Defusing the diffuser

The sour grapes tasted by the teams that weren’t smart enough to design their diffusers were washed down by the court’s judgement to throw out their claims this week, and a fortunate decision to, otherwise those involved in pre-race scrutineering and inspection would really have to have been sent off to look for new jobs, as it would have cast doubt on their abilities – but that was rather unlikely.

The reason it was unlikely was down to Ferrari, who signalled their failure to prepare a viable case in advance of the appeal when they began to make personal attacks on Brawn – hearing such attacks are almost always a sign that you’re listening to the loser.

It’s a shame for the racing that rather than devote their energies and money to developing their own systems to catch up with the smarter designers, that some teams think the better route is to bring the clever opposition down to their level.

One of the appalling revelations of the week has been that Ferrari and the other appellants turned down and blocked a proposal by Brawn to tighten the rules regarding the diffuser, after pointing out that they were open to interpretation. So, after handing Brawn the opportunity to exploit the rules, and failing to do so themselves, Ferrari and the others simply threw their toys out of the pram – and the courts didn’t pick them up and return them.

We also saw Ron Dennis move out of his Formula 1 position with McLaren, and there’s been speculation about the reason, with the recent silliness regarding Hamilton’s position, the departure of some people from the team, and the lying/misleading story. While I don’t make a claim to work on anything like McLaren, I have been involved in a business that changed and eventually saw similar problems with the structure and behaviour of some of those involved. While it may not be the sole reason, it may be the final straw that proved too much for Ron Dennis, and he simply reached the F*** This! stage, and decided the time had come to throw in the towel and move away from the hassle. I’ve been there, it’s not a nice place to be, and there can be silly implications made by others, but it can also be the lesser of the evils involved, and might even prevent a heart attack – which really brings some careers to an end.

Hopefully the diffuser ruling will see a return to something like competition instead of courts ruling what happens in the pits and to the cars. I remember the old days when the teams used to keep their cars covered at all times to stop the competition seeing what their designers had come up with, confident that whatever they had, if it proved effective on the track, would be sure to be seen on the competition by the next race. We need to return to that.

Instead, we have have legal moves to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator, and suppress innovation.

I hope this isn’t a result of the move to cut costs in Formula 1, but fear it might be considered cheaper to go to court nowadays, rather than design and build new parts between races, and use lawyers rather than performance to win races

That would be a mistake. After all, who wants to pay a lawyer?

It would also mean that the cost-cutting rules were having the wrong result, and it’s a bit like the imposition of fines on big business, intended to punish them by hitting their shareholders, profits and directors’ remuneration, but which ultimately hit only the customers as prices are raised to fund payment of those fines, unless additional rulings are made to restrict the source of the funds used to pay them.

Formula 1 is trying to restrict costs by rules that affect performance – maybe that’s not too wise, or needs to be refined and made smarter.

And where is kinetic energy recovery system going? Three systems only on the grid for China, and a report of one exploding.

Perhaps (yet) another not to cleverly worded rule in the F1 book, and it’s not an effective option, or it’s just not going to come good until a little later in the season when things settle down. As a non-aero aid, it would be a shame if it was to evaporate, and should really be the first of the non-aero innovations that could be brought into the formula to reduce the aerodynamic influences, and allow the cars to close up, race, and ovetake without losing that aero-grip and falling off the track or going unstable on the straight.


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