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”

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  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.

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