As the season prepares to kick off in Melbourne dedicated followers of F1 are once more banging their heads against a wall, as the sport once again shoots itself in the foot. The diffuser row threatens to nullify any result the long-awaited season opener produces, prompting the armchair fan to ask why there’s any point in racing at all. But racing there will be, with Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams most likely carrying on their cars the controversial piece of carbon fibre.
Brawn GP and Williams have limited budgets, and so do not have any other option than to run the offending diffuser on their car. Because of the alleged performance advantage the extra height of their diffusers provide, it would be safe to assume they will do very well…maybe, even, win the race. Then they will have to wait for the FIA’s International Court of Appeal to decide whether their equipment was within the letter of the law or not, and whether they can keep their points. By this point, it’s out of their control, so they might as well go for broke in Melbourne.
Toyota, on the other hand, are reported to have a spare diffuser arrangement that they planned to use if a protest was lodged by other teams about the legality of their first arrangement. Now that protest has come to pass, John Howett and Pascal Vasselon, the men in charge at the red and white team, have a very difficult decision to make. Do they run the first diffuser, and possibly win the race, only to have it taken away from them in a court at a later date? Or do they bolt the second, less controversial floor onto that TF109, and risk seriously compromising their race weekend?
Seeing that Toyota were very quick in testing – Felipe Massa, amongst others, remarked on their speed – one might assume that they run the second diffuser and play safe. But it is also well-known how desperate the team is for its first grand prix win – something that, for all their money, has not yet come to pass. With the pressure well and truly on after rival company Honda’s withdrawal, everyone at Toyota F1’s Cologne base has upped their game for 2009 in the hope and expectation of further podiums and maybe a win.
So it will be very interesting to see whether Toyota decide to run their questionable machinery or not. But a prayer is being offered up to all the racing gods at the moment – please, please don’t let off-track controversy spoil what should be a fantastic season.