Less than three weeks before the start of the 2009 Formula 1 season, Flavio Briatore has stirred up a row by claiming that the ambiguity of the new aerodynamic regulations has enabled a number of teams to steal an unfair march – as some of Renault's rivals, he suggests, 'aren't doing things correctly and following the rules'.
The teams to which the outspoken Italian principally refers are Toyota and Williams, who are both likely to provide the Régie
with a stern challenge on the track over the coming months. The two squads – whose cars are powered by the same engine – have designed diffusers that differ significantly from those of their competitors, and allied to their pioneering KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) devices, the innovation is believed to gained them an advantage in terms of performance. Briatore suggests that advantage is unfair.
“There are two rules, one which allows a team to have a diffuser of a certain conformity,” he is quoted as having said by the Canadian Press
during testing in Barcelona this week. “When other teams had ordered it, it wasn't legal and it's a weird situation, something we weren't expecting.
“There's a rule, but then if everyone reads it in their own way it makes for some odd situations, which isn't logical. There are teams that aren't doing things correctly and following the rules. It's the same soap opera as always.”
KERS is a hybrid technology that allows cars to conserve energy under braking that can subsequently be released for overtaking by way of a 'Boost' button, and Briatore fears Renault may be left behind in a season during which it had expected to challenge for glory – should the regulations not be rapidly standardised across the board. BMW-Sauber is expected to be the only team to introduce KERS in the Melbourne curtain-raiser at the end of the month.
“It's not fair that we start some cars in Australia that have KERS and others that don't have KERS,” the 58-year-old argued. “We're hoping for black and white rules that are equal for all.”
In a similar vein, Briatore contended last year that the Enstone-based outfit's 2008 progress had been stymied somewhat by having adhered strictly to the letter of the law regarding the engine freeze – whilst others did not.
FIA President Max Mosley, however – a man who has described the sport's new regulations this year as the most dramatic change in nigh-on three decades – dismissed the suggestion that some teams are exploiting the opportunity to gain an unfair advantage, suggesting that they have merely 'been clever and found a loophole in the rules'. The governing body has already approved both teams' diffuser designs.
“The current FIA view is that Williams and Toyota have been clever and found a loophole in the rules,” stated the 68-year-old. “It's probably wrong, but they've exploited the wording of the rules in a clever way.
“Somebody may challenge it and then the stewards could take another view. The view of our technical people is that it's okay; we'll wait and see if someone challenges it.”