Red Bull Racing is facing a 'significant' challenge to incorporate a 'double-decker' diffuser into its Adrian Newey-penned RB5, but team principal Christian Horner is optimistic of being able to introduce the new design in 'one of the early European races' – and with it take the fight to Brawn GP at the very front of the grid.
Red Bull has on balance been the quickest of the non-diffuser teams over the opening two grands prix of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign in Australia and Malaysia – and again in free practice ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend, when the Milton Keynes-based concern was the only outfit aside from Brawn, Toyota and Williams to feature up inside the top eight at the end of the opening day in Shanghai.
With the FIA Court of Appeal having definitively rejected a protest against the three teams in question, the onus has been placed on the remaining seven competitors to come up with their own innovative designs as they scrabble desperately to get back onto a level playing field with F1's new pace-setters – before it is too late.
Due to the particular design of its Renault-powered contender, Red Bull is likely to face a more sizeable task than most – but Horner is confident the team will get there.
“I think after the appeal hearing the situation is now closed in that the diffuser is obviously allowed,” the Englishman acknowledged. “For us it has a significant impact, because we designed the car around how we believed the regulations should be interpreted and obviously came up with a very good car.
“The benefit that diffuser offers is significant, and obviously if you haven't incorporated it into the car design from inception it is something that is difficult just to bolt on, particularly in our case as an independent team. For us it almost represents a B-spec car, so it is a significant change to the rear end of the chassis in order to try and optimise it and integrate it into our design solutions.
“It impacts on the whole rear end of the car. It is significant, and obviously the only hole it has left us is in our budget. It is a significant amount of cost in not a great climate, but [given] the performance you can see today – [with] six of the cars in the top eight running that solution – we have to do it in order to maintain our competitiveness.
“It's going to be a real challenge to develop the cars through the season without testing – it really stretches the team – but simulation tools, whether they be wind tunnels or cfd, seem to be getting closer and closer in correlation to the track, which means that you can hit the circuit with a large percentage of items that you can bolt on and know you are going to get some performance out of.
“The guys, led by Adrian, have done a fantastic job this winter and the decision to release the car late was the right thing to optimise the time in the wind tunnel, but now to be faced with an upgrade with the quantum of this one is going to be a significant challenge. [It is] difficult to put an exact date on when we will be able to introduce our own solution, but it will be one of the early European races.