Formula 1 could be heading for more controversy surrounding double diffusers this season, amid predictions from leading teams that some of their rivals have pursued "extreme" solutions in the area of car design.
With the opening rounds of the 2009 championship overshadowed by protests and an FIA appeal court hearing about the legality of the twin floor concept, there had been hopes that the subsequent clarity of the rules would help the sport avoid a repeat this time out. However, amid suggestions that teams have exploited the rules even further, there are now fears that there could even be more protests in the weeks ahead.
McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe said at the launch of his team's 2010 challenger on Friday that his team had pushed the diffuser regulations as far as it felt was possible.
"This is the first car in which we have had a clean sheet of paper to really exploit the interpretation [of diffusers] that was developed last year for a design of floors," said Lowe. "You will see we have produced a fairly extreme incarnation of it, but we won't be alone in that. We believe you will see some pretty extreme solutions on our competitors' cars as well."
The potential for these extreme solutions has led to Ferrari voicing fears that not every team is operating within the interpretation of the regulations that it feels is in place.
"We were and still are convinced that the double diffuser concept was illegal," Ferrari technical director Aldo Costa told Gazzetta dello Sport. "We feel there may still be interpretation over this, as the rules leave the door open to many possibilities. It's up to the FIA to supervise, but we are rather worried."
Piero Ferrari added: "I expect a Ferrari worthy of the title – unless someone interprets the rules differently."
Lowe is more confident, however, that the rules are clear enough – and that the matter will not require intervention from the FIA.
"We think the interpretation is very clear," he said. "In certain aspects, we have sought guidance from the FIA and they have come out with very clear interpretation, understanding and guidance – and we think that has been made available to all the teams.
"We are hoping for a much cleaner start to the season than we had a year ago in terms of the teams' collective understanding of the basis from which we go racing."