The Kinetic Energy Recovery System that has been introduced in 2009 is causing controversy again as Flavio Briatore admits that the Formula One Teams Association is looking at getting it banned from 2010 onwards. Currently the device is only optional and although it adds a substantial boost of power for short periods, the system also weighs a lot and has resulted in many drivers losing weight in order to not be impeded by running the device. However, only a few teams are running the technology and already Ferrari have removed it from both, and now one of their cars.
At the start of the season, both McLarens, both Ferraris, both Renaults and Nick Heidfeld used KERS and we saw in the opening race in Melbourne that it produced some interesting overtaking moves, particularly from the Spanish Renault pilot.
However, Ferrari suffered some problems with the device over the winter and after Kimi Raikkonen retired from the Malaysian Grand Prix due to another KERS failure (the device overheated and caused the cockpit extinguisher to fire while Raikkonen was driving), Ferrari removed the device from both cars. In China Felipe Massa said the removal of KERS is a step backwards for the team, and Stefano Domenicali stated that perhaps taking the device off the cars wasn’t the wisest of moves as the F60 is essentially designed with KERS in mind.
In Bahrain this weekend, Felipe Massa is using the device while Kimi Raikkonen isn’t, the Finn probably fed up with it and wanting nothing to do with energy recovery.
However, while FOTA may want the technology banned, the FIA are very keen on its widespread use. The reason is down to Max Mosley’s insistence that Formula One be green and environmentally friendly. In a world where people are measuring their carbon footprint and trying to reduce it, and in a world where companies are developing clean fuels and reducing emissions, Formula One motor racing looks like the sore thumb of antiquated ventures that should be banned in some people’s eyes. Obviously, the FIA are trying their best to ensure this doesn’t happen.
With energy recovery, the FIA can tout out lines that describe how the sport has been carbon neutral for a long time and that the energy lost while a Formula One car brakes (but its engine is still running) is recovered and reused via batteries storing the energy in the form of electricity (although Williams are developing a fly-wheel system). The technology though is complicated and expensive to develop, going against the FIA’s other trend of wanting to reduce costs in the sport to ensure its financial future.
We understood immediately that KERS was a money-sucking genius, and the FIA should have taken note of that. It should have been discussed before the start of the season, and the same goes for the diffusers. Having failed to do that has forced on us expenses that are crazy as much as useless. Flavio Briatore.
Of course, Briatore is already furious because his Renault team, that already runs a very tight budget, is now forced to develop a ‘double-diffuser’ which is another major part of a Formula One car that costs an awful lot to redesign. By changing the diffuser, the whole of the rear of the car has to be looked into and potentially redesigned. Briatore is not happy about this and has been mouthing off at Brawn since the FIA ruling earlier in the month.
Officially, we are yet to hear from FOTA as it would appear that Briatore is representing himself with his current comments. In his capacity of Commercial Development leader at FOTA, there is surely little Briatore can do other than bring the discussion to the table and add opinion. Unfortunately for Flavio, his new arch nemesis Ross Brawn is the leader of the Technical Working Group within the organisation, but thankfully for Briatore, Brawn are also yet to introduce KERS to their car.
My own opinion on the matter of KERS is that it is a waste of money. With only some cars running the device it is interesting and it was great to see Mark Webber dice with Fernando Alonso during the saturated Malaysian Grand Prix. The Red Bull pilot was able to pass the Renault through the corners thanks to its great chassis that works beautifully. However, as soon as the pair exited the corner Alonso was able to press the magic button on this steering wheel and power past the RB5 as the throttle was opened and KERS applied.
However, I still believe the technology is a colossal waste of money and when/should each team have KERS fitted to their cars, I fear that the effect of it will be negated. Every driver will press the button at the same points around the lap and essentially we will be back to square-one. New technology is certainly interesting and is what makes Formula One so fascinating, especially when that technology is passed onto road cars. But to be tooting the green agenda when, to be perfectly honest, Formula One will never be truly green, is just nonsense. And that blame lies squarely on the doorstep of the FIA.
Formula One can and should improve its impact on the environment. Perhaps limiting the shipping of the tyres from Japan to the UK and then onto the race venues would be a good idea. Further limiting the amount of staff that travel to the grands prix would help. Developing clean fuels as Richard Branson recently mentioned when he became a sponsor of Brawn would be good. And funnily enough, most of those off the top of my head suggestions would actually save the sport money. In fact all them would if Branson sold his clean fuel to Formula One at a cheaper cost to the teams than their current suppliers.
The juggling act of Formula One’s survival is difficult and is enduring a tough time at the moment. However, the sport will survive and so far this season, the racing has been fantastic. What I believe will help the sport immeasurably is to have a leader that isn’t solely interested in one idea that appears to be his and his alone. The sport needs careful management from, dare I say it, a committee. A group of people who understand motor racing, who understand its limits but also its possibilities. Who understand what can and what cannot be done, and a group of people who understand the financial impact of implementing ideas.
The sport needs to unite and be run by itself, or at minimum in close collaboration with an outside organisation (to be fair and impartial). By constantly battling with the FIA the act of racing cars around a multitude of circuits the world over is almost doomed to disaster. By working together for the benefit of the teams and the fans, Formula One can have a prosperous future amid dark times elsewhere in the financial industries. KERS is just one example of how this won’t happen; the FIA will press ahead with its mandatory introduction for 2010 while the teams will voice their opinion of wanting it shelved. The argument will simply go on, and on, and on…