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Page last updated at 02:12 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Date set for F1 diffuser appeal

The diffuser on the back of the Williams car
Rivals claim the rear diffuser of three cars, including this Williams, are illegal

Motorsport's governing body will hear a protest made by three Formula One teams about the legality of the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars on 14 April.

With the new season starting in Australia on Sunday, the FIA ruled on Thursday that the cars were all legal.

But Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault claim a crucial part at the back of the cars - the rear diffuser - does not conform to new F1 regulations.

It means the result of the Australian GP will be subject to the appeal.

The Malaysian Grand Prix on 5 April could also be affected.

If Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull win their case, the independent judges would then have two options open to them.

Brawn GP

Report - F1 diffuser protests rejected

They could allow the results of the first two races to stand, with the three teams concerned being forced to amend their cars from the Chinese GP onwards, or they could make null and void any points won by those teams in Australia and Malaysia.

BMW Sauber also originally protested but it was thrown out because their paperwork was not correctly submitted.

The initial verdict was delivered after a six-hour hearing, after which race stewards rejected the complaint, but the FIA has confirmed it has now received the appeal to that verdict.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Jenson Button insisted the Brawn GP cars were "100% legal".

"We're at the pinnacle of motorsport and you've got a lot of manufacturers and teams that want to be the best," he said.

"With the massive rule change that we've had, some people aren't going to like certain things on certain cars.

"They might think they are wrong but as far was we know our car is 100% legal. We've just built a very competitive car. That's it really."

It is the rear part of the floor of the car between the rear wheels and under the rear wing
It is crucial to the aerodynamics, and small changes can have a big impact on downforce - and therefore grip and speed

Renault engineering director Pat Symonds told BBC Sport that teams had been expressing their concerns on the issue to the FIA for "a number of weeks".

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

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.

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

They say the diffusers in question contravene a rule that demands that the diffuser has an upper edge that runs in a horizontal straight line.

They also believe that the parts go against the aim of a huge raft of new rules that were introduced this year 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.

Jenson Button's Brawn team are the subject of a protest at the Australian Grand Prix
Button's car is the subject of a protest appeal by rivals

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

However, asked if his team had a contingency plan if the diffuser had been declared illegal, Toyota Motorsport president John Howett replied: "No, because I don't think we need one.

"In motor racing anybody is allowed to protest and I don't have an issue with that. But we've studied the regulations in detail, and we're very confident we have interpreted them correctly.

"We used the consultation process with the FIA technical department and we are satisfied that they verified our interpretation.

"We will just now wait to see what the stewards, or subsequent court, may decide."

Brawn and Williams have no option but to race with their existing diffuser.

If Brawn, Toyota and Williams eventually have their cars passed legal after the appeal, then their rivals will be forced to design similar parts themselves.

This would be a particularly troubling situation for Red Bull, whose car has been designed with a rear suspension system that makes it impossible to build a similar diffuser.

Red Bull's rear suspension operates a unique pull-rod system - where the arms pull down on the dampers, as opposed to the push-rods used by all other teams - which would require a major redesign if it was to be changed to incorporate a diffuser such as that used by Brawn, Williams and Toyota.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the row would not threaten the political unity the teams have been showing in their disputes with the FIA over the future of F1.

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F1 Mole

"This is a sporting and competitive issue, it has nothing to do with the workings of Fota (the F1 Teams' Association)," Horner said.

"It's nothing personal against the teams, it's simply looking to clarify regulations - our interpretations and [those of] others have been different.

"Our purpose in all of this is to establish the clarity of the regulation, because it has significant impact on how we channel our development."

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