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Diffuser verdict boosts Brawn

FORMULA One championship leader Jenson Button's title hopes received a significant boost yesterday when a Paris appeal court ruled the Briton's controversial Brawn GP car was legal.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA)'s court of appeal also cleared Toyota and Williams, whose cars use similar "double-decker" or "split-level" rear diffusers and which rivals had claimed broke the spirit of the rules.

Button won the first two races of the season in Australia and Malaysia after overcoming protests from struggling champion Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull and BMW-Sauber.

The four teams had then appealed against the stewards' decisions.

The FIA said in a statement that the court, which met on Tuesday, had decided "to deny the appeals submitted."

"Based on the arguments heard and evidence before it, the court has concluded that the stewards were correct to find that the cars in question comply with the applicable regulations," it added.

It said full reasons would be provided later.

Button and Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello will now be favorites to complete a hat-trick of Brawn victories in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

"We respect the right of our competitors to query any design or concept used on our cars through the channels available to them," said Brawn principal Ross Brawn.

"The FIA technical department, the stewards at the Australian and Malaysian grands prix and now five judges at the international court of appeal have confirmed our belief that our cars have always strictly complied with the 2009 technical regulations."

Brawn has taken over the Honda team operation, with the Japanese manufacturer pumping hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a year of effort into its new car before deciding to pull out in December.

Had the verdict gone against the "diffuser three," Button could have been stripped of his wins with the championship thrown into turmoil.

Instead, rivals will now be racing to come up with their own versions of the diffuser, which ensures a smooth flow of air under the car to create more downforce, at a time when testing is banned.

Renault has already said it has a prototype that could be used in China.

"Unfortunately this decision forces us to intervene on fundamental areas of the car's design in order to be able to compete on an equal footing with some of the teams," said Ferrari principal Stefano Domenicali, whose team has yet to score a point in its worst start since 1992. "That will take time and money."


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