RBR keeps us guessing on ‘start only’ KERS

Tonight as Christian Horner and Adrian Newey were leaving the paddock I told them that the ‘start only’ KERS rumours were gathering momentum. Christian laughed and said we’ll see tomorrow…

The confirmation from the Red Bull drivers that they didn’t use KERS in qualifying led to speculation as to why. I asked some top people at teams like Renault, McLaren and Ferrari, and they had no clue.

The most obvious reason was some sort of reliability issue that meant it was safer to switch it off, on the basis that the team had enough in hand and didn’t need the 0.3s a lap benefit.

The problem is the race, and what the team would do at the start, given that without KERS both drivers would come under threat. Had Mark Webber qualified second you could argue that he’d be riding shotgun for Sebastian Vettel. But with Lewis Hamilton taking that spot Vettel would almost certainly lose the lead if he doesn’t have KERS at the start.

And that’s why suggestions tonight that Red Bull has a start only KERS system make sense.

When a car goes to the grid it goes with the KERS having been fully charged in the garage – it’s not a question of loading it up by using the brakes on the warm-up lap or anything like that.

So in theory you could have a system that gave you a start boost and was inoperative thereafter. It could be smaller, lighter, create fewer packaging compromises, and require less cooling. A simplifed KERS could create an always welcome opportunity to play with ballast, although obviously this year there is less scope to adjust the weight distribution, as that is restricted by the rules.

Without KERS working off the brakes, drivers would be able to use them in a more optimal way throughout the race, and be at less risk of damaging the tyres or flat spotting them.

And of course it’s one less thing for drivers to think about. Mark Webber has made his feelings about the multi-tasking he’s now required to do quite clear.

Remember RBR briefly tried KERS in early 2009, and Adrian Newey soon discarded it. Back then weight was an issue – Webber is not the lightest driver in the field – but the limit has since gone up from 605kgs to 640kgs, so that has become less critical.

Clearly Newey did his sums back then and found that KERS did not fit his way of going racing, and it could well be that it still doesn’t, for the reasons outlined above.

So does RBR just have a regular KERS system that can be easily set-up just for start use, with a few elements removed or disconnected? Or does it have a dedicated ‘mini KERS’ that meets the letter of the rules and is never intended to work over a race distance? Does it have both and thus the option to fit either, depending on the track and the circumstances?

We should get some answers tomorrow, with a little help from the TV KERS graphic. Then the question could be whether other teams feel that such a system is within the rules.

It’s pretty clear that some might think it contravenes the spirit of the regs, in that having a system that doesn’t harvest energy over a race as it is intended to doesn’t do a lot for the green image of F1.

Tonight I asked a senior FIA guy if any of this made sense. He said he had no idea, but would ask his experts in the morning…


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14 responses to “RBR keeps us guessing on ‘start only’ KERS

  1. CTP

    adam, can you clarify exactly hat the rules say for the kers system and what it should do/how and if it should be rechargeable? i think we might be hearing more of this over the coming weeks and months…

  2. wingwalker

    F1 rules say:

    “1.20 Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) :
    A system that is designed to recover kinetic energy from the car during braking, store that energy and
    make it available to propel the car.”

    So I guess a system that can only be charged in the pits wouldn’t be counted as KERS unit and therefore be illegal as no energy from braking is used there. But I wonder Red Bull were creative in their interpretation of the word ‘designed’: a system designed and capable of gathering, storing yadda yadda energy but reduced to a ‘start-only’ design in the garage could still be deemed as legal if the team could prove that it was design to do so and proving in that case would be using it like that just once. Stripping it from the recharging, cooling and other bits for the race (and quali) would be their choice. That is all my guess, of course, cheers.

  3. heliosz

    If RBR’s lightweight KERS can be charged in the pit then why didn’t they charge it for one qualifying lap, then recharge it before the race – I wonder if there’s anything in the rules that forbids it. I don’t think the parc ferme rules specifically prohibit recharging the KERS before the race as normally this question never rises – the others can simply charge their systems by braking in the warm lap. So the question stands : why didn’t they use their “one-shot” in both qualifying and start? I think the answer lies in gear ratios and that RBR do have a normal KERS system but they only use it at races. Using the adjustable rear wing over the course of a full lap brings appr. 0.3-0.4 seconds – largely the same amount of time as the KERS. But the adj. r. w. can be used in race conditions only restrained. If you use both in qualifying and set up gear ratios accordingly, your race will be compromised. RBR decided to sacrifice some performance so that tomorrow they’ll be able to fully exploit the advantages of KERS and not to end up with messed-up gear ratios. In essence, they’ll use tomorrow KERS instead of adj. r.w. and still have optimal ratios in both qualifying and race.

  4. Mick

    In my opinion if the RBR KERS is only charged in the garage before the race and used for the start then it fails the basic definition in the FIA technical regs of what a KERS is

    Technical reg 1.20 Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) :
    A system that is designed to recover kinetic energy from the car during braking, store that energy and make it available to propel the car.

  5. Thomas

    This whole “spirit of the rules” really irritates me. If the rules allow it and it is beneficial, then so be it. The only ones who say it’s not within the “spirit” are just annoyed that they did not think of it themselves!

  6. If they have a start line KERS that can be charged in the pits and then used on circuit, why not use this system in Q3 at least? They could still charge it in the pits and deploy it during the race.

    Or would setting the car up for being able to use both KERS and the DRS compromise gear ratios for the race when the DRS is usually inactive, whereas setting the gear ratios for only KERS or the DRS would be a better compromise? I’m really struggling to come up with ideas for why they wouldn’t use the system in Q3 if they have the option to use it at the start.

  7. F1 Kitteh

    Even if it was a one use system that is charged in the garage beforehand, it still doesn’t explain why they didn’t use it for the one qualy lap? Seems the explanation that they were sandbagging is more likely.

    • Richard

      Firstly if such a system is used, you can get it to charge over say 5 laps, this would mean the actual motor/generator could be optimised as a motor and only feed a small charge to the batteries. This would also have the side effects of a lot less circuitry, lighter batteries and less effect on the breaking balance as well as less cooling required. It still charges, just not over one lap and therefore meets the regulations.

      It could also be that it was used on the last attempt Vettel did – the one that wasn’t quite as fast as the one he set the fastest lap time on – or they couldn’t charge it up enough after Q2 because it overheats when charged too fast- and that’s why it wasn’t used.

      It’s more likely they didn’t want to make ALL the new teams fall outside the 107% rule…

  8. The clue is in the name; Kinetic Energy Recovery System.

    If it doesn’t actually recover any energy then surely it’s just a battery?

  9. Gergely Erdős

    The Technical Reg 1.20 doesn’t say anything about how efficient must they recover the energy, so they can build even a bike-dynamo into the car, and it is really light…

    5.2.3 The maximum power, in or out, of any KERS must not exceed 60kW.
    Energy released from the KERS may not exceed 400kJ in any one lap.
    Measurements will be taken at the connection to the rear wheel drivetrain.
    5.2.4 The amount of stored energy in any KERS may not be increased whilst the car is stationary during a race pit stop.

    So it is allowed to charge the KERS fully (400kJ) do the start with it, and then don’t use it during the race. And if their KERS is half as heavy as the other teams’ system, it can worth about 15 kg, they can have a better-balanced car.
    It can be in line with the wording of the rules, but I think it isn’t with the spirit of the rules.
    If it is better then the other teams will copy it, and then this whole thing looses the KERS’s original aim: the research of the hybrid and green automotive technology

  10. Stone the crows

    Last year it was adjustable ride height, this year it’s start only KERS, which really isn’t KERS. How demoralizing can it be for the rest of the field? The RB7 in the hands of Vettel, they’re probably not using KERS and they don’t need to.

  11. tom baker

    Haha, you’re right, they didn’t use Kers at all.

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