Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota have all been cleared as legal to compete in the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend by Formula 1's governing body the FIA - prompting rival teams to lodge an appeal that will likely leave the results of the race provisional for more than a week.

Earlier today, BMW-Sauber, Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and Renault spearheaded an official protest against the diffusers used by their three rivals, believing that in exploiting a loophole in the sport's new regulations, the designs do not conform to the rules and as such provide an unfair advantage in generating greater aerodynamic downforce and therefore grip at the rear of the cars - which could, it is said, benefit them to the far from insignificant tune of half a second a lap.

However, following a six-hour stewards' hearing into the matter, the FIA has rejected the protest, leaving the claimants with no other recourse but to appeal the decision. That means should any one of the six cars in question finish inside the points Down Under or even in the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang just a week later, the results will be subject to change until the FIA Court of Appeal can meet to deliver a final verdict.

All three cars - the Brawn GP BGP 001, Toyota TF109 and Williams FW31 - have shown well in pre-season testing, with the latter astonishing paddock observers with its scintillating raw pace and expected to be one of if not the leading contender for victory in Melbourne.

"It doesn't change anything for me," Brawn GP star Jenson Button - the bookies' pre-race favourite for glory - is quoted as having said by the BBC. "I can't do anything about it. It's down to Ross [Brawn - team owner] and whoever else is involved. It's not something I personally have any control over - the best person to speak to about that is Ross."

Whilst Brawn GP and Williams have no option but to compete with their cars as they are, Toyota is understood to have taken an alternative diffuser to Australia that could be fitted to their machine should the necessity arise - even if the Japanese manufacturer's motorsport president John Howett is adamant that he 'doesn't think we need one'.

"In motor racing, anybody is allowed to protest and I don't have an issue with that," the Englishman asserted, "but we've studied the regulations in detail, and we're very confident we have interpreted them correctly.

"We used the consultation process with the FIA technical department and we are satisfied that they verified our interpretation. We will just now wait to see what the stewards, or subsequent court, may decide."

Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds has criticised the FIA for having done nothing to resolve the issue prior to the start of the season, despite having been persistently lobbied about it by the disgruntled teams for 'a number of weeks'.

Should the Court of Appeal rule in the favour of Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, then the other teams will need to hastily modify their own diffusers - which would create particular problems for Red Bull, whose Adrian Newey-penned RB5 challenger has a rear suspension that is incapable of accommodating a smaller diffuser without a substantial and time-consuming re-design.

The Milton Keynes-based squad's team principal Christian Horner, though, is confident that the dispute will not cause a schism within the new Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), which was set up to provide the top flight's ten competitors with a united platform from which to liaise with the FIA over F1's future.

"This is a sporting and competitive issue," the former racer reasoned. "It has nothing to do with the workings of FOTA. It's nothing personal against the teams, it's simply looking to clarify regulations - our interpretations and [those of] others have been different.

"Our purpose in all of this is to establish the clarity of the regulation, because it has significant impact on how we channel our development."



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