For 2009, teams may run a Kinetic Energy Recovering System, designed to store otherwise lost energy when the car is under braking, and allowing drivers to use this energy in the form of a boost of power as and when they see fit during a race. However, the system is quite complex and is also voluntary for next year. This may mean that some teams who are behind in developing KERS may not use the system in 2009.
BMW and McLaren (and therefore Force India) are believed to be very much up-to-speed with their KERS system, the Swiss-German team even trying out some strategy work with it at the last test in December. However, Ferrari have admitted to being behind in their development phase as are Renault and Toyota. With Renault and Ferrari both being behind, the knock-on effect will be felt by Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, who each use the French and Italian engines respectively.
The problem appears to stem from Magneti-Marelli, an Italian company that makes automotive electronic systems and is a subsidiary of Fiat and has also been involved in Formula One for many, many years. Ferrari have obviously chosen Magneti-Marelli to help with the development of their KERS, and the company is also working with Renault and Toyota. The Japanese giant has already stated that they are unlikely start the 2009 with a KERS system in place.
Ross Brawn mentioned to James Allen just before Christmas that teams failing to run KERS could be at a substantial disadvantage, despite the massive weight the system adds to the cars. Brawn is believed to have said that the teams may only activate the boost button after the car reaches 100km/h, which prevents drivers using it to get off the grid. However, in the run down to the first corner, it could be activated and allow some cars an advantage as they tussle to get a decent line into the corner while attempting to make up as many places as possible.
Williams are the only private team who are developing their own system in-house system, although the Oxfordshire-based team does have a minority share-holding in Automotive Hybrid Power Limited, renamed Williams Hybrid Power Limited after they moved headquarters to Williams’s Grove factory. WHP will have helped the development of the Williams KERS system, but despite this the team are still believed to be behind schedule.
Meanwhile, team chiefs at Maranello have said that they will make a decision in late-February as to what they intend to do at the start of the 2009 season with regards to KERS. It could be that some teams do not implement it until mid-season, but developing an integral and complex part without testing (in-season testing has now been banned) will be very difficult and could have disastrous consequences. Therefore, it is possible that some teams may not run KERS until 2010, possibly putting themselves at a distinct disadvantage for the ’09 campaign.
Is 2009 going to be the year that McLaren finally take back the constructors title?