Red Bull Racing is prepared to add the controversial split-level diffuser to its car should the appeal against the 'diffuser three' in Paris on 14 April fail to overturn the stewards' decision in Melbourne – and, team principal Christian Horner argues, the change should propel the squad right to the front of the pack.
The Australian Grand Prix-winning Brawn GP BGP 001, Toyota TF109 and Williams FW31are all still racing under a cloud after Red Bull, Ferrari and Renault appealed the Albert Park stewards' ruling that the much-debated diffuser fitted to the three cars is legal.
Prior to the Toyotas' qualifying exclusion, six of the leading eight machines on the grid Down Under were fitted with the innovative design, which is understood to generate more downforce and therefore grip at the rear of the car – adding up to as much as half a second a lap in terms of on-track time advantage, what Horner reckons could make all the difference.
“We started to look at the concept several weeks ago when we saw the cars run for the first time,” the Englishman told BBC Sport
. “If the design is fully legal after 14 April then the seven teams will have to explore development in that area. We will accept the decision, but would like to have absolute clarity going forward.
“There is lap time to be gained. Our guys have done a very good job with the cars over the winter, but the diffuser issue opens up a development path that was not previously open. Previously you were looking at making gains in the front and rear wing, but now you can look at the diffuser and the whole underside of the floor.
“That is potentially a big performance gain, because the floor is the most powerful aerodynamic tool on the car. We are half a second behind the Brawns – and we have to find that time as soon as possible.”
It is reported, however, that of all seven teams currently not running the split-level diffuser, Red Bull is likely to encounter the most difficulties in the re-design of its machine, with the Adrian Newey-penned, Renault-powered RB5 being the only contender on the grid with a pull-rod rear suspension, which is incorporated into the gearbox design – meaning there is precious little room at the rear of the car for easy modifications.
Whilst Horner admitted that 'the ramifications could be the whole rear half of the car, which obviously has a huge amount of cost implications in a not fantastic economic time', he does believe it is 'feasible' to make the changes – however long they may take.
After qualifying third behind only the out-of-reach Brawn GP pairing of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, Sebastian Vettel was on-course for second place in the Australian Grand Prix until he collided with the pursuing BMW-Sauber of Robert Kubica almost within sight of the chequered flag – an agonising end to a race that had promised so much more for the Milton Keynes-based outfit.