Friday May 11th, 2001
The Williams team have been forced to make a change to their car after differing interpretations of the rules, Williams technical director Patrick Head said on Friday. At the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona two weeks ago controversy surrounded the acceptability of the team's diffuser, used to gain significant amounts of downforce at the rear of the car.
It was alleged that teams had complained about the Williams design solution, saying it was not in the spirit of the law. The International Automobile Federation (FIA), the sport's world governing body, had originally deemed the diffuser fair but has now forced a change.
"We've done a small modification but we're talking about something tiny," Head said. "But the wording of the regulation has not changed in that area. Our aerodynamics people decided that there was an interpretation that could give us a small advantage and they went and saw Charlie Whiting (FIA safety delegate) 18 months ago, when he said 'no problem'.
"So for the last 18 months we've been making use of that and then, just before Barcelona, we were told by Charlie Whiting that they had decided it was a loophole, which he fully accepted was a valid loophole. But he wanted to close it off, so he said he would be issuing a clarification after Barcelona which would close that loophole."
Williams received that clarification and the team have now made the modification required. However, it appears not to have made much of a difference to the performance of the car, which set the fourth fastest time in the hands of Ralf Schumacher in Friday practice at the A1-Ring.