KERS not powerful enough for F1?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ross Brawn, Honda, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

Honda’s Ross Brawn has suggested F1 teams may not use the much-vaunted Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems next year as they are not sure they will improve the performance of their cars:

I think each team will be covering both options because no one knows how good KERS will be. Therefore I’m certain that each team will build a car that can drive with or without KERS.

FIA President Max Mosley has given strong backing to the legalisation of hybrid engines in Formula 1 next year, saying it will “revolutionise” the sport. It would undermine his claims of making F1 green if few of the teams chose to run the systems next year.

Brawn explained the disadvantages with KERS:

The theoratical advantage of having KERS is perhaps two or three tenths a lap, but you have to carry 20 or 30kg extra for that.

But there are other negative aspects in relation to KERS, for instance the control over the amount of braking at the rear end. KERS will be powered by the rearaxle and the brakes, but the torsional moment of the rearaxle could change as soon as the storage element is fully charged. That’s one of the difficult points you have to deal with. So you win two or three tenths, but you lose in terms of weight, packaging and torsional moment at the back. There in any case is no clear decision on KERS.

I think it will take a while before we can eliminate the disadvantages. There will be a number of versions of KERS – and perhaps there will be more versions that we haven’t thought of so far. For us the system only starts to work when we overcome the disadvantages.

It’s safe to assume that Brawn wouldn’t voice such an idea in public if he didn’t think other teams were already considering the same.

The FIA already plans to allow teams to produce more power using KERS in the future. Toyota has previously described F1’s KERS plans as “primitive”.

Mercedes’ Mario Illen created a KERS system for McLaren in 1999 that would have provided a 45bhp power boost but the FIA banned it. Next year’s system will produce a maximum of 80bhp – but how much power could F1 be generating with KERS had that original system not been banned nine years ago?