Renault: KERS dangerous and expensive
Renault chiefs have launched a scathing attack on the introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) in Formula One this year - claiming they are dangerous and too expensive. As teams continue preparations of the devices in pre-season testing, Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has labelled the use of them in Formula one as a 'terrible mistake'. And his technical director Bob Bell has expressed fears of a KERS accident this season - with perhaps a mechanic suffering an electric shock like happened to a BMW mechanic during testing last year. Renault are scheduled to introduce their own KERS for the first race of the season in Australia, but that has not stopped Briatore and Bell criticising the idea of using them.
When asked at the launch of the team's new R29 in Portugal on Monday if he had any safety concerns about KERS, he said: "Very much so. It's unknown territory for us.
"We are not used to seeing cars with high voltage stickers. I think there will be some accidents this year. It's inevitable. And you'll probably see some mechanics get nasty shocks. Let's hope it's no more than that. The same could be said of marshals.
"The sport has done a very good job of trying to minimise the risk, to mechanics, technicians and trackside people, but there is still a risk. It's several hundred volts and the potential to be tens of amps, so it's pretty lethal. And it's DC (direct current), so if you hold it you cannot let go."
Briatore is deeply unhappy about the amount of money his team have had to spend on KERS, especially against the backdrop of the worldwide economic crisis.
"I think it is a terrible mistake," said Briatore. "In the end Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari supply engines to other teams, and we are not making any money - it is costing us but we are doing it for the good of F1.
"We have the big reduction in the costs of engines, but in another way we have opened the door on something else. We don't know how much it is going to cost us in the end with development, and we don't know if it is dangerous or not - it looks like it is not 100 percent in control.
"And does it bring any good to us? What it brings to us is only cost, that is sure."
Briatore has criticised rivals BMW Sauber for not backing a proposal put forward at the Chinese Grand Prix last year for a delay in the introduction of KERS. Their decision meant that other teams were forced to keep developing their own devices in readiness for this season.
"We have this situation because one team only was determined to take this programme," explained Briatore.
"We know already for 2010 there is an option for a standard KERS - so whatever money we spend this year is for one year only. In this kind of environment it is completely unnecessary what we are doing. Plus, if you ask about performance - nobody knows. If you ask me, better with KERS or better without KERS? That is a big question mark.
"But for sure BMW wanted to go to the end, so we had to follow that. It is difficult for us to have one competitor developing a programme and we are not part of it. We are talking about performance, but in this moment to support such a programme brings no good to anyone. What we know is we spend a lot of money for nothing. That is for sure."
Williams unlikely to use KERS regularly
Williams is unlikely to run with KERS regularly this season because of concerns about the weight of its in-house system. The team had originally targeted next week's Turkish Grand Prix for its KERS debut. But despite making good progress with developing its flywheel system, director of engineering Patrick Head has admitted that it will be difficult to integrate it into the Williams FW31 without having a negative impact on its handling.
Although this means that the team will struggle to gain any performance benefit out of the system at most tracks, it could still give it a run later in the season at a low-speed track, where the need to get the weight distribution as far forward as possible is less critical. This raises the possibility of Williams racing its KERS system at, for example, Singapore.
"The fundamental problem is, and this was raised early on, that even though our system has got a lot of capacity, it weights 35kg," said Head. "We can't get the optimum weight distribution if we're running the system.
"We're keeping working on our KERS. I'm not saying we won't run it this year but it will be difficult to run it on the car and have the car set in its optimum performance window.
"But if you go to a slower speed track, your optimum weight distribution moves rearwards anyway."
Head believes that the flywheel KERS system will offer a bigger advantage next year, when the imperative for a forward weight distribution is eased by the introduction of a narrower front tyre. However, it is not yet clear whether teams will be able to use their own systems, or the mooted common KERS unit.
He also added that he was happy with the progress the team has made on its KERS system along with its in-house company Williams Hybrid Power.
"KERS is certainly still under development," said Head. "We've developed our own motor and they are amazing things. Quite small - about the size of a part-used lavatory roll and it puts out 80bhp. That's been running on our rig back in the factory both absorbing and feeding back in power.
"The inverter is all done and that's running well. The flywheel has been running on the rig and we had a few development problems associated with mounting a flywheel within a car, but we've solved them now."
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BMW drops KERS for rest of 2009
Mario Theissen on Saturday announced that BMW Sauber has decided to drop KERS for the rest of the 2009 season. The German squad recently ceased using the controversial energy re-use technology in order to focus on aerodynamic improvements, and Theissen confirmed at Silverstone that the policy will also continue throughout the season's final nine rounds. "We have in the past weeks considered what is possible in terms of aerodynamic development with KERS and without KERS," said Theissen. "We decided that more progress can be made without the installation of KERS.
But having voted recently to retain the option of using the technology in 2010, Theissen insists KERS cannot be characterised as "a flop" for F1.
"There has been success in the transfer of technology (to BMW's road car division)," he said. "Our engineers are supporting the research and development in Munich and that will continue for some time. What has been learned can be used not only for hybrid cars, but also for electric and conventional cars," said Theissen.
But he confesses that, without a rule mandating KERS, the systems are destined to "disappear" from Formula One.
"I regret that, because we would have had a chance to position Formula One as a technology innovator."
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Domenicali: KERS a costly flop for F1
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali says the introduction of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System in Formula 1 has been a multi-million flop. Although most of the teams objected to it, the KERS system was introduced in Formula 1 for this season, but just Ferrari used it in the British Grand Prix. Only Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber and Renault have raced with KERS at some point this year, although other teams have also spent millions developing it. BMW, who was the only team who refused to join a veto on KERS last year, has decided to give up on the system. Domenicali said there was no denying its introduction was a mistake.
"We are in a racing environment where they are a lot of things, a lot of compromises, that we have to take in order to ensure that this new technology could be beneficial to the performance of the car. At the end of the day, this is what it is all about.
"The reality is that the facts show that KERS in the way that it is now is not ready to be performing in this set of regulations. That is a fact. And, this is something that we need to learn from in the future.
"As we always said, F1 is vital to ensure the technological transfer from the racing division to the road car side, but we need to make sure that this is line with what we have to do to ensure we are winning on the sporting side. So, for the future, before doing certain choices, we have to think carefully because we must not make another mistake."
When asked how much his team has spent in developing KERS, Domenicali said: "I cannot because it is too heavy for me to say that, to be honest. I know that if you put that amount of money into the development of the car, then you would have been fast like Red Bull today! It was millions of Euros."
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Force India puts KERS debut on hold
The Force India team has ruled out introducing its KERS system at the Spanish Grand Prix, as the Silverstone-based squad has decided to focus its development elsewhere. The Mercedes-powered team had originally planned to introduce the Kinetic Energy Recovery System for the start of the European season, but team boss Vijay Mallya admitted the plan has been scrapped. Force India has instead decided to focus on the development of aerodynamic components, as the team believes KERS would not be an advantage.
"At the beginning of the year, it was our provisional plan to introduce the system for the start of the European season, but we have decided to put the emphasis on aero development where we feel the greater gains can be found," said Mallya.
"As we've seen many other teams are not running KERS so we do not feel we are at a disadvantage. We still plan to use it later in the season, but this will be reviewed after each race in line with the other work we have going on in the background"
Force India run several new updates at the Bahrain Grand Prix last month, and Mallya admitted he was pleased with the step forward they allowed his team to take.
"I was very pleased to see the clear improvement we demonstrated in Bahrain as a result of the new diffuser and aero upgrades," he said.
"To get both cars fitted with the modified floor in such a short time was a major undertaking, particularly from a team with such a limited workforce and budget as Force India.
"This of course was only the first stage in development and for Barcelona we'll have yet more upgrades coming through based on the information we gained in Bahrain.
"We'll be running a driver-adjustable front wing flap and a further modification for the front wing. This is just part of our ongoing development cycle and there will be further upgrades at most of the forthcoming races."
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McLaren: Circumstance scuppered KERS
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh believes that a 'perfect storm' of circumstances is to blame for KERS failing to be a success in Formula 1. With only Ferrari running with KERS at last weekend's British Grand Prix, and teams set to drop the technology for 2010, several bosses have claimed that the introduction of the technology was a flop. And although Whitmarsh agrees that the huge investment in KERS has been a waste, he thinks it was purely circumstances caused by new regulations that resulted in the experiment not working.
"At the end of last year it was every team bar BMW, and we've always taken a flexible view on it. On those two occasions we were prepared to get rid of it.
"The regulations are incredibly wide, and they are challenging in that to develop a KERS system within the weight and packaging constraints of F1, with the power and energy limitations and still have performance is difficult.
"And if you look back on it now with hindsight, this industry has undoubtedly wasted a lot of money in that area, particularly if we are not going to be running with KERS next year.
"McLaren and Mercedes's position is that we believe we have come this far and should continue with KERS, but the spirit of cooperation that exists within F1 now with FOTA, we accept not using vetoes to block these things.
"A majority of teams want to block it and it has been unfortunate for us because we have put a tremendous amount of effort, with the added potential distraction in our engineering programme and concept of this car."
He added: "Like all of these things you get the perfect storm of issues. Putting it as kindly as possible, we were not as adventurous in our diffuser interpretation, and that gave us limitations in how you respond to it.
"We were behind on the development of the overall aero concept, and we have put a lot of effort into KERS because F1 was committing to it. Looking back we could have made some different decisions, but that is how hindsight works."
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FOTA agrees to drop KERS in 2010
The Formula One Teams' Association is pushing for the sport to abandon KERS entirely next year, after agreeing that the technology should be dropped as it is now too expensive. Following a limited take-up of the energy recovery device for 2009, members of the teams' organisation have voted in favour of abandoning it entirely next year on money grounds. While the move has not been universally welcomed, with BMW Sauber in particular once again keen for it to be retained, the majority decision by FOTA means that the move has now been put into action. BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said: "We have voted in favour of KERS but, as with all the other FOTA decisions so far, we will go with the majority."
Even if the FIA refuses to change the regulations to outlaw it, FOTA agreement would be enough for the technology not to be used.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said that even though his team had invested a lot of time and effort in developing KERS it was for the greater good that the decision had been made to abandon it.
When asked on Sunday night if it was true the teams were pushing for it to be dropped, Domenicali said: "Yes. In terms of the discussion we had within FOTA, we are talking about cost saving for the new teams as well.
"We are the only one together with McLaren who are using it. We invested a lot and we always said that it is difficult for the supporters to understand why there are some cars with KERS and some cars without KERS, so if you have a total logical approach, if we are all together fine then it is better not to have it."
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