Thoughts for the losers

Reflections on the F1 diffuser appeal. Firstly: phew! Not just for avoiding a debacle for F1 generally, but for finally confirming that Jenson Button has a long-deserved proper tilt at the world title on his hands. Much as I admire 6Music’s Jon Richardson, he recently made a snide remark about F1 “showing itself up” because “bad drivers are suddenly good drivers now they’ve got a good car”; look in the dictionary for “doesn’t understand F1 properly” and you’ll find “someone who suggests Jenson Button isn’t any good.” First race in a car capable of winning on merit, and he wins on merit – what more can you ask?

But I’m more interested in the losers of the diffuser appeal. It’s especially unfortunate for Red Bull, who seem to have produced the fastest chassis not to use a “trick diffuser” – but also the one that has the concept furthest removed from that diffuser style, and which will seemingly require the most modification. Red Bull were touted as a team that could make a big leap forward thanks to Adrian Newey’s knack at interpreting new regulations: make a leap they have, but Newey now claims he ran a doubel-deck diffuser concept past Charlie Whiting and had it rejected on grounds of illegality. One must now presume the design was out by a matter of small details; Newey seems to have taken it to mean that in fact the whole concept was out. Unlucky. Then again, in a pre-season Q&A, I think it was Newey who, when asked about whether the new Red Bull adhered to the spirit of the regulations, replied, “happily, there’s no such thing.”

Over at BMW, Mario Theissen seems to be particularly sour about the situation. There may be an internal-facing reason for his comments: last year, he deliberately held back the development of the 2008 BMW, which was unexpectedly in with a chance of letting Kubica take the title. The gamble was that by focusing early on 2009, BMW would be best-placed to mount a title challenge: with such a big change of regulations it was a massive gamble, and it has failed. Kubica’s grousing about not being allowed to make a title run when he had the chance now, albeit with hindsight, looks fully justified: it was a bird in the hand, after all. Theissen may well have some explaining to do to his bosses, and be seeking to pin the blame on an unfair decision on diffusers rather than his own conservatism. Then again, that conservatism has led to a lot of progress and success for the team – Theissen should not be taking too much flak for getting one very difficult call wrong.

Finally, I was amused by the crassness of Ferrari’s lawyer, with his personal insults towards Ross Brawn and Charlie Whiting. It seemed positively Berlusconi-esque; but I wonder if there is a greater acceptance in Italy for embellishing an argument with gross personal insult than is the case in most countries. Tozzi by name, Tozzer by nature?


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