Red Bull Racing has confirmed that it will
officially protest what it deems to be an 'illegal' diffuser on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars ahead of this weekend's 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, if the three teams in question are passed fit to race by the sport's governing body without modifying a piece of bodywork that it is argued 'guarantees a five tenths advantage per lap'.
The diffusers on the three cars have provoked a good deal of controversy during pre-season winter testing, with suspicions that the non-standard designs – taking advantage of a loophole in Formula 1's new aerodynamic regulations – generate greater downforce and airflow and therefore increased grip at the rear of the car.
The Brawn GP – risen from the ashes of Honda – has regularly topped the timesheets since its February launch, stunning observers and confounding all paddock expectations for a team that at one stage came perilously close to going to the wall.
“It looks like there are two sets of regulations,” Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore has previously asserted. “The one that allows some teams to have the diffuser built in a certain way that is forbidden to others because it's considered illegal.
“At least three teams don't respect the regulations. It is not what we expected. We want black and white rules for everybody.”
“We are convinced that certain interpretations that have been applied do not correspond to the nature of the rules,” echoed Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali. “There needs to be a great sense of responsibility on everyone's part. I hope this issue can be resolved quickly.”
Whilst the FIA has elected not to get involved – with president Max Mosley leaving the decision up to race stewards in Melbourne, having previously stated that the innovative diffusers do
comply with the rules – Red Bull has now taken matters into its own hands and has confirmed that it intends to force the issue.
“It's illegal,” the energy drinks-backed squad's advisor Helmut Marko is quoted as having said by Sky Sports
. “We'll make a protest on Thursday if the component isn't modified to conform to the regulations, because that diffuser guarantees a five tenths advantage per lap. Seven teams are certain it's illegal.”
“It's a very clever device,” Mosley contended, “and you can make a good case for saying it's legal and a very good case for saying that it's illegal. It's going to be difficult. What's actually happened is that the teams are saying 'we think it's illegal for this and this reason'.
“If there had been more time before the detailed objections to the system were sent in, I would probably have sent it to the FIA Court of Appeal before Australia. Actually I have given thought to that this week, but there isn't time – it wouldn't be fair.
“I think the thing will probably come to some sort of a head in Australia – and so probably what will happen is it will end up going to the stewards, who will make a decision. That will almost certainly be appealed by whichever side is disadvantaged, and then that will go to our Court of Appeal and be hammered out.”