Jenson Button’s Formula One world championship bid is set to remain on track today as the sport’s ’diffuser gang’ look poised to escape punishment.
The International Court of Appeal are due to announce their verdict following an exhaustive eight-hour hearing yesterday at the FIA’s headquarters in Paris.
At the centre of the debate aired in front of five judges, and with a remarkable 38 other personnel present – either legal counsel, team or FIA representatives – was the legality of the diffuser currently used by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams.
The device has helped Button win the opening two grands prix of the season in Australia and Malaysia, giving the Briton the lead in the drivers’ championship, and with Brawn GP heading the constructors’ ahead of Toyota.
Although Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull and BMW Sauber argued fervently against the design, the judges are likely to side with the FIA and the stewards who had already determined the part was legal.
That will leave Brawn GP, along with Toyota and Williams, free to race in this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, and forcing their seven rivals into playing catch up.
As Paul Harris, the lawyer for Brawn GP argued: “It has been said this level of innovation is not good for Formula One.
“Well, what’s good for Formula One is to have a team like Brawn GP competing with the established, well-resourced teams.”
The lead throughout was taken by Ferrari’s legal representative, Nigel Tozzi QC, who successfully argued the team’s case regarding ’spygate’ and again at last year’s inquest into Lewis Hamilton’s chicane-cutting move at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Tozzi severely grilled Brawn and FIA technical director Charlie Whiting, concluding the former was “supremely arrogant” and accusing the latter, along with the FIA, of “not understanding the point”.
Central to the so-called ’double-decker’ diffuser concept are two apertures that assist airflow, so increasing downforce, which in turn results in greater speed.
Tozzi, applying his own interpretation relating to the wording of the current technical regulations, scored few points against Brawn.
Although he noted of Brawn that “only a person of supreme arrogance would think he is right when so many of his esteemed colleagues would disagree”, Formula One’s newest team boss gave as good as he got.
“It (his team’s diffuser) was an innovative approach of an existing idea, and Formula One is all about innovative design,” said Brawn.
“It’s a cornerstone and objective of the sport.”
Tozzi arguably caught Whiting with a few deft blows, and although he struggled at times under a 75-minute cross-examination, he was insistent the aerodynamic part did not contravene the rules.
The judges’ deliberation focuses on a ruling made by the stewards at the Australian Grand Prix that the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars are indeed legal.
Although the verdict will be announced today, their full findings are not due to be revealed until either later this week or early next.
At stake are the race results in Melbourne and Sepang as the judges have the power to overturn them, although that is far from expected to be the case, with the ’diffuser three’ expected to win the day.