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Friday, June 18, 2010

KERS a bigger boost to F1 in 2011

The return of KERS to Formula 1 next year is set to be more of a success than during its last aborted attempt, teams believe, even though the systems will not be any more powerful than they were in 2009.

F1 technical chiefs agreed at the Canadian Grand Prix that a voluntary agreement not to run KERS this year would be dropped at the end of this season. It means that all teams are now free to run the energy recovery systems from the start of next year.

And although a bid by Ferrari and Renault to increase the power output of KERS from 400KJ to 800KJ to make it more attractive had to be dropped after Mercedes-Benz said it would only support KERS returning under the old rules, a further increase in the minimum weight of cars to 640kg proposed for next season should still ensure KERS brings a good advantage.

One of the reasons why the system failed last time was because using the heavy systems pushed teams above the-then weight limit of 605kg, which meant there was minimum benefit from the KERS. For 2010, with revised tyres, better for weight distribution, and the higher weight limit proposed by the Technical Working Group (TWG), the weight factor of KERS should not be a handicap at all.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said: "One of the important things that was achieved by the teams was to have a higher weight for the car, which will for sure help KERS to be used.

"We would have preferred to have had much more energy, but there was not the consensus to do that. So the kind of intermediate solution that has been taken is at least enough to go for it and see if that system will perform. We will go for it, that is for sure."

Ferrari, Williams and Renault have already confirmed that they will run KERS next year, with other outfits now evaluating it.

Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn reckoned all teams will have had to make their minds up in the next month about what their plans would be.

"I think the commitment will be to go with or without - we won't try and support both directions," he said. "We are still looking very carefully at all the aspects of KERS to make a final decision, and we are in the process of evaluating.

"In about a month to six weeks, certain decisions have to be made on the car that means you will be losing time if you reverse out of them."

When asked if the increase in minimum weight would mean it effectively being a 'no choice option' because it could only bring advantage, Brawn said: "It is the same scenario as previous years, in certain areas it is an advantage and certain areas it is not an advantage. It is not a black and white decision."

Brawn also believes that KERS would provide an extra benefit beyond the boost that is set to come from the introduction of moveable rear wings - which alone are set to increase straight-line speeds by 15km/h.

"It can be an accumulative benefit," he said. "If you use the wing and KERS, then you will get the benefit of both. There is no reason why the wing will negate KERS - because you don't only use KERS to improve straight-line speed, you can also use it to improve downforce."

The deal to introduce KERS includes a $5 million (USD) development cap budget and, in a bid to ensure smaller outfits are not put at a disadvantage, independent teams will be able to buy systems for just $1 million (USD).

Brawn reckons that getting such cost restrictions in place was important - because one of the reasons why resistance to KERS last time out was so high was because of the huge development investment needed.

"It is important costs are controlled," said Brawn. "It was quite an investment in previous years and perhaps the climate is a bit different now. We have to be careful about the levels of investment necessary for KERS. It is a good initiative but we need to make sure it fits with F1."

And although Renault says it is delighted that its fight to get KERS back has been a success, team principal Eric Boullier has expressed some frustrations at the fact money now has to be spent optimising the older restricted systems rather than embracing more powerful technology.

"At Renault, we were a strong supporter with Ferrari," Boullier said. "We offered to raise the level of energy to 800KJ, to allow more work on KERS for the future, and to have a better show - because you can use twice more the KERS system during a lap.

"It would have been good for performance and good for F1's image, but the biggest concern was that Mercedes-Benz had a different technology and they could not do it [double the power with their system in the timeframe], and they did not want to invest their money on an 800KJ system.

"So now it will cost money to everybody - as we need to continue to develop the 2009 KERS. That is stupid, because we will spend more money to make something work better, rather than changing the regulations and making it easy."

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