The slings and arrows of allegation have showered down on Red Bull for several years now and the team has dodged every single one. Even when the FIA thought it had Red Bull firmly in its sights at the German Grand Prix, the good ship Milton Keynes deftly sidestepped every projectile. The only thing that stuck, as usual, was the mud thrown up by the skirmish.
Since the start of 2010, Red Bull's rivals have made all sorts of claims, many of them only in private, about such trickery as variable ride-height control, flexible bodywork and now trick engine mapping. And at every turn, Red Bull has been found not to have broken the regulations even though - as the equivocal wording of the stewards' statement confirming that the team was not in breach of the regulations revealed - they are pushing as hard as they can against the boundaries of the rules without breaking them.
And for that, Red Bull doesn't deserve vilification. It deserves enormous credit. Why? Because Formula 1 is a competitive, top-line international sport. The idea of the spirit of the regulations is a fatuous one, noble as it might be. The fact is, every single car on the grid features design concepts conceived to circumvent the intention of the regulations when they were framed. This is not comparable to 'diving' in football, where there is a wilful attempt to fool the rule makers. Unless it is proved otherwise, neither is it a case of a doing something blatantly illegal. It's all about interpretation.
For example, the 2009 'skinny' aerodynamic regulations were designed to slash downforce dramatically and remove the various flicks, tricks and cascades that had sprouted all over the car. You want a turning vane? Simply cut back the sidepods to expose an unrestricted area and put one on. Was that to the spirit of the regulations? No. It was to the letter of the law and that is all that matters. And if you are going to complain about Red Bull for what it's doing with engine maps then you have to condemn the other 11 outfits as well for their own violations of the fictional 'spirit of the regulations' regulation.
Brawn introduced a duble diffuser in 2009 © LAT
If anything, what happened in 2009 established the roots of Red Bull's willingness to push the envelope in a way that its rivals find so distasteful. The double-diffuser concept was clearly outside of the intention of the regulations. The physical machinery of the double-decker diffuser itself was perfectly legal, but the real trick was getting sufficient airflow to it so that it would create the extra downforce.
Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey was pretty unimpressed with the fact that the FIA deemed legal an interpretation of the rules that made it possible to put a hole in the floor to feed airflow to the double-decker diffuser. This is not the place to delve into the detail of the interpretation, but the rules were intended to ensure that the floor was completely solid. Only somebody who believes that a sieve is completely impervious would have accepted the definition, but legal verbal linguistics, combined with a complicated political backdrop of course, made it all possible. And Newey has learned a lot from that hard lesson, which surely cost Red Bull the 2009 drivers' and constructors' championships.
Having been caught out by that and then a year later by McLaren riding roughshod through the spirit, but again not the wording, of the regulations by creating the F-duct, what would you do? Newey is a tough competitor and the technical department at Red Bull is built in his image. This genius aerodynamicist and a man who stands shoulder to shoulder with Colin Chapman, Patrick Head and any other great motor-racing technical mind you could care to name, simply took the concept of extreme interpretations of the regulations to the next level. As usual, if you try to out-clever Newey when it comes to creating F1 cars, you're going to be made to look pretty stupid down the line.
In these days of ever-more restrictive regulations, so many people lament the lack of innovation. Yet when a team like Red Bull offers brilliantly innovative interpretations of the regulations, it is vilified. Partly, it's because Red Bull's energy drinks identity makes it a fundamentally unlovable team to the fan who loves the mystique of Ferrari or the British bulldog charisma of Williams. Team principal Christian Horner has spoken of the need for Red Bull to build its own heritage and that's exactly what's happening now.
Adrian Newey © LAT
You might not like it, but with the knowledge base and regulations in 2012, it's impossible for a team to come up with some genre-defining concept like the fan car, ground effect or the engine as a stressed member. Today, the challenge is to push the boundaries of the regulations and exploit any weakness that is exposed. Every single team does this, it's just that Red Bull happens to do it better.
For rivals to snipe about it going outside the spirit of the regulations is the definition of hypocrisy. It's as if the teams that go outside the spirit of the regulations beyond a hypothetical 10 per cent are in the wrong but those that don't are OK.
There is a simple answer to this problem. Write the rules properly. There was a straightforward way to banish the spectre of exhaust-blown aerodynamics by slinging the exhaust exits out the back of the car that was shouted down by the teams - not just Red Bull.
F1 teams cannot have their cake and eat it. Together with the FIA, they must collaborate to write the rules so that they are water-tight and actually say what they are meant to say.
The spirit of the regulations can only be expressed within the wording of the rules. Then, if one team has a problem with the other, simply lodge an official protest rather than constantly sniping.
The bottom line is that Red Bull, together with Renault, has taken the art of rules interpretation to a completely new level and once again left the FIA and other teams red-faced. It's a natural process.
The FIA will tighten up the regulation to prevent the engine maps being used by Red Bull and the whole process will start again.
That's F1, whether you like it or not.