser as quickly as they can build one, if not then no doubt the aerodynamic departments of these three teams will already have a new design ready as a replacement.

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