The FIA Stewards at the Chinese GP have rejected the protest made by Lotus F1 against the controversial Mercedes DRS/F-Duct system.
The decision means in effect that the legality of the device is not in question as far as the FIA is concerned and rivals are faced with the prospect of copying it, if they can.
Lotus had in essence challenged the Mercedes on the basis that it was an aerodynamic device operated by the driver, even if the F-Duct effect was secondary to the permissible use of the DRS wing.
Lotus director of engineering Alan Permane told this writer recently: “It’s a secondary effect, but it’s absolutely operated by the driver. Mercedes hasn’t invented something, it was there, and other people were under the impression that it wasn’t legal. If this is allowed you’ll see everyone doing it, and it won’t stop there, there are many, many other things that can happen.”
In today’s proceedings James Allison and Permane appeared for Lotus, and Ross Brawn and Geoff Willis for Mercedes. The FIA pointed out that while Mercedes provided a document explaining how it worked, Lotus was not allowed to see it.
The FIA in effect decreed that it was not operated by driver moment, but by the movement of the DRS, which is legal.
One of the principal arguments of the FIA was that “There are many different parts of bodywork fitted to cars from a variety of teams, which have been designed specifically to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS.”
Intriguingly the stewards added that the system had already been approved by the FIA whereas in the past approvals given by Charlie Whiting and/or technical delegate Jo Bauer have subsequently been overruled.
The problem for rival teams wishing to copy Mercedes is that they will have to find a way to connect the airflow between the front and rear wings via a system of pipes and ducts, something that was built into the W03 when it was designed. Some may have a better chance than others of succeeding in that.