Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems were introduced this year as a way of making the sport of Formula One greener, more applicable to every-day motorists and to add to the spectacle of the sport through the re-distribution of the saved energy. However, few teams have adopted the technology and those that have are slowly ceasing its use on their cars. BMW today have announced they want to concentrate on car development rather than KERS development. Was KERS ever a good idea?
The pomp and circumstance surrounding KERS came primarily from the president of the FIA, the forever embattled Max Mosley. His dream, along with the FIA’s it should be noted, was to make Formula One more environmentally friendly. Or at least, to make it look more environmentally friendly.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Formula One cars aren’t particularly fuel efficient, although in the same breath, it should also be noted that they aren’t as bad as you think as this advantage can prove to be the difference between winning and not finishing. And that is a good enough incentive to the engineers to ensure their cars are making full use of the fuel.
Other areas where Formula One falls into the clutches of the green-brigade is the travel and transportation of all the materials around the world. The teams move several hundred tonnes of equipment each time they go to a race, and most of the time that involves an aeroplane and several trucks.
So the idea behind KERS was help the sport become more friendly to the environment by using energy that would have previously been lost. When a car is braking, it is still using the engine and therefore the fuel and other electrical systems. However, with KERS this otherwise lost energy is stored in the form of electrical energy in a battery, and used at the drivers command to give him an extra ~80bhp boost.
However, the system isn’t simple and has been in development since last year for most of the teams. Williams even attempted to try a potentially-safer flywheel solution that negates the use of batteries (as there were some electric shock incidents in testing, notably with BMW). Ferrari’s system has plagued them with troubles since they first tested it, and on more than one occasion a Ferrari driver has ultimately retired from a race this year due the system’s unreliability. Although it must be said, their device has improved significantly in recent events.
And BMW, who haven’t used KERS since the Bahrain Grand Prix, have now decided to completely shelve it in favour of spending more time, energy and resources in improving the aerodynamic efficiency of their car. This is in despite of the fact that BMW were originally all for KERS and were one of the first teams to use the technology in pre-season testing.
We evaluated different alleys, proceeding with KERS or proceeding on the aero side and what could we do with no KERS on board.
We had made some significant progress on the aero side which does not allow to fit KERS, and we have taken a decision just a few days ago to no more run KERS this year because we see a more promising alley in developing the aero. Mario Theissen.
Of course, the other side of the issue is the fact that many drivers felt the need to shed some weight over the winter in order to accommodate the huge weight of the system, something I feel is wrong for the sport to be indirectly encouraging. With the minimum weight set at 605kg, taller and therefore heavier drivers felt they were being penalised. In the BMW garage, Nick Heidfeld was able to use KERS for the first four races, whereas team mate Robert Kubica (who is one of the grid’s tallest pilots) was forced to only test system later in the year.
With all the money that has gone into developing the technology, it would appear to have been a complete failure. Mario Theissen insists that it is not a flop, and that BMW have made good use of the information collected by the Formula One branch of the company. However, within the circles of the racing teams, only Ferrari and McLaren still use the technology.
Considering there are ten teams, and that McLaren Mercedes supply Brawn and Force India with engines and technical support, and Ferrari supply Scuderia Toro Rosso with similar, one could rightly expect these teams to be running the same system as the suppliers. Alas not, and it is perhaps because the technology really isn’t all that useful in the grand scheme of things.
It would appear that KERS will not make into next year’s championship, whichever way the current issues surrounding the breakaway series are resolved. FOTA have called for it to be shelved, and with teams like BMW ceasing development work on it, it does seem unlikely that the planned mandatory introduction of the system next year will now happen.
And while running the risk of alerting the green activists, I say that is a good thing. In my own personal view, Formula One shouldn’t be green. Simply because it isn’t, and it never will be. I therefore feel that all the faffing around trying to change something that is inherently un-green a total waste of money. Formula One is a bit like a vice – it’s naughty, we know it shouldn’t be allowed, but it is. The well-paid playboy drivers thrash their cars around with little regard for their own safety and well-being, and we watch because it is fun, entertaining and most of the time, a darn good spectacle.
And at the very end of the day, it is only 20 or so cars every other weekend. Instead of thinking up of hare-brained ideas, wouldn’t it be better to develop better fuels, reduce unnecessary transportation miles/weight and insist the factories that house the teams make better use of alternative energy sources and are more environmentally sound? Honestly…
I´m glad that you are the first F1 high profile blogger to pay attention to that, Ollie (and how fast you have done that, mate 🙂 !!!!!)
Another point on this issue is that KERS is the main, main problem behind the top teams struggle. Ok, It is just a feeling because I do not have info enough about it, but I think that KERS is the main problem this year and the Theissen´s testimony above is a good description of the challenge in how to make the car fast in terms of aerodynamic, it offers at least a good clue.
All the teams that focused in developing KERS properly failed and their cars look too much sensitive to any track change or to any upgrade added. All of them complain about the lack of downforce. This cant be a coincidence…
Even Ferrari that has done a fantastic evolution in this early season is suffering with the balance of the car. In a week the car is good in other is a shame. They produced a system that is not good as Mercedes’s, but they seem to have coped with KERS better than McLaren´s aero team.
Those teams that do not develop their cars around the system seems to have a much more steady performance through the season than BMW, Renault, Ferrari and McLaren. Ok Toyota had a fade, but is back again fighting for points and even podiums — ups and downs that is usual in any season for any team…
Interesting that the first time that I commented this was in the Clives blog´s and Clive ask me back: why not get rid of the system? Weeks later we discovered that the cars were so early designed around the KERS system, that the only thing good on them was the system itself.
We had all that mess regarding the diffuser, but KERS was the main problem, I’m sure about that.
The problem is KERS, but who would admit that when they must have to justify the amount of money spent to their bosses?
Sorry or the long and bad written comment, but I´m trying to write something about and I´d like to hear another opinion…
Absolutely not a bad written comment – I loved it and I thank you.
Awww! 🙂 *blushes*
Ferrari have managed very well to fix their KERS problem. I admit, as I was writing this I presumed it wasn’t actually on their cars. But it is, has been and has also been reliable in recent races.
However, as you correctly point out, Ferrari have focused on KERS with a reasonably (and by that I mean it is still a poor Ferrari by any measure) aerodynamically-sound car and improved, whereas McLaren have an aerodynamic brick, but a KERS that is so good it rarely gets a mention in the press. However, McLaren have improved as well. It is really hard to judge these two teams though, as they’ve gone from battling the championship to battling for the scraps in only a few months.
I do think KERS has distracted many teams from other areas of development that needed more attention early on this year, and I think BMW is just one of those teams. Mario has worked it out, and it will be interesting to see if the Hinwil/Munich team can sort their problems out by the end of the year.
I blame Max though. It’s always Max’s fault. Especially at the moment.
Oh, and I preferred your old red and yellow gravatar. Not that your current isn’t great, just that I thought the old one stood out more. 🙂
Oh, Becken mentioned Clive’s blog, but didn’t link. Clive’s F1 blog – F1 Insight – is well written and always deserves a link. I don’t have the article that Becken spoke of to hand, but here’s the link to the homepage for those who want to read well-written pieces on all things Formula One: F1 Insight.
@Becken: Do you have a link to the specific article on Clive’s site that you mentioned?
*Blush* Thanks, Ollie. My most recent article dealing with KERS was Remember Where You Heard It First but my favourite is actually The Curse of KERS which also has a list of all my previous articles on the subject. For what it’s worth, I was against KERS from the moment it was announced, as evidenced by my first look at it dated 4th March 2008.
It seems to have been a week for saying, “I told you so!” 😉
*Blush* Thanks, Ollie. My most recent article dealing with KERS was Remember Where You Heard It First but my favourite is actually The Curse of KERS which also has a list of all my previous articles on the subject. If it matters, I was against KERS from the moment it was announced, as evidenced by my first look at it dated 4th March 2008.
It seems to have been a week for saying, “I told you so!” 😉
In my personal opinion KERS was not needed, I think it was a useless necessity in the first place. If you want to use an electric device to boost speed in the car, you might as well invent and electric engine as a whole, much more efficient.
I have to comment, finally that BMW had decided to drop the KERS, it was a penalizing for Kubica, unfair in my opinion (yes I am his fan). Although I do have to make a comment about Kubica, in the opening stages of F1 2009 the race in Australia where Kubica was fighting for 2nd place (unfortunate results with Vettel), he was racing without KERS and without diffuser. Ever since the Australian race the BMW were slowly modifying Kubica’s car that it was causing him to perform for worse and worse.
KERS was a bad idea in the beginning for the BMW with Kubica behind the wheel. Give Kubica a straightforward car and he’ll show you his true driving ability like in first stages of 2008.
My .02 cents.
Thanks for your feedback, Ollie
Yes, I cant agree more with you. Today Stefano Domenicalli explained what I wouldn´t be able clarify yesterday:
In technical terms, KERS just doesn´t fit in a racing car development program. That’s all.
I was a little bit off topic there, but if someone would like to read Clive´s point of view there are good articles there that cover well KERs with some good comments and collaboration from his readers:
— Mosley and KERS
— KERS Bites Back
— A Brief Ponder on KERS
— The Curse of KERS
— Pressing the Button on KERS
— The Curious Case of KERS
Hey, thanks for that 🙂
I´m trying to emulate the new template design of my blog. Unfortunately, that old icon will not get back…
Apologies to Becken and Clive, the spam filter became a bit excitable for a while. I’ve had a word with it though, and hopefully it won’t happen again in a hurry. 🙂
And apologies for the double comment, Ollie. I was trying to fool the spam filter!
Speaking of which, didn’t someone win his first dry race today? And, hang on a sec… didn’t someone make his only overtaking move of the race while in the pitlane? 🙂
Hah, my petard is apparently hoisted! Yet I did not say that Vettel cannot win a dry race – I merely pointed out that we had not seen him do it yet. Okay, so today he managed it. Now it’s on to the next hurdle he needs to jump before joining the list of great drivers.
As for Webber, it’s true that he was unable to pass Barrichello on the road. Fair enough, he can’t always overtake. But he has proved that he knows how to do it on other occasions. And Silverstone is not the easiest circuit to find an overtaking place – just ask Alonso (although I will admit that Heidfeld is a bugger to pass!). 😀
Like Clive , I have wondered why this form of technology was ever devised. Several months ago I coined the phrase that today seems even more valid…
KERS should be spelled “CURS” “Completely Uneeded Racing System”
I rest my case.