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Stewards clear Brawn, Williams and Toyota
March 26, 2009 20:29 IST
Formula One stewards cleared Brawn GP, Toyota [Images] and Williams to race in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after rejecting the protests of three rival teams on Thursday.
After six hours of deliberation at the Albert Park circuit, the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said the officials had dismissed protests by Red Bull, Renault [Images] and champions Ferrari [Images].
The three immediately declared their intention to appeal and an FIA spokesman said the matter would now be dealt with by a court of appeal hearing in Paris some time after next month's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Brawn GP, who have replaced now-departed Honda, have been comfortably quickest in pre-season testing with a car that most of the other 10 teams believe to be illegal but that the newcomers say conforms to the 2009 regulations.
Toyota and Toyota-powered Williams have faced similar accusations after also producing new cars with innovative but contentious rear diffusers -- a key part that governs the quick and smooth flow of air under the car to increase downforce.
"Obviously when we came here we felt our diffuser was within the regulations and the stewards have obviously agreed with our viewpoint," said team owner Ross Brawn, speaking after midnight in a near-deserted paddock.
"We respect the right of our competitors to challenge the opinion of the FIA technical department and our opinion but obviously the stewards have understood our reasoning and confirmed our diffuser is fully compliant."
The controversy has been simmering for weeks and McLaren [Images] team boss Martin Whitmarsh fears the whole affair could sour the opening of one of the most intriguing championships in years.
"Sadly a lot of the column inches this weekend are going to be about controversy and it can easily become acrimonious," he told reporters before the protests were lodged.
"It's a shame that this sporting occasion is going to have that controversy thrust upon it over the course of the weekend."
Whitmarsh said McLaren, the team of world champion Lewis Hamilton [Images], need an urgent clarification in order to get their own car up to speed after lacking pace in testing.
"We have an underdeveloped car, we do not have sufficient aerodynamic downforce and we'd like to focus on rectifying that situation as quick as we can," said Whitmarsh.
"In order to do so it would be very handy if I could tell our aerodynamics team that these are the rules that prevail. And I can't actually do that today, which means that you've got a foot on the bank and a foot on the boat.
"Either the majority of the teams are going to have to change the design of their car or the minority are going to have to change theirs," he said.
Formula One's regulations have undergone dramatic change this season, potentially shaking up the starting grid, but there are grey areas.
Brawn, who are using the same Mercedes engines as McLaren, have a car that was designed over the past year-and-a-half by Honda before the Japanese manufacturer quit in December.
Honda effectively wrote off last season to concentrate on producing a winning car for 2009 and poured money and resources, including the use of three wind tunnels, into the project while others focused on the 2008 championship.
Brawn's British driver Jenson Button [Images], who has become a favourite for Sunday's race, brushed off the dispute.
"It's not something I have any control over personally," he said. "It doesn't change anything for me. I can't do anything about it."
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