Renault F1 managing director Bob Bell has ensured that the new world championship season has got off to a potentially acrimonious start in Bahrain this weekend by slamming the FIA for giving its approval to the new rear wing design on the latest McLaren-Mercedes which he says is “totally illegal.”

Questions had been raised in private by at least two teams about the McLaren system which enables drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to close off a vent in the cockpit of their cars which has the effect of stalling the rear wing in order to generate more straight line speed.

It remains to be seen whether Renault submits a formal protest over the wing’s eligibility after Sunday's race.

"It is fundamentally clear the McLaren wing design is totally illegal,” said Bell in a mood of exasperation.

"They have driven a cart horse through the spirit of the rules and regulations. They have opened up another arms race. It's going to cost everybody a lot of money. The governing bodies need to be a lot stronger with these things."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has insisted one clever person within his organisation has simply managed to find a way to circumvent those rules.

This is precisely the sort of dispute the FIA was hoping to avoid as a new generation of budget-caped F1 teams join the field which, it had been hoped, monopolise the media’s attention rather than another arcane and protracted row about technicalities.