F1 2009: Three Races Completed, Has KERS Made an Impact On The Racing?

Jim MoneyContributor IApril 21, 2009

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 09:  The warning sign on the Red Bull Racing RB5 car of Sebastian Vettel signals that the KERS energy system is disabled and the car is safe to touch during the Red Bull 2009 F1 Launch of the new RB5 Formula One car at the Circuito de Jerez on February 9, 2009 in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

This season saw the introduction of an optional technology called KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) which is a very advanced version of a hybrid system on a road car. The system stores the energy generated from braking in either a battery or a flywheel and can be used as a power boost for the driver at anytime over a lap. It is estimated that the systems produce around 82 bhp for up to 6.6 seconds and this can be used all at once or in short burst, it is up to the driver.

In theory then this technology should provide a benefit to the driver and to the fans, who can see more overtaking and therefore much more excitement whilst generating "green" credentials for the sport. However after watching the first three races of the 2009 season, I cannot see how the technology has translated into better racing.

Only seven cars used KERS in the first two races, whilst in China only three cars had the systems fitted, the teams that removed KERS cited either reliability issues or lack of performance as their decision to not run it.

The problem is that KERS is heavy, around 30kgs, which means that the engineers have less ballast to balance the car with, which in turn means the cars are unstable under breaking, acceleration and on corner entry and exit. This has meant that even though the cars are faster in a straight line, they cannot compete with the other cars around the rest of the lap (see Barichello's overtake on Alonso in Malaysia for case and point).

The only time that I have seen KERS increase the excitement in a race was the start of the Australian GP when Hamilton had low fuel and was on the softer tyre and charged through the field to take loads of placed before his tyres went off, this to me is a black and white case that either all cars run with KERS or not at all.