Now most of the new cars have broken cover, so the arguments begin. As each team has had the chance of looking at how their rivals have interpreted the 2009 aero rules, so they discover loopholes that they themselves either a) overlooked, or b) considered, but ruled out as illegal. So heated discussions are breaking out on all manner of interpretations, and FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting is likely to be particularly harassed.
This hasn't happened in recent years because the regulations were so well defined, with all the wrinkles ironed out. The new ones are by definition a little more fuzzy, and the teams are challenging the new boundaries in their attempts to steal slivers of lap time.
Ferrari's vertical turning vane ahead of the sidepods has already raised eyebrows, but there was never any question of its legality. Expect to see similar components on the others before long. But that's not the end of it. Everywhere you look, there are components subject to new discussion and disagreement.
Exhausts and hot air
"Ferrari's exhausts are illegal," said a Toyota team member at the Algarve circuit last week, a view that had members of other teams nodding vigorously in agreement. Ferrari, like almost everyone else, have lengthened their exhausts to give a flow that helps scavenge the spent gases from the engine more effectively now that they're limited to 18,000 instead of 19,000rpm. But, unlike everyone else's, Ferrari's are out in the open and not shrouded by bodywork bulges.
When the technical working group, comprising key team personnel, considered the matter last year, there was a concern that teams would try to shape their exhaust exits into complex, aerodynamically-friendly shapes - something that would open a lot of expensive research. So they stopped that in its tracks by insisting the exhausts had to be of a uniform shape, with a specified radius.
A later addition to this was that the exhaust exits were not exempt from the new bodywork regulations that prohibit any openings on the upper surfaces - a rule that was introduced to banish bodywork slats that formed an exit for hot radiator air, but which increased the turbulence of the car's wake, making it trickier to overtake.
The Ferrari's exhausts, as shown at the F60's launch, clearly contravene that requirement. This is not a problem so long as Ferrari are merely testing the car, but it can be taken as read that it will not be allowed to race in this format.
Putting a bodywork bulge over the exhausts so that there is no opening on the upper surface, only at the rear, will almost certainly adversely affect the airflow to the rear wing, and have implications on the shaping of the car's sidepod. If Ferrari have not planned for this, it could be a real pain, necessitating a lot of extra work when they can least afford it.
Who'll defuse the diffuser clash?
But it's not only Ferrari. "Look at Toyota's diffuser," said another team member. "That is clearly not one continuous line, like it's supposed to be. They've used the underside of the crash structure to give a separate upsweep. That's surely not legal."
This seems to hinge upon an interpretation of the wording about the rear crash-structure component. Williams are another team to have taken advantage of this wording, and both are confident they have come up with a fully legal solution.
Meanwhile, Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Renault are left asking what the ultimate interpretation is going to be, and whether they will have to redo the whole rear end aero of their cars.
Remember, also, that the Red Bull/Toro Rosso cars - sure to have been subject to Adrian Newey's imagination and competitive desire - have not been shown yet. Just what concepts and trick interpretations might that design have; what arguments might it trigger?
This is all part of a cycle. Every now and then the technical people convene and agree to new restraints upon their ingenuity, but it never does limit their ingenuity; how could it? All it does is redirect it to ever-smaller areas.
So, like lab rats, they climb onto their speed wheels and work even harder to find a fraction of a tenth. Splitters on the underside to make up for the loss of bargeboards; finding a blind spot in the dimensional regs; and - what do you know? - a trick new vertical vane? This is classic F1 - and exactly how it should be.
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