Controversy in the pits

2009-03-26

This year in the Formula1 world looks set to be a very controversial one from the outset. Three teams have thus-far come under criticism for flouting the new rules which are designed to limit downforce. Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP have all designed their cars in a clever fashion to increase the downforce generated by the underside of the car.

It all revolves around the “diffuser”, which is a piece of bodywork which fits underneath the gearbox behind the rear-axel-line. This piece of kit is designed to channel the air, that flows underneath the car, through the diffuser causing a suction which pulls the car down onto the tarmac. This, combined with the undertray creates much of the downforce of the vehicle.

The controversy is about the interpretation of the rules: The diffuser’s central section must not exceed 175mm in height. While this seems cut-and-dry, the problem comes when you take into consideration the rules which allow extra bodywork within a 150mm section in the centre of the car. The offending teams have cleverly designed the read of their crash structure to effectively increase the size of the diffuser but claiming it is part of the 150mm zone which the rules allow.

Taken at the letter of the rules, the teams have done nothing wrong. Rival teams, however, say that this interpretation is flouting the spirit of the rules, with Flavio Briatore suggesting that the three teams in question have simply drawn up their own rulebook.

In other news, McLaren are having speed issues with Lewis Hamilton playing down any more serious problems. It’s a bit of a change for him, though, as all bets suggest that the team will be one of the back-markers for the first few races at least.