Williams defy FOTA over KERS in 2010

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Williams hasn't used KERS yet but says it will race it in 2010
Williams hasn't used KERS yet but says it will race it in 2010

Williams was only re-admitted into the F1 teams’ association two weeks ago. Now, having said it will use a Kinetic Energy Recovery System on its car in 2010, it once again finds itself in opposition to most of its fellow teams.

This isn’t going to win them any friends – at least, not outside the FIA. And it’s going to increase their development costs as well, at a time when they’re losing sponsors and changing engine partners. So why have they done it?.

KERS in 2010

Unlike McLaren, Ferrari, BMW and Renault, Williams have not yet used KERS in an F1 race.

It’s not clear whether the changes to F1’s rules for 2010 will make KERS more or less desirable. But there are some arguments why it might be of benefit.

The minimum weight limit of the cars has been raised by 15kg, which should in theory make it less disadvantageous for teams to use KERS. With cars having to go a full race distance on a single tank of petrol, KERS could play a useful role in reducing fuel consumption, meaning they don’t have to carry as much. Of course, this effect would vary between tracks.

KERS has many detractors, but even they must admit the technology has had some success, helping Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen to victories in Hungarian and Spa respectively. And we have seen some excellent KERS-assisted passes, particularly at the start of races.

The other F1 teams had collectively agreed not to use KERS in 2010 because of the cost of researching and building the devices. Although Williams hasn’t raced its KERS yet, it has developed a flywheel-based system which is different to the electrical systems seen in F1 so far.

Why do Williams want KERS?

The timing of Williams’ announcement is such that any teams that wish to join them in running KERS next year will have to do so sooner rather than later. A car not designed to use KERS will be difficult to adapt for it later, especially with severe restrictions on testing in place.

Williams’s position is hard to understand. Previously they have strongly advocated cost reductions and were the first team to break ranks with FOTA and support the FIA’s hated budget cap proposal.

It looks like a political move – it certainly isn’t the first time in recent history Williams have supported what the FIA wants against the wishes of the other teams.

Williams’s announcement came one day after the FIA said it would take steps to equalise engine performance in 2010. That may give them an added incentive to seek KERS to enhance their performance.

Are Williams supporting the FIA for political reasons? Should the teams drop KERS in 2010? Have your say in the comments.

114 comments on “Williams defy FOTA over KERS in 2010”

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  1. Maybe Williams just knows that the KERS ban is not going to happen, and all of this is just to calm down and convice alarmed boards to approve next year’s F1 budgets (and then blame the evil FIA for being forced into unforeseen spending).

    We recently had a clue that teams can go to great lengths to get their parent companies to sign off budgets.

    That made me wondering (watch out the date, May 09, and remember that Magneti Marelli means Ferrari).

  2. The teams using KERS have all developed their systems using existing technology as a starting point – supercontuctors, batteries, motors etc., – and further developed it to F1 spec.

    I suspect that since Williams has shouldered the cost of developing a unique system, even purchasing the company responsible for the design, but haven’t perfected the technology yet, they will feel aggrieved if they are forced to chuck the whole lot in the bin, not to mention hugely out of pocket for the sport’s last true privateer team.

    I for one agree that KERS has the potential to become a great piece of kit, but the regulations as they stand don’t allow the teams to use its full potential.

    1. flywheel based KERS is also existing technology, it is not an invention Williams came up with.

      And seriously, when are they planning to use it? How do they expect to perfect it when they are not even testing it? Did they even try it on a Friday session?

      1. Patrick Head said in an interview that among safety issues weight distribution is what is preventing from implementing KERS. However, he also said that there are changes planed for next year to change the dimensions of the tires which will solve that problem.

  3. It could well be Williams having some common agenda with FIA. But I’d say if FIA is serious about KERS they should also drop the 6.6 seconds/lap limit.

  4. This statement from Williams is a strategic move. It is not to make any friends in FIA. It just serves the purpose of putting the other teams in a dilemma.

    Now all the other teams will again be in confusion, will there be KERS, won’t there be KERS?? Thus hampering the teams’ 2010 preparations.

    I will re-state my view which I have done so many times on this site in other posts, KERS IS WASTE. They are introducing a new technology costing a fortune and handicapping it with 6.6sec/400KJ/only front tyre rules.

    And knowing FIA’s incompetence, don’t expect them to relax the rules any soon. So better get rid of KERS.

    This statement by Williams would have had much more effect had it come after Kimi’s Spa win.

    Right after a non-KERS 1-2 on a power track, Monza, this statement lacks punch

    1. There was a clear plan for KERS future laid out at the beginning of it? Did you mis that?

    2. Actually, Williams haven’t changed their stance at all. They kept saying that they plan to use KERS, the only difference now is they are readmitted into FOTA.

  5. The original KERS ban was in June, when KERS was a disaster, it was seen as just expensive and badly-placed ballast, and no-one thought that it could contribute to the racing. Since then McLaren and Ferrari have each won because of KERS, Renault has reintroduced it at some races, and BMW would reintroduce it if their aero development hadn’t modified the bodywork to the extent that their KERS unit no longer fits.

    With an increased weight limit for next year, longer wheelbase which will make the cars easier to balance, and the incentive to cut down the amount of fuel on board at the start, I can see KERS being very attractive to many teams. Presumably Brawn will have access to the Mercedes unit, and maybe Force India as well. Red Bull, assuming they end up with Renault power again, are not going to allow themselves to be caught short if the rest of the top runners have KERS.

    I can easily see FOTA reversing themselves on KERS before next season — and if so, this move by Williams looks like a smart bit of political pressure to nudge things in the right direction.

  6. I’m slightly confused by their actions on this. Williams had to apply to have their suspension lifted from FOTA, so why are they then rocking the boat.
    As I understand it the company Williams purchased Automative Hybrid systems ltd. http://www.williamshybridpower.com/company/ they supply all kinds of industrial applications for it’s technologies, so perhaps they see F1 as a marketing tool for this side of their business.
    I doubt that Sam Michaels statement is politically motivated although it maybe strategic as Sumedh points out

    This statement from Williams is a strategic move. It is not to make any friends in FIA. It just serves the purpose of putting the other teams in a dilemma.

    Now all the other teams will again be in confusion, will there be KERS, won’t there be KERS?? Thus hampering the teams’ 2010 preparations.

    This is a possibility, but irrespective of KERS McLaren and Ferrari will have got their heads around the new aero rules and with the introduction of single fuel loads I can’t help thinking they they will still end up with better designs.

    As others have said, the only way to exploit KERS is by removing either the power limit or the duration of it’s use.Then we will see some real racing as the chances of cars matching each others deployment of say 15 seconds KERS is far less likely than 6 seconds.

    I thought that Mclaren and Ferrari both agreeing to scrap KERS was unusual at the time because it is an avenue of engineering that their considerable resources could exploit and give them an advantage. And I’m no fan of FOTA stacking their own internal rules on top existing regulations anyway. But F1 needs to save money, so now the aero rules are stabalising perhaps money can be filtered back to the KERS projects and perhaps the FIA may change their useage regs.

    1. Correct!
      Additionally, it seems like Williams is probably posturing for a good engine deal with…who really knows. It is a little upsetting how Frank continually seems to rankle the other members of FOTA. He seems to be caught up in the “pihrana” aspect of F1. Maybe I’m nieve, but I see FOTA as an attempt for the teams to get beyond the “we are the only team that matters” mentality and try to strike a common bond for all the teams pulling on the same end of the rope, for the good of the sport. Strength in numbers type of approach. Williams alway are seeming to buck the trend if only for the benefit of…Williams.
      Having said that, Williams are within the rules to say they will and even run KERS next year. Its just that FOTA seems to have come up with this “gentlemens agreement” that the teams would drop it and here is Williams stirring the pot again. I don’t think it will fully materialize.
      And by the way…the Williams KERS flywhel spins at 60,000RPM positioned just behind the drivers head. You had better duck pretty fast when that thing lets loose, or risk getting a pretty close haircut.

      1. I do wonder anout the saftey of the Williams flywheel system, how would it react to a large shunt, how well contained is the fly wheel and does FIA crash testing regs test for such eventuallities?
        As for Frank loving the Pirhana aspect of F1, I am told that nearly all Franks roles within the team are now commercial and that these type of decisions are made by Patrick Head and Sam Michael, however as Williams are promoting the Flywheel for other commercial applications this may be where there is a conflict of interests within team. But they must feel very confident in their new technology because there is a chance that FOTA will dismiss the agreement and all teams may choose to run KERS next year, and the two best systems have already had a season of field testing.

  7. we have seen some excellent KERS-assisted passes, particularly at the start of races.

    Indeed, but none of them down to real driver skill. KERS takes away the suprise element too – you always know which cars will get a good start. Unpredictability should be of paramount importance in F1 IMHO.

    Williams’s announcement came one day after the FIA said it would take steps to equalise engine performance in 2010.

    Equalising Engines is not, for me, part of F1 either. A bit like the tight aero rules, it takes away the engineering competition element that is unique in F1.

    As for the KERS, this will surely mean McLaren will reconsider using it next season – but at least now they won’t be panned for doing so.

    Typical Williams I’m afraid.

  8. Williams’s position is hard to understand. Previously they have strongly advocated cost reductions and were the first team to break ranks with FOTA and support the FIA’s hated budget cap proposal.

    Indeed, but I think they’ve spent a lot this season already developing the flywheel KERS with Flybrid Tech.

      1. But it was not only an acquisition for Formula 1, it was a technology gap that Williams felt they could exploit in other industrial sectors. It was as much a buisiness decision probably in part to help finance and develop KERS.

        1. Yes you’re right. I guess we’ll ever know the breakdown of the investment/benefits for both F1 and other industries.

          However, I think to develop an F1 KERS system and then not use it at all in F1 by following FOTA would be a difficult decision to make.

          1. Agreed, and not to use F1 to promote it would feel neglegent by Frank Williams, he is a true master when it comes to the commercial side of things. The fact Williams have existed for so long is testamont to this.

  9. Champ cars had push to pass that limited the total time that the bonus power could be used thru the whole race…

    Rather than design a kers and the millions that went into it, for such simple idea is beyond me…and for something that could be as simple as a re-map on the rev limit, that via the ecu that limits total time and reports live for TV and race controllers..similar to the concept of the champ car idea.

    The concept of recovering energy is not something f1 needs to develop for the general public, it has and is being done already…it’s nothing more than Mad Max stupid think tank, and a total waste of money. In a time the the same mad Max pushed the barrow of sympathy for cost cutting on the most dramatic scale that would have come at the expense of real peoples lives in the form of jobs!

    1. I think you’ll find that development of the KERS technologies has tripled since it’s deployment in F1, both in terms of power harvesting, storage and deployment. Make no doubts Formula 1 is cutting edge in this field and making substantial contributions to road car technology.
      See Here


      Have a read!

      1. BS.
        The only real reason we don’t all drive around in hybrid cars with recoverable energy storage system (RESS) is current battery technology(or energy storage), apart from the oil giants control.

        Toyota have been quoted as saying they think KERS is ‘primitive’ and not relevant to road car Hybrid systems.

        Collecting energy from the rear axle only and then crippling the total amount of energy it’s allowed to collect and release is more complicated than the concept of collecting kinetic energy…crickey I could make you a kers this afternoon, but it wont fit with in the fia rules and wouldn’t suit a f1 ‘race’ car.

        And to top it off there was a fota agreement with the fia for a standard KERS to be introduced 2010/2011 before they decided to can it for 2010 and not to forget it would have been canned this year had it not been for BMW.

        This is williams at it’s best skulduggery to get a new motor or the future fia contract to supply KERS like Maca does the ecu. Or at worst try and gain (or recover) financially from the decision to buy a company to develop the kers concept @ the expence of the sport of F1.

        1. I agree that this decision by Williams is probaly commercially motivated, however williams hybrid technology is evidence of the applications for developed KERS systems, as a green initiative it is not just applicable to mobile uses such as vehicles but has substantial applicaions within the industrail sector where it is possible to return energy back into systems which employ motors or methods of harvesting energy. As for green credentials, the hydrogen fuel cell is where the smart money is in automotive research, I will agree with that.

  10. HounslowBusGarage
    23rd September 2009, 14:39

    I think this is Williams doing a little posturing – “We need a first class engine like a Mercedes or a Ferrari (or possibley a BMW again?), or we will introduce KERS which means all the other teams will have to do so as well.”
    Although there’s little love lost between Max and Frank, I do wonder if Max has anything to do with this as it advances KERS (Max’s project) and confounds FOTA.
    Also as has been pointed out here, Williams have put a lot of investment already in KERS and they still have a very good chance of bringing that to a non-F1 market and making it into a profitable product. So what better way to finish the development of the idea than by using it to influence people and/or win races?

  11. Frank always seems to be the burr under the saddle blanket, but in this case I think he’s right. The teams that spent the time and money to develop KERS should not waste those resources by abandoning the technology now.
    Admittedly, with cost being brought down in Formula 1, teams seem reluctant to continue with KERS. However, technology keeps moving forward, and as others have stated here, with fuel mileage is going to play a big part next year, KERS seems to make sense. Additionally, Aero as it is being developed in Formula one makes no sense when viewed in terms of road cars with the exception of the mega expensive supercars. Fossils fuels are going to become more expensive and scarce in the future, and it seems to me that alternative methods of powering automobiles will become more and more necessary.
    There is a new technology being developed now that might make a great alternative.
    Furthermore, if all the cars on the grid have KERS, then that advantage is no longer an advantage except in view of the fact that one system will probably be somewhat better that the others, but that is the essence of formula 1 anyway.
    What the world does with disposing of old batteries from future electric cars is a concern as well, so possibly Williams flywheel system might have a life in the REAL WORLD, however in my view, there still needs to be a motive source that gives the vehicle sufficient energy to spin up the flywheel, and in turn, eventually that will more than like be the result of electric power rather than fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel cells will also come into play at some point. Either way, we Formula 1 fans will eventually have to forgo the sound of those wonderful engines, that create one of the primary reasons that we so enjoy the races. The scream of the engines.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      23rd September 2009, 20:30

      I agree with almost everything you say, apart from the screaming engines.
      I’d love to hear (and see) a pack of rumbling diesels working hard and blowing the petrol engined cars away.
      One of the commentators on WTCC last year described the note of the petrol BMW as ‘contra tenor castrato’, as opposed to the diesel Seat’s ‘basso profundo’!
      I prefer my racing soundscapes with balls attached.

  12. Does anybody know who the engine supplier will be for williams next year?

  13. I think this a reasonable move. Williams has spent money on designing etc. a KERS they so far haven’t used yet in a race. If what they have has a potential of enhancing the performance, it would be strange to abandon it for 2010 without the need of doing so. Especially if many of the other teams were not to use it next season, a good, reliable KERS could give Williams somewhat of a competitive advantage. If the team wants to get to a competitive level of winning races again, they need to use whatever opportunities they have to improve their performance.

  14. Hold on a second. The FOTA agreement that Ferrari and McLaren, etc. would drop KERS was because several of the teams (including Williams) argued that it drove up the costs of competing, so they wanted it gone. Now suddenly Williams gets their KERS system to work the way they’d hoped and they’re going to run it (after being one of the teams opposed to KERS). Just a little hypocritical don’t we think?

  15. I don’t really remember Williams opposing KERS, they have been proKERS pretty much whole season.

  16. “Sir” Frank makes me sick. His achievements aside, I think he’s a sleazebag.

    1. Now there we have a lesson in real intelligence.

    2. Please ellaborate explosiva, in what way or manner is he a sleazebag.
      A devoted servant to our sport, awarded with a knighthood, most succesful privateer team, respect across bot the business and sporting world………what will you do today.

    3. I give Frank Williams a great amount of respect and he has given literally his life and all his energy to this sport. Sleazebag,no that is nat accurate for Frank. He is one of the few remaining men in the sport with integrity, much more than I can say for alot of the people in Ferrari, Mclaren, Renault and probably some of the other teams. If they dont agree they put it out there for the world to see and they dont apologize for it. That is a sign of integrity
      Franks teams have revolutionized parts of the sport to the point that systems they developed with their own time and money were eventually made illegal or legislated out with new rules. They would be even more compeitive than they are if the rules were not wrote with such tightly defined parameters. His team took on engine mfg’s that were just getting or returning to the sport and helped them develope their powerplants into compeitive units only to have the engines given to other teams after they provided the r&d.
      They are a proud and headstrong group at Williams.
      They are not Flavio or Pat Symonds or NPJ to which your comments do apply.

      You should reevalute your use of the word sleazebag because it isnt being used correctly.
      Now of course if you are looking in your mirror then it might apply correctly at that point.

  17. I’m sick of all the technical disparity: some teams have KERS, some don’t; some teams had double-diffusers, some didn’t; etc. This season, more than any in recent memory, has simply been about the car. Brawn, far from the miracle flight from the ashes of Honda, such as it’s portrayed in the media, especially the British media, have been working on their 09 car for two years (!) with all the money from Honda. Red Bull, Toyota, Williams and co. all stopped developing their 08 cars way before the season ended to concentrate on 09; the result: these teams are competitive; and the teams who were fighting out front at 08 are fighting back in 09.

    This championship lacks the credibility of the previous championships. Jenson is good when the car is perfect; but when the car isn’t perfect, he’s average. Or poor. And what about the five race period where he scored less than a dozen points? He lost his head: he cracked, mentally. What’s more worrying is that he lost his head despite all his experience: he’s not new to F1, as Lewis was in 07 and 08. How many other world champions, especially the great world champions, have had such a bleak (and lengthy) period as Jenson did in their championship season? Very few, if any. That not one of Jenson’s main rivals capitalised on this terrible string of results shows just how poor is Jenson’s competition.

    Rubens can be excellent (e.g., Europe 93, Spain 96); but, as a matter of course, he’s average. And he’s not a young man anymore. Vettel is the most overrated driver on the grid. After 13 rounds, he’s a mere 2.5 points a head of Webber! Not good enough, frankly, for him to be considered one of the very top drivers. Vettel can’t overtake. Vettel crashes or spins-off far too many times a season to win the title. The new Schumi he aint! As for Webber, he’s never been rated very highly: and with good reason. He’s good; but he’s not in the league of the drivers who should be competing for the title. This year has been all too easy for Jenson and Brawn. It reminds us what a great triumph 08 was. Lewis took the title on the very last corner, on the very last lap, of the very last race – despite having the second best car (that’s why Massa was a contender), a team-mate who didn’t (or rather who couldn’t) help him, the most penalties ever for a driver in a season in the history of F1, and some truly mesmerising drives such as Silverstone. What a difference a year makes!

  18. I have nothing against Williams using Kers; As someone said, this is partly a business venture outside of F1.

    The trouble is, the other teams will probably have to have a re-think on whether to use it themselves, KERS is not illegal.

    The problem is, IMO, If everyone chooses to use it, you have negated any advantages; You’re back at square one.

    1. By the way, didn’t Monty say a few weeks/months back that Ferrari would be using KERS in 2010?

    2. The problem is, IMO, If everyone chooses to use it, you have negated any advantages; You’re back at square one.

      Unless of course one system is better than another…oh but wait, they’re limited on how much they can use and for how long…so unless one system is lighter than another…

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        24th September 2009, 13:22

        And, since the use of KERS is limited during weach lap, it depends where and how you use it and how good you are at using it, plus the affect it has on the rest of thee car.
        So we have variables in terms of effectiveness, weight, usage and driver skill.
        So no, I don’t think we will be back at Square One.

  19. Alistair, you said it yourself
    “That not one of Jenson’s main rivals capitalised on this terrible string of results shows just how poor is Jenson’s competition.”

    So, if Jenson is “average, or poor” what does it make the others?

    And, remind me, who is leading the championship, and has done from the very start of the season?

  20. Come on folks, one of the engine providers,say Ferrari wanted KERS next year and wanted out of the handshake, soooo told williams to break the agreement if they wanted their engine. Voila KERS is back on.

    1. Wicked :)

    2. Oh god, Williams-Ferrari sounds simply WRONG

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