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Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

F1 rivals fear new boys Brawn GP

Venue: Albert Park, Melbourne Dates: 27-29 March Coverage: Comprehensive live coverage of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday's qualifying sessions and Sunday's race across BBC TV, radio and online. Find complete listings here

Rubens Barrichello
Brawn GP have been the talk of F1 after surprising everyone in testing

Rivals of Brawn GP say the team could dominate the first race of the season in Australia on Sunday after their sensational form in pre-season testing.

"They will disappear on the basis of what we have seen in testing," said Williams team boss Sir Frank Williams. "I just hope we can be up there, too."

Former champion Fernando Alonso said Brawn's pace was "impressive".

However, a row is looming over the design of a part on Brawn's cars, as well as those of Williams and Toyota.

BBC Sport understands that Red Bull intend to lodge a protest against those teams if their cars are not declared illegal when governing body the FIA checks whether they conform with the regulations on Thursday.

The other six teams are also unhappy with the design of the rear diffuser on the Brawn, Williams and Toyota.

The diffuser is the rear part of the floor of the car between the rear wheels and under the rear wing.

They are making the rest of us look like amateurs

Sir Frank Williams

It is crucial to the aerodynamics of the car, and small changes can have a big impact on the amount of downforce - and therefore grip and speed - the car can produce.

Brawn GP carries the name of former Honda team principal Ross Brawn, who put together a last-minute management buy-out in March.

Honda, whose team was based in Brackley, Northamptonshire, pulled out of Formula 1 in December because of falling road-car sales and the global economic crisis.

After Brawn's participation was confirmed, Englishman Jenson Button and team-mate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil shocked their opponents by setting the pace in pre-season testing in Barcelona and also shining a week later in Jerez.

"They are making the rest of us look like amateurs," added Williams.

Renault's Alonso noted Brawn's fine pre-season displays but sounded a note of caution.

"The times set by the Brawn cars in testing are impressive and suggest they will be racing at the front in Melbourne," he said on Wednesday.

"However, testing is one thing and racing is another, and as with our other competitors there could be some surprises this year."

Jenson Button
British driver Button is the bookie's favourite to triumph in Melbourne

Such has been the reaction to Brawn GP's impressive testing times, bookmakers have widely installed Button - who has won just one race 153 grands prix - as the favourite for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

Barrichello, a nine-time winner in 268 race starts, is delighted with the Mercedes V8-engine powered Brawn car.

"Just the driveability of the engine is a dream," he said. "Finally, when I accelerate, I have the feeling of knowing what to expect. The power is wonderfully manageable and predictable.

"I've been waiting for this car for such a long time."

With respect to the diffuser used by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, Red Bull believe that not only does it contravene the letter and spirit of the rules, it also undermines the thinking behind the sweeping regulation changes that were introduced into F1 this year.

A number of changes were made to the cars in an attempt to make it easier to overtake.

One of the main aims was to reduce the amount of air turbulence generated by the cars so drivers find it easier to follow closely behind.

BBC Sport understands Toyota, expecting a row in Melbourne, have brought an alternative diffuser to Melbourne and they could, if necessary, race with that.

But because of time and budget restraints Williams and Brawn GP have no alternative as they do not have a plan B.

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F1 Mole

Rivals believe the controversial diffusers create more downforce and give a lap-time benefit of as much as 0.5 seconds.

BBC Sport understands that the cars are expected to pass scrutineering.

If rivals protest, Williams and Brawn - and possibly Toyota - will race under appeal and any points they win would be provisional until the case is heard in the FIA Court of Appeal in three or four weeks' time.

If the cars do not pass scrutineering, the teams may have to bolt on bits of carbon-fibre to their diffusers to bring them into line with the FIA rules ahead of first free practice.

Red Bull are the only team who have come out and say that they will make a protest.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali hoped a protest would not be needed.

"We are convinced that certain interpretations that have been applied do not correspond to the nature of the rules," he said.

"If that extractor is illegal then it must not be used, while if it is legal it's up to the other teams, including us, to try to adapt as soon as possible, because performance is found in that area of the car."

"There needs to be a great sense of responsibility on everyone's part. I hope this issue can be resolved beforehand."

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see also
Massa supports F1 points U-turn
25 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Brawn GP set stunning test pace
12 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Ecclestone backs Button challenge
18 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Brawn delighted just to make grid
10 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
'Lucky' Barrichello soothes Senna
10 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Button pleased with early testing
10 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Honda team to return as Brawn GP
06 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Ex-Honda team 'seal F1 survival'
05 Mar 09 |  Formula 1

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