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Teams get all clear as FIA throws out protests

FORMULA One stewards cleared Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams to race in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after rejecting the protests of rivals yesterday.

After six hours of deliberation at the Albert Park circuit, the governing International Automobile Federation said the officials had dismissed protests by Red Bull, Renault and champion Ferrari.

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, which has replaced now-departed Honda, has been comfortably quickest in preseason testing with a car that most of the other 10 teams believe to be illegal but that the newcomer says 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. "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 team boss Martin Whitmarsh feared 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 said. "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, needed an urgent clarification in order to get its 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.

Brawn has a car that was designed over the past year-and-a-half by Honda before the Japanese manufacturer quit in December.

Honda concentrated 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.


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