Why teams could build two cars for 2009 to get the maximum out of KERS

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari has tested its stickers but says it hasn\'t run a KERS yet
Ferrari has tested its stickers but says it hasn't run a KERS yet

Robert Kubica has given some insight into how Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) are influencing 2009 car design:

Our car for sure will also run without KERS. And it is my opinion that the car built without KERS can go quicker compared to the car that was built with KERS but is not using it. KERS needs space, and if you then don?t use it, it means that you are wasting space. We are analyzing what is better and in which direction the development should go.

With some teams already admitting they will not use KERS at the start of 2009, will some build entirely different KERS and non-KERS chassis?

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System which will be used next year offer a boost of 80bhp for six seconds each lap. In the fast-paced world of F1 technical development that is obviously a gain worth having. But KERS brings disadvantages with it as well.

Why not run KERS?

It increases weight. At present F1 cars are built well below the minimum weight limit and then ballasted up to reach the limit. The advantage of that ballast is that it can be placed wherever the driver needs it to optimise the car’s performance. However, with KERS adding 20-30kg of weight, drivers will have less ballast to move around – particular taller, heavier drivers like Kubica and Mark Webber.

KERS also increases the total volume of the car and may require other components to be re-sited in locations that are less optimal for weight distribution.

There are therefore obvious downsides to building a KERS-capable car but running it without a KERS installed.

Designers also have to consider reliability. Over the last five years the drivers’ world champions have had a total of four mechanical DNFs. Lewis Hamilton had none this year, and if Felipe Massa had as few he’d have the number one on his car next year. Teams cannot risk throwing points away.

Benefits and costs

Given that, on top of KERS, teams also have to get to grips with a radical new set of aerodynamic regulations, building two different cars for 2009 makes a lot of sense.

A team could begin the year with a car designed to run without KERS, and introduced a KERS model later. It will give them time to ensure their systems are reliable. Toyota has already said it will not run KERS in the first race, and Ferrari hasn’t even tested its system yet.

By aiming to produce a second ‘B’ version of their cars later in the season the teams can perfect KERS and use the new chassis to make any aerodynamic improvements that can’t be rectified with the usual wings upgrades seen each race weekend.

It may even be the case that some Grands Prix offer less of an advantage to a KERS-equipped car than others. For example, Grands Prix with low numbers of laps (such as Spa with 44) or circuits with little room to get a benefit from KERS (such as Monte-Carlo, where the longest flat-out section lasts just eight seconds). Could teams run non-KERS cars at races where it doesn’t bring enough of a benefit, and vice-versa?

From a purely technical standpoint developing one KERS and one non-KERS car makes complete sense. But at a time when the governing body is trying to contain costs, it could be controversial. The in-season testing ban introduced last week could also make it difficult to achieve.

Will the benefits of running KERS outweigh the problems it causes? Will some teams develop two different cars? If so, which ones will?

More on KERS

36 comments on “Why teams could build two cars for 2009 to get the maximum out of KERS”

  1. What a great way to save loads of money. Build two cars instead of one!

    And so the cycle continues.

  2. I have heard alot about KERS recently!! I think that it will probably be better for the cars to be without!!

  3. fascinating piece.
    I look forward to know more obout it, as soon as the news start coming out.
    I imagine after the christmas brake.
    can’t wait.

  4. It shouldn’t add radically to the cost. After all, as long as teams know the basic dimensions of their KERS system they should be able to work out how they’ll need to package the chassis well in advance of the system being race ready. It’s not as if teams will need to design and build two completely separate chassis.

    Some teams are likely to do this and do it well. Others may go down the route of building two separate cars.

    As ever, a major rule change benefits the teams with more resources as they’ll be able to adapt more quickly. McLaren and Ferrari should stay more or less on top. BMW’s may be able to get its fully KERS-enabled car out for the start of the season.

  5. HounslowBusGarage
    18th December 2008, 15:30

    “For example, Grands Prix with low numbers of laps (such as Spa with 44) or circuits with . . .”

    Why will KERS be of less use at circuits with fewer laps? I would have thought Spa, with its long straights would be perfect for KERS.

  6. Once again the S&Max’s FIA have ballsed up. If they had just increased the weight limit for this years cars by 20-30kgs or even 45 kgs (all cars run under weight anyway before ballast) they could have prevented this entirely foreseeable situation. Bigger drivers wouldnt be penalised, cost would be as massive (no need to save every last gram) and no weight/performance advantage of not running the KERS! Too late now. I expect 09 to be rubbish in terms of racing as all the teams will be spread out, the minnows will be miles behind and no one will be able to make up lost ground as testing is now banned. Brilliant!
    Think i’ll go watch re runs of 86 to 1997!

  7. Sorry this is off topic, but I just had to post this to Keith: did you know that Lewis was voted the most popular F1 driver in the world in the ING/F1 Racing global poll in which 70,000 people voted? He got 27%, 10% ahead of his next rival Kimi. Alonso only polled 12% and Massa 9%. I am over the moon – this comes as such a fillip to me after Lewis losing the BBC SPOTY and so much negativity towards him on F1 internet sites. He is globally very popular (just not in this country because of the vile media campaign against him that has poisoned the minds of our gullible population). Whoop whoop! http://www.f1sa.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=9419&Itemid=219

    Apparently this was revealed earlier this month. I wonder why our wonderful media hasn’t picked up on it. Mmmmm. This is “the most exhaustive, accurate and authoritative survey of the year”!

    Does this prove that Hamilton haters are not in the majority, but just the most vocal and ready to use the internet?

  8. Why One KERS equipped and one Non-KERS car :-? That will be open invite for Teams to compromise Driver A over Driver B when it comes to race strategy. I wonder how the race driver wrongfully dumped by his previous team justify his performance to his new team.

    Will McLaren’s post race press release read “Heiki Drove Amazing race and was faster to Lewis KERS corrected” :-?

  9. Could a team swap car during a weekend? ie try the KERS car in one session, test the non KERS car and then pick whichever runs best/fastest?

    “If they had just increased the weight limit”
    They considered that but apparently this would work against the trackside safety features which are based on the current car weight. At least that’s what Mosley gave as the reason for not wantin to increase the minimum weight.

  10. Cause Spa would only give you 44 ‘shots’ of Kers, making it less relevant over the same ~300 km span

  11. If the idea behind KERS is to show F1 is making an effort toward developing technologies that are “road relevant”, why are there any restrictions on how the device is used during the race? Why not let it be “maximized”, thus rewarding systems that are able to extract, and reuse, energy with the highest efficiency?

    And, does anyone know what percentage of the used energy these systems are expected to capture?

  12. HounslowBusGarage
    18th December 2008, 18:45

    @ Alejandro.
    Thanks, I had forgotten that KERS was to be used just once each lap.

  13. One question: if testing is banned in the middle of the season, how can teams that are planning to deploy their KERS car mid-season (like Toyota) be sure that the system is working properly, or safely?

  14. Keith, I think there was a story on this about either Brits on pole or a McLaren fan site, where Martin Whitmarsh hinted that McLaren would have 2 different cars for 2009, one Kers equipped, one without, for exactly the points you raised.

    There were the same stupid comments from people saying that this was how McLaren would keep Heiki behind Lewis ie. give Lewis the Kers and Heikki not.

    If most teams are admitting that they have a contingency in case their Kers system is not ready then what difference does it make?

  15. Interesting Keith.

    It just goes to show that the only sure way of reducing costs is to stabilise the regulations.

    The law of unintentional consequences always throws up something expensive whenever they make these big changes.

    If anything the FIA, FOM & FOTA need to agree on a set of technical regulations and then stick to them for at least 5 years, maybe even 10, without any major changes being made.

  16. Well that would certainly designate a No. 2 driver (without the KERS) wouldn’t it? I think they would opt with KERS/without KERS for both cars, depending on which would have the potential to run best at a particular circuit.

  17. In 2009 KERS is limited to 400Kj per lap, and the maximum power must not exceed 60Kw (81BHP). A joule is a watt-second, so that 81 BHP boost can last only 6.667 seconds.

    This is a low limit and the teams will have no problem getting 400Kj under braking. The 60Kw limit applies to power going into the system as well, and it only works under braking – so you need 6.67 seconds of braking to fully charge it which shouldn’t be much more than half a lap.

    On short circuits like Brazil or Monaco the KERS boost will last about 9% of the total lap time. On longer circuits like Belgium or Singapore, the KERS boost will only last about 6% of the total lap time.

    I don’t think there will be a problem if a circuit doesn’t have long straights (like Monaco). Surely KERS is useful under any period of acceleration? It will be down to the teams to work out when this should be.

  18. It seems that if you do not plan to run KERS early on, it would be foolish to bring a KERS car to a race because it would be an inferior design. Personally, I’m terrified that we will see most KERS cars fail in the races, which would be devastating for F1, with already small fields. Look at seamless shift, pneumatic valves, carbon brakes all these things took time to become bulletproof. I hope we don’t see a bunch of teams stuck with KERS-chassis running without it and getting lapped by…Toyota.

  19. I’d guess that the drivers would charge the KERS up on their warm up lap, the entry to the first corner at most circuits would also be enough to recharge it and if they’re limited to using it once a lap this would mean they’ve got it available on every lap.

    It would be an advantage off the start line, get the car into 2nd then hit the KERS & you’d fly past a non-KERS car.

    Like most things though, if a couple of teams turn up at Australia with working KERS systems & blow away the competition you can guarantee everyone else will focus their development programs to get theirs working quickly.

  20. The rules say 6.67 second per lap… that is a tricky target the designers. That means that in some places, the best way to use it, specially to overtake, will be to use the power boost for 13.34 seconds, 6.67 before the finish line, 6.67 after the start line. Of course the start and finish line are the same. 13 seconds with 60HP extra should be enough for anyone to overtake anyone (if the other car has no KERS, or has already user part of its time, or simply has only been designed for 6.67 seconds. So, a lot of money spent in the extra capacity can be used only in 2 or 3 tracks a season… but in those with devastating effects. That can be a real performance differenciator.

  21. “a boost of 80bhp for six seconds each lap.”

    can the boost button only be pushed once per lap, or can you push it six times in a lap, for 1 second each?

    And what if you are hitting the rev limiter and you boost? Are you allowed to exceed the rev limit?

    What if you don’t use you energy recovered on a lap? Can you carry it over into the following lap and have 160bhp for 6 secs or 80 bhp for six seconds?

    Why are there these limits? Teams already have to compromise to fit them in the car, drivers have yet another button to press on their steering wheel… the least they can say is that you have unlimited boost up to the peak of the smallest boost unit on the grid.

    It will be intriguing when they start testing the cars in February. You’ll never really know whether the KERS cars are really performing, because they won’t be using the boost button in the same way.

  22. Though building two cars seem to be helpful, achieving it would really be a great challenge for the teams. Once the season starts, a team will have to test their developments on the race weekend which is not going to be very easy if the systems are not working as expected. There will be very less time to tune and setup the car with the new systems.

    If a team is running a car without KERS and planning to run the car with KERS for the future events, then the team might have to compromise some of their Friday runs for testing KERS (second car) which they’ll not be running that weekend, until they are satisfied with the working KERS setup. This is in fact a-time-not-well-spent for the current event, and may prove to be a potential disadvantage for the team.

    So, launching the first car early in Jan without KERS, and then developing KERS later will not be a good idea for teams. Even if you have a working KERS – not well setup on the car – before the season, it will not help much… as the race weekends can’t be compromised for KERS tuning!

    So, having two cars will certainly trouble the teams. One car will steal development time and resource from the other, leaving both of them half developed! We’ve to wait and see how the teams handle this situation.

  23. I hope that a driver’s use of KERS will be displayed on an on-screen graphic during a race (like they have in A1GP in the past).

    This would add some interest to the TV audience when two drivers are locked in a (fingers crossed!!) nose-to-tail fight.

  24. @George
    The teams will take kers equipped cars to the circuits where it is advantageous, and non-kers cars to the circuits where they are more advantageous.

    Keith was kind enough to provide information about how much money each point cost the teams; you’re not suggesting that McLaren would hinder one of their drivers at a cost of millions to prove to everyone Lewis is better?

    John Spencer
    This is a low limit and the teams will have no problem getting 400Kj under braking. The 60Kw limit applies to power going into the system as well, and it only works under braking – so you need 6.67 seconds of braking to fully charge it which shouldn’t be much more than half a lap.

    This is assuming that the system is 100% efficient- capacitors are never close to this figure, and the rest of the system will be lossy too, but figures approaching high 90% must be the target of the teams.

    There is a real world application for this technology, and F1 is possibly the highest technology test bed for this. As far as I can see, Kers has the potential to be a win-win situation. It (and the other rule changes) can make F1 more competitive, and the technology that will be in your car can be developed before your eyes. It makes F1 more relevant to people.

    I think the technology of F1 can lose some people. If it has an application that is (a) ecologically sound (b) in your car, that could change, as long as the racing is exciting.

  25. bernification.

    I get what you’re saying, but I wonder how the teams can be sure whether a KERS or non-KERS car will be better suited to a particular circuit?

    Could we see a situation where the driver’s preference comes into it and a team has one of each car at a given race..??

    Just a thought, but would it not have solved all these arguements if the FiA had stipulated that any team not running with KERS had to carry ballast of a set weight in place of the KERS unit?

  26. Adrian, the teams will calculate how the set-up will be compromised by running kers, and calculate if the gains in power and possible track position make up for it. These senarios will be run as computer simulations.

    The cars have to weigh 600 kilos with driver- most are much lighter than this so have to have ballast added. The kers units are speculated to weigh between 25-35 kilos, so no one will be overweight, it’s just a case of not being able to place the ballast optimally may compromise handling.

    You’re right about the FIA not thinking things through though. And the stuff they do think through, they don’t clarify in language that makes sense to anyone else!

  27. @bernification

    My point was that no team could afford to have a KERS car and a non-KERS car on track at the same race because of the PERCEPTION that one would be a defacto #2 driver, whoever wound up with least advantage.

    Every top team will either race with it or without it for both cars. Maybe a lesser team will hunt for a magic bullet by splitting their cars, but I think it unlikely.

  28. Oh, and I don’t think the drivers will get a say- it would be like a pilot saying ‘I don’t wan’t to fly the jumbo today- give me a harrier’ ;)

  29. Sorry George, I mis-read what you said. Makes perfect sense with more coffee!

    I think you’re right- if anyone did race different cars and one finished much higher than the other, the only question they would get when back at base would be ‘why didn’t you do that with both?’

  30. Good point bernification, another factor could be the wings & other spare parts that the teams take to a race.
    If the weight distribution & performance characteristics are changed due to the KERS then the wings etc will be different to give the desired affect.

    At the moment the teams take a set of spares that fit both cars, if they had to have different ones for each driver they may end up having to take more spares to the race too, further increasing costs.

    A post by matthew on another thread has just made me think about the deals that some teams have supplying parts to others.
    If the likes of Ferrari & McLaren are supplying KERS to other teams as part of an engine/drivetrain deal then it would be worth having a clause stating the purchasing team must use KERS at every race (as soon as it’s available) as a way for the supplying team to gain what would be very valuable race condition testing information about the systems.

    I could be treading into Conspiracy Theory territory here but you never know with F1.

  31. A few people have asked how much power can be obtained from KERS and how often it can be used. There’s some more information on that here:

    Problems with KERS and its impact on F1

    Alastair – The power boost can only be used once per lap.

    Jose – I’m not sure your example would work, because the KERS would have to re-charge between uses.

  32. As far as I know, the rules do not limit the energy capacity of the system, but the energy delivery. Of course, to deliver 13.33 seconds of power one has to store twice the energy needed for 6.67, then one does not need to re-charge. That is the point, design it with capacity for only 6.67 seconds, enough most of the time, of design it with the extra capacity to pull the trick?

  33. bernification
    24th December 2008, 4:24

    Ah, managed to find this from june


    It’s Whitmarsh hinting at exactly what your saying here.

  34. Ferrari has already run a KERS car. the proof thatr they are lying is this picture taken in Portugal: http://autosport.aeiou.pt/gen.pl?p=stories&op=view&fokey=as.stories/63331

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