Goodbye to… KERS

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Hamilton has given KERS two of its three wins this year
Hamilton has given KERS two of its three wins this year

Ahead of their introduction this year Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems were hyped as F1’s attempt to promote environmentlly-friendly technology in racing cars.

But it looks likely that the F1 teams will abandon the technology in 2010. For now at least, it’s goodbye to KERS.

Article five of the F1 technical regulations for 2010 makes it clear that KERS will still be legal in 2010.

But the F1 teams’ association proposed that all teams would agree not to use the systems next year to cut costs. In the run-up to this year’s Singapore Grand Prix Williams suggested they would run the devices on their 2010 car, but have since indicated they will fall into line with the other teams in keeping F1 KERS-free in 2010.

KERS has been something of a mixed bag. Although initially derided as unsuccessful, KERS-assisted cars have now won three races (Lewis Hamilton in Hungary and Singapore pus Kimi Raikkonen at Spa) and achieved three pole positions (all Hamailton’s).

It has had both positive and negative consequences for the quaity of racing in F1. It has helped drivers make passes they couldn’t have made before – and helped those same drivers prevent others from overtaking them. But it has added an interesting and often important point of difference between the cars that have it and those that don’t.

Like refuelling, which is also being dropped for 2010, KERS has fallen out of favour because the devices are expensive to develop and use. In which case, this should have been an argument against using them in the first place.

Any hope they might prove useful for car manufacturers wishing to draw attention to their green credentials is rather undermined by the fact that Toyota – builders of the Prius, the poster child car for environmentalists – haven’t bothered to use it on their F1 cars this year. The cmopany described the tightly-restricted F1 KERS as “primitive”.

The concept of storing and re-using energy that would otherwise be wasted is one that car manufacturers are beginning to embrace. Given that, and the fact that KERS remains in the rules, perhaps we shall see its return in the near future.

Do you want the teams to bring it back? And will it go out on a high with a final victory this weekend? Have your say in the comments.


158 comments on “Goodbye to… KERS”

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  1. no doubt some one will break ranks next year…and start another bloody controversy, rather than just try and have a health positive season letting age old wounds heal.

  2. I like the idea of Kers. Hopefully it will come back in the near future

    1. I like the principles behind it too. F1 needs at least some innovation, if they’re going to restrict engine development. F1 aero development isn’t really applicable to road cars so KERS was one of the few things that could be transferrable.

      I think a better way of implementing KERS would have been to limit the amount of petrol available at a race weekend, and completely de-restrict the KERS devices. That would have ballooned the costs even further, but it would have been fantastically road-relevant and may have survived for more than one season.

    2. I like the idea of it too. I think it would have been great if the FIA had allowed it years ago when McLaren/Mercedes first proposed it. If that had been the case then it would surely not be so costly and “primitive” today. One thing is for sure though, if KERS comes back, it should be compulsory.

  3. I’m still undecided about KERS cos it kind of seemed like an advantage towards the end of the year once they’d updated the cars, but then if everyone had it I can’t see it being much of an advantage cos they’re not limited to how many times they can use it. So I guess it’s good it’s gone for now, but maybe it’ll come back in a couple of years when they’ve fine tuned it a bit.

    1. why not run KERS constantly to make the cars more fuel-efficient, and carry less fuel next year.

      1. They don’t become more fuel efficient – to my understanding they reuse energy that is normally lost – then applying it as a boost (rather than using the energy as a replacement to “normal power”)

        But if a team was using not as a boost but rather as energy replacement then yes it could reduce fuel load.

        1. They don’t become more fuel efficient – to my understanding they reuse energy that is normally lost

          Saving energy that is normally lost: a definition of ‘better efficiency.’

          Using it as a boost instead of ‘normal’ power is irrelevant. Racing cars try to accelerate as fast as possible, and KERS helps them to do that. F1 cars don’t cruise around like Priuses. (Priusi?)

          1. …don’t cruise around like a Prius. Prius is not of Latin origin and so definitely not a case of Priusi over Priuses.

          2. William Wilgus
            28th October 2009, 16:52

            But the extra weight of the system means more fuel consumption when accelerating and the system is not being used to provide power. So, it’s a win / lose situation rather than a win / win one.

          3. Priusi is the more amusing alternative none the less though..

          4. Actually, Prius is of latin origin. It is a comparative adjective or adverb according to wikipedia which also says:

            “Some enthusiasts enjoy using “Prii” as the plural, which would be correct if “prius” were a regular second declension Latin noun. The actual Latin plural of the adjective is “priora” (Reference [53] is slightly in error here). All of these forms are nominative case and there are several other forms for the other cases. As for the plural of “Prius” in English, Toyota has said that it is simply “Prius” and also that owners are welcome to use whatever they like.”

          5. bernification
            30th October 2009, 3:37

            To Wiliam Wilgus- all the cars have the same weight- the only disadvantage the KERS cars suffer is prime positioning of ballast

  4. It actually could come in handy now since the refueling ban has come into effect for next year.

  5. If it ever comes back the teams should be allowed to develop it freely.

    1. which would result in the bigger teams being able to spend more on developing it, thus having a better system… so no, i disagree

    2. bernification
      30th October 2009, 3:39

      Without development there is no innovation. Agree 100%

  6. If Kers can be made at a low cost then it will be ok but FIA must make sure that all team uses them.

    1. If KERS were cheap, standard units, then there would be no development and no innovation. Developing KERS was always going to be expensive because it was a new-ish technology, but pushed to the limits of F1 racing (ie. supremely low weight).

      Having a standard KERS unit used by every team would be no different from having standard engines. The variables of choosing to use/not use KERS and developing a KERS well/badly is what would diversify the sport and make it a bit more exciting.

      1. Isn’t there going to be a standard KERS for 2011? Which I believe is why Williams wanted to run it next season.

        1. Williams has heavily invested in their own flywheel KERS, so it’s unlikely they were sticking their neck out in order to use a standard unit.

  7. I’m glad it’s going. There’s something about a F1 car being high voltage that irks me. I like to think that I could safely go right up to an F1 car and hug it. :)

    1. So you were against all the sharp looking aero-devices on the 08 spec cars then… ;-)

    2. Hug it all you like — you just need to wear inch-thick leather gloves.

      High voltage vehicles are the future, and that will seep into F1, eventually.

      1. Ace, all cars have voltages that can kill you. Try touching the battery terminals in your car whilst its running. You’ll only attempt it once.

        1. It won’t kill you. Just put an understanding of what electrical burns look like.

          1. I said it ‘Can’ kill you. It depends on the condition of your heart and if a medical team are on hand. In case it stops your heart cold.

      1. Electricity is a cruel mistress


        1. Its a testament to the fact that BMW employs people no or very little understanding of laws of electrodynamics :P

    3. bernification
      30th October 2009, 3:42

      What kind of HT is on spark plugs? Why does anyone think that having a very volatile fuel that rotates at 18000rpm is more safe than another battery?

      Please, answers on a postcard.

      1. bernification
        30th October 2009, 3:44

        In an engine that rotates. etc.

        Sorry, long night.
        Now for sleep

  8. Prisoner Monkeys
    28th October 2009, 1:49

    I’ve heard that the FIA wants a standarised KERS unit for 2011, and while that equals further inconsistencies in the rules, I actually like the idea because I’m told all cars will have to use it, or at least be designed for it.

    KERS was one of the biggest problems of 2009, probably because only a handful ever used it. And they were all teams who were in the middle-to-back of the field, so they just held everyone up. I agree that it should be all or none who use it; teams may have the option of removing it under certin conditions (ie it’s useless in the wet), but it should be compulsory.

    1. I think it has been good that only a few teams have been using KERS — it has shown the true merits and drawbacks of using the system, and it has highlighted how some KERS are better than others. It’s made the starts more interesting. Unfortunately it hasn’t had any effect on strategies, fuel consumption or offensive overtakes (except after long straights). But I think there’s been more causes for concern this season with regard to technical regs and future car design.

      I applaud McLaren for sticking with KERS throughout the season, and quite rightly they have gained the most from it. The BMW and Renault attempts at running KERS have looked limp-wristed by comparison.

  9. We shouldn’t forget that the device itself could deliver extra power for longer than 6.7 seconds if it wasn’t limited… we have seen just a bit of it’s potential.
    I agree with Kovy: maybe making better sporting rules to use it along with more technical freedom could deliver better racing.

    1. Agree. The restricted use of the KERS boost is one of the major problems. The FIA wanted to introduce an innovative technology to show how F1 can suggest ideas to the wider world, and improve the racing and excitement, yet they limit what teams can do with the system. The only development available to KERS is to reduce the weight penalty and improve the energy harvesting on certain circuits (Suzuka?) where braking doesn’t help.

      Perhaps the FIA didn’t want KERS to become the modern equivalent of the turbo engines, where performance became quite hairy quite quickly.

    2. Agree also.

  10. No doh… KERS was the stupidiest idea from the get go. Hey guys you need to save money but guess what you have to spend a LOT of money to develop this new cool technology that we will have optional for 09 but make mandator for 10.. But in 10 we will only allow you to spend 1/10th of what you spent in 08. I could never make sense of that reasoning and then come up with the cost regulations for 10 and still expect KERS. As a viewer and fan I got very irritated by KERS majority of the time all that KERS did was hold up drivers that WAS faster that COULD have overtaken. Rare where the overtakes by KERS if ever unless the driver in front made an error. The ONLY exception to this was at the start and how frustrating it was to see a KERS car come flying from below the field and jump 4-5 positions or sometimes even far more when he obviously was there because he couldn’t do the pace in qualifying. Now he jumps and then slow down faster cars. Just made being on front row or at least 3-4 rows a head of the KERS cars so even more important.

    Good ridance finally we can see a drivers race that is not determined by qualification luck and fuel strategies. Because how many times have we also not seen someone running on fumes take pole while you have someone with a decent load end up 5th but on fuel corrected time the guy on 5th was still faster.. Now the fast guys WILL start first as long they get their qualifications correct.

  11. i want to see it back some day, but only if ALL the cars use it all the time. would produce some great racing.

    1. Agree, either ALL the cars use it, or none at all.

      That said, I think the best use of the KERS system was shown by Raikkonen at Spa when he passed Fisi at the restart, followed by defensively using it through Eau Rouge, which made up for the speed deficit the F60 has compared to the VJM02.

      As for cost concerns, they could stick to a common system like the ECU, the one used by McLaren is supposedly the most efficient in terms of size and weight, although it has its limitations compared to Ferrari’s KERS. I would have liked to see Williams’ flywheel system though.

      1. although it has its limitations compared to Ferrari’s KERS

        What limitations are those? Most of the KERS talk is about McLaren’s unit, not much has been said about Ferrari’s KERS except that it occasionally smokes a bit.

        1. Well, we know from Malaysia that the Ferrari KERS (Magneti Marelli) isn’t as waterproof as the McLaren system… :)

          I can’t remember where I heard it, but the McLaren KERS is supposedly more effective in slow corners than in fast corners, probably due to aero and tyre grip characteristics of the car itself, I don’t believe this is the case for the Ferrari KERS.

  12. Get rid of KERS. It adds to the advantage big teams have over small ones, since they can throw more resources towards developing a superior KERS system. Or, have the best KERS system distributed to all teams so that the playing field is level.

    As for Abu Dabbi, Lewis should be a strong contender for the win along w/ Vettel.

    1. Accidental Mick
      28th October 2009, 11:17

      The implication of your post is the Maclaren (who got the best out of Kers) have more resources that Ferrari, BMW and Renault. I dont think so.

    2. it would be no advantage to big teams if all were given a standardised KERS system.

      1. it would be A1 GP.

  13. i think its a shame.

    yeah f1 costs are out of control, but they are out of control in some areas that should be reigned in, however new tech development like KERS which is a technology that will help the world in the future – a technology that will never advance as fast as it would in f1 should be developed and even subsidised.

    it’s not just car manufacturers that are benefiting from the advancements that f1 has delivered already, wind turbines are now using the f1 kers tech for improved efficiency, along with trains and many other things.

    IMO its a tech that should be developed, there should be at least 2 different systems so there’s at least a tech race, not just a standard that doesn’t change, and every team should have it.

    the only reason the racing was effected this year is that some teams had it and others didn’t. people without couldnt overtake, if both cars had kers both cars that effect would be nullified.

    the driver behind could ever use a little less if they are faster, save it for the right moment and then use the extra to get that boost to overtake.

    IMO it could improve overtaking in that respect, the problem with f1 is the faster driver behind not being able to get close enough because of the turbulence / aero void from running too close, if the driver behind is faster than the one infront, they wouldn’t need to use as much kers to catch up, follow and stay close, leaving them with extra kers to use in any zone, to push ahead and be able to overtake.

    not just in your expected overtaking areas, with the boost spare they could jump out of any slow corner and run down side by side into any other corner.

    anyway, digressing that point, with any new development, the biggest outlay is in the startup, initial research, multiple failed test models, re-development and refinement into a production model and resolving issues in the production.

    ongoing costs for refinement would be much less, i think scrapping it now is pointless when the majority of the investment over the next 5 years has been spent already.

    the teams association should pick out 2 kers systems, have those teams place a cap on development cost for kers, and then put in licensing agreements with other teams to supply them at a set rate just like engines, so every team has a system… the teams developing earn revenue from the other teams, subsidising their outlays.

    if 2 teams are throwing in 50M each, the other 12 teams only need to throw in a few M each to subsidise that development, no different to the engines, gearboxes, or the mclaren/msft ECU.

    that’s my 45cents

    1. oh and not forgetting the fact that the f1 companies patent their findings and technologies and then sell those to the aforementioned companies – wind turbine manufactures, train manufacturers, other car manufactures, electric bike manufacturers, underwater energy recovery systems… really theres thousands of applications for the technology that yields a higher energy recover rate than the current systems, and f1 has developed that already and they are selling that technology already.

      not forgetting that williams bought into a KERS company that develops energy recover systems for those types of industries already. williams bought into the company to build their own device, and to also profit in the long term from their discoveries.

    2. IMO people who think there’s no benefit – especially in a technology like this – that is in high demand with a marketplace looking for higher efficiency are fairly close minded and are forgetting about what f1 has evolved into.

      f1 is more than just racing, gp2 is racing, karting is racing, f1 is as much about the technology race as it is the driver race.

      if f1 is just about the driver race, then yes, it’s way too bloated and way too expensive. if there’s technological benefits then there’s other ways for the teams to earn revenue, justifying the cost to develop them.

      obviously only the teams with R&D facilities could do this, but most teams have that, every team doesn’t need to develop every tech, some could specialise, but my point is already justified in years of cases from wheelchairs to satellites.

      “In 2006 NASA launched its Hinode satellite with the goal of gathering important information regarding the way the activity of the Sun influences our planet. The technology used in the satellite was also developed by F1 engineers, who provided their help in developing a 3-metre-long telescope. ”

      “In order to decrease the level of bouncing on even surfaces, scientists use hydraulic dampers in F1 vehicles. A team of engineers at car builder McLaren managed to use the same technology in a lightweight knee brace, which has already been tested on US marines.”

      “The casing of NASA’s Beagle Mars lander was made from the same plastic as a Formula 1 car’s exhaust pipe.”

      anyway, i’ve made my point, you need to think outside the box, there’s money to be made – for the teams outside of just sponsorship, the sport can’t survive on just sponsorship alone, with innovation and design they could be building tech to license to other companies. (which they do already).

      1. McLaren managed to use the same technology in a lightweight knee brace, which has already been tested on US marines.”

        Only McLaren are capable of doing something like that! :D

        That mclaren mp4-21 was aerodynamically a very efficient car. It was an evolution of of the ‘Killer’ mp4-20. but dunno why it performed abysmally mediocre. Must have been down to the lack of Merc V8 horsepower. Again a case of Merc letting down Mclaren. I’m praying Merc to split & burn their hands. They’ve let down McLaren on countless occasions. Even their KERS has been malfunctioning for the past few races.

    3. a couple of things you all seem to have failed to recognize is the fia was to have a one make standardized kers unit…so there would be no difference than now.

      It also has very little transfer to production cars, they only generated energy from the rear axle, and stored that small amount of energy into a battery (or flywheel), to perform boost.

      Toyota in fact have called it primitive and when you look at it closely it is.

      If you want a ‘push to pass; boost button for cars there is alot easier ways to do this. A simple ecu controlled rev increase via engine mapping would do the same a a cost of almost zero dollars.

      if you want innovation allow teams via a budget to develop fuel saving measures and keep while improving engine performance. That is something all car manufactures can transfer into production car straight away.
      Of course that would mean some lifting of engine development….
      Hell why not just let teams choose what type of engine they would like to run…be it a straight 4,6, v6, v8 v10, v12..who cares, in 2010 it comes down to engine speed and fuel economy or extra weight in car.

  14. Looks like it could be back in 2011

    Agree it must be used by all teams or none at all

    But will the “new” teams manage?

  15. See F1 shows how unfair life is sometimes. Look at Mclaren and Ferrari, they both spend significant a mount of money and developed the KERS System. Finally it’s working, and now people find it unfair and abandon the use of it. Hundreds of Millions down the drain. It didnt just cost them money, but both championship as well. If they were to focus on their cars rather than the Kers, things might turn out differently. Look at Red Bull and Brawn, even Force India came up from nowhere.

    Where is the incentive for F1 Teams to develop new technology in the future? Where was the revenue model for the KERS technology in the first place? Who would invest in something that might be “outdated” in a year time? Maybe thats the reason why F1 didn’t amend its technical regulations for 2010 and makes it clear that KERS will still be legal in 2010. They don’t want to admit the mistake they made.

    I hope F1 should seriously consider before making any of such major decision.

    1. If they were to focus on their cars rather than the Kers, things might turn out differently.

      True, but this is clear only in hindsight – it could easily have turned out the other way round. It was always possible that the KERS cars would runaway with the championship. They gambled and lost.

    2. Blame Mad max…it was all his idea…

      Why they even tried the idea in an era of cost cutting is beyond me to begin with.

  16. This is ridiculous. All the money spent to develop the technolgies on different concepts all down the drain. Is F1 not supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sports and technology development? So how does dropping it fulfill that idea?
    The FIA should set up a working group to establish the best concept – fly wheel or electrical – and set a contractor to develop a standard system that everyone has to use from 2011. As it evolves it will become more compact, more efficient and ready for our road cars.
    To drop it is dumb but then again teh FIA and now FOTA never have had the sharpest knives in the drawer running the circus that F1 has become.

    1. The FIA should set up a working group to establish the best concept – fly wheel or electrical – and set a contractor to develop a standard system

      FIA, Working Groups, Standardization…

      that was not the way F1 used in the past for being considered “as the pinnacle of motor sports and technology development”.

      This is the way of current F1 model for being more and more similar to any other GP series.

      1. Agree there IDR. Having a standard KERS in every car is no better than not having any KERS at all. The same with standard aero, standard engines and drivetrains…

        Opening up the regs is one likely answer. See how the heavily-revised aero regs for 2009 has completely mixed up the F1 pecking order. It’s not something that should be done every season, but we’ve seen this year that it has allowed different teams to step into the limelight and show what they’re capable of. For me, that is what should define Formula One.

        1. Yes but then again, if KERS was standard and since engines are standardized now, they could put KERS in place, reduce engine displacements and require better fuel consumption thus reducing emissions which they say they want to do (even though F1 emissions are not even a drop in the bucket globally) and lead some green technologies.
          KERS may be primitive to Toyota’s system but it was not designed for the same end purpose so to compare them is to compare an apple to a potato.

  17. What Im so surprised by is McL and Ferr agreeing to drop it when they bust a gut getting it to work, and making a car that carries all the gubbins around, with all the developmental challenges that entails, which McL did successfully, only to throw it out.

  18. KERS was a really gr8 idea….but it should be studied more and make it more beneficial and should be brought after few years maybe

  19. I absolutely and completely agree with Todd.
    F1 is not a sport, it a technological developement – racing series.
    I further think that areodynamic developement should be severely limited, as that is the area that is least useful to the manufacturers of road cars. Kers is and area that holds huge posibilities for the future, and the flywheel in my opinion has and advantage in that apparently it doesn’t use batteries, whichthe disposal of on a largescale is going to be expensive.
    I further think that the proposed 2013 engine efficiency formula that has been propsed has a lot of possibilities and promise.

    1. The flywheel KERS system had another advantage with slightly more usable torque output, from what I remember of a Williams interview. Shame that we’ll probably never see it.

  20. The problem was not KERS, it was it’s incompetent implementation through the FIA. ‘Thou shall slash cost, run under a budget cap, scrap testing, oh and spend millions and millions developing a new technology at the last minute but we won’t give you full technical freedom to make it even more painful, and then we will abandon it after you have already spent that cost, and not give you a chance to continue to develop KERS or recover those cost from customer teams’.

    1. The FIA hasn’t abandoned KERS at all. It’s FOTA that has agreed not to use it after 2009, for whatever bizarre and crazy reason.

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