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Eddie Irvine's contreversial win at Malaysia has sparked me to write this article on  barge boards.Although I too wanted to see the competition to come down to the wire as most F1 fans, rules are rules and they are there to be enforced which the FIA did not do very well. 
Before we go indepth into this controversy let us first understand what these barge barge boards do, Barge boards are the deflector panels on either side of the car behind the front wheels which are fitted to improve air-flow and stability. The FIA regulations  zone  is the area from the back of the front wheels to the front of the back wheels, The regulations state that  all sprung part in between these zones 
The reference plane is the bottommost plate of the F1 car, it rests on the set up equipment during scrutineering, before this was done the car would have all dimensional checks done from ground level, this meant if a cars ride height was altered during set up, items like wings could then be found to be too high to meet with the rules, now the cars dimensions can meet the rules with resorting to a complete set up change after ride height adjustments, sensible indeed for the FIA.
Now all dimensions are taken relative to the reference plane.