Formula 1's leading technical directors are not ruling out the prospect of arguments over the legality of designs that make use of exhaust gases dragging into the start of the season.
Although the FIA made it clear earlier this year that it will not tolerate any aerodynamic exploitation from exhaust blowing this year, some teams are still pushing the limits to see what they are and are not allowed to do.
The location and angles of the new periscope exhausts are strictly defined for 2012, but that has not stopped some teams from trying to find ways of diverting the flow into other parts of the cars – like specially designed rear air ducts when they can then be reflowed over other aerodynamic devices. The FIA has said, however, that any device that it believes is diverting air for the principal purpose of helping aerodynamics will not be allowed.
Although the FIA's stance is quite clear, some technical bosses still believe that the matter may drag on into the campaign before it is finally settled. The FIA's technical delegate, Charlie Whiting, arrived at Jerez on Tuesday as part of a fact-finding visit on the 2012 car designs. He is expected to take a look at what teams are up to, and ensure that each squad is clear on what they can and cannot do with exhausts.
Red Bull Racing technical chief Adrian Newey said at Jerez: "The FIA has been reasonably specific in what they will and won't allow exhaust wise. They don't want to see what have been capture ducts scooping the exhaust flow out of a fully enclosed duct, and then using that scoop to duct it somewhere else on the car. Plus, we have the various exclusion zones where you can't have bodywork.
"Providing you satisfy those, hopefully there won't be too much controversy. But there's always a chance that somebody will come up with something that is right on the border and will be subject to interpretation."
Renault technical director James Allison said before the start of the Jerez test that there was likely to be some toing-and-froing between the teams and the FIA over the matter, following a clarification in a technical directive that was issued last month.
"I think the wording of the technical directive says something along the lines that any designs that re-ingest or redirect exhaust flow for principally aerodynamic reasons will not be permitted," said Allison. "The rule itself just determines how big the exhaust has to be, where it connects it, what angles it connects it from. But then the directive says you can satisfy the rule, but if we regard the concept of what you have done as satisfying the rule, but nevertheless done principally for downforce generation, then we might have to take a view on that. I think there will be a degree of jostling to work out where the line of acceptable geometries are."
Other team principals were more confident that they knew where the limits were. When asked about the situation, Ferrari chief designer Nicolas Tombazis said: "We have already had quite a lot of correspondence [with the FIA] and I think it is quite clear what is allowed. I believe what we have is completely legal."
Scuderia Toro Rosso technical director Giorgio Ascanelli added: "Charlie [Whiting] doesn't want any aerodynamic influence from the exhausts. The FIA does not accept it. There is a technical directive which limits the amount of energy you can actually channel, and I think this is correct."