Ferrari on the back-foot

deh0917fe29Diffuser ruling leaves Ferrari in limbo

Ferrari have conceded that they will have to make “fundamental” changes to their 2009 car after the FIA International Court of Appeal rejected the protests against the diffusers on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars.

The ICA’s decision to declare the controversial double-decker diffuser design legal is bad news for those teams running a regular diffuser such as Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber and Renault.

Not only will they have to invest time and money in developing their own version of the design – since it clearly yields a significant performance advantage – but they also risk falling behind Brawn GP et al. who are now free to concentrate on developing other areas of the car.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali recently announced a restructuring of the team’s trackside operations to fast-track improvements to the car. But the Italian concedes that getting back on an equal footing with the front runners will not be easy.

“We are waiting to hear the reasons the ICA rejected the appeal,” he said. “Unfortunately this decision forces us to intervene on fundamental areas of the car s design in order to be able to compete on an equal footing with some of the teams from a point of view of the technical regulations, and that will take time and money.

“We will now double our efforts to get the team back to the highest level of competitively.”

How have the other teams reacted?

All of the teams have been pre-empting a ruling in favour of Brawn, Williams and Toyota, despite their protests.

Renault have developed a design ready to run at this week’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, while BMW Sauber and Red Bull Racing are working around the clock to develop a solution.

Red Bull’s esteemed designer Adrian Newey has already cancelled his flight to Shanghai to develop the RB5.

“We are working flat-out on a new solution already,” said Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko. “As the verdict became official, Adrian [Newey] immediately cancelled his flight to Shanghai and will stay in the factory. If everything goes according to plan, we will have the ‘new’ car ready for Monaco.”

But Marko added that he was angry that the FIA rejected Red Bull’s own version of the double-decker diffuser earlier in the year.

“What angers us is the fact that we had approached [Charlie] Whiting for a clarification on a diffuser solution like the one in question and we were told it was illegal, therefore we did not pursue it any further though our design team had similar ideas,” said Marko.

“I wonder what impact this will have on cornering speeds. I assume there will be problems soon when cars are going too fast, and the airflow the double diffuser creates for sure will make overtaking more difficult again. Thus it is against the spirit of the rules agreed in the working groups.”

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner also said he was disappointed with the ruling: “Obviously we re disappointed with today s announcement, but we accept it. This means we will now have to develop our own double diffuser solution, which will inevitably incur significant costs.”

BMW Sauber boss Mario Theissen meanwhile has said that the ruling goes against the principles embedded in this year’s regulations to reduce downforce and promote overtaking.

“We will accept the decision of the International Court of Appeal,” said Theissen. “This ruling means we now have clarity regarding the application of the regulations.

“However, it does not achieve the reduction in downforce and cornering speeds intended by the Overtaking Working Group when the new regulations were drawn up. At the same time, this decision means that seven teams will have to invest heavily in carrying out the necessary modifications to their cars.”

What is a diffuser?