The Nightmare That Is KERS

Alex CowleyCorrespondent IMay 5, 2009

Sometimes F1 confuses me. Recent examples would be the recent steward interventions, the introduction of the winner takes all points system, and Max Mosley's recent assurances that F1 does not need Ferrari.

Yet sometimes F1 downright aggravates me and leaves me begging the question why almost an entire series filled with some of the biggest car companies in the world cannot get one component of a car right? Why has KERS been such a problem?

On one hand the issue seems fairly obvious, it's a question of weight. Weight affects everything in motorsport, decreasing acceleration, braking power and putting more strain on the engine and tyres. The KERS equipment is a weighty device which adds considerable ballast to a finely balanced rather edgy machine.

Therefore, KERS is a piece of kit that must not only be designed to save weight but also not effect the balance and speed of the car.

Not only this, but is the development of KERS is seen as an important step in the direction of energy conservation. F1 is at the forefront of developing KERS for all forms of motorsportand transport and this continues on from the recent messages F1 has been sending out about the importance of looking after the enviroment, so far with Honda and the "earth" car. However, the pinnacle of motorsport has been unable to balance KERS and performance.

One way the teams have tried to combat the drawbacks of KERS is to shed weight off the drivers. Over the winter only the wiry Kazuki Nakajima gained weight. This weight reduction has turned F1 drivers effectively into motorised jockeys but failed it seems to solve the weight issue.

However this does not seem to be the crux of the KERS problem. Surely it's the performance (or mainly lack of) thus far during the race weekends.

Of the nine teams planning to run KERS this year only four teams have done so, and only three of which have run KERS on both cars. This hardly encourages the smaller teams to introduce KERS. However, while the small turnout for KERS has been an issue, its relative lack of performance has been a hammer blow.

KERS is designed to give a 6.7 second boost of power to the engine of the car per lap. It uses up the excess energy from the brakes in order to recharge a cell to provide the engine with this power. Therefore, this gives a car kitted with KERS a significant advantage at the start of a race or when attempting a pass on a long straight. However, so far this supposed advantage has not offset the overwhelming problems.

Ferrari have had a disastrous time with KERS, with the failure in Malaysia on Kimi Raikkonen's car being the "highlight." Furthermore they've seen very little performance advantage with the exception of the increased acceleration at the start. Thus far Ferrari is averaging less than a point per race this season.

Indeed Ferrari's strongest weekend was arguably when they didn't use KERS, in China, when Massa was running well in the points before reliability problems cost him.

Of the other three teams that have used KERS only McLaren have seen a net gain. Renault have been solidly mid-pack thus far and BMW-Sauber have struggled with the weight issue so much that Robert Kubica has been unable to effectively use KERS at all.

So it's 1/10 for effort by F1, but what do you expect when it comes to alternative technology and the automobile industry?

I'm not trying to accuse anybody of anything but the fact that the collective might of Ferrari, BMW-Sauber, and Renault which spend millions on development cannot fashion the KERS technology is astounding.

Certainly its seems recent performance has severely hampered the attractiveness of KERS. So far there has been very little interest from the other teams.

Brawn were never going to introduce KERS this season, Force India have given up developing KERS to focus on aero performance, and the introduction of the Williams fly-wheel system has no arrival date. And don't even contemplate going into the quagmire that is Toyota.

I'm not blaming the independant teams for the lack of KERS in F1, but the powerful manufacturers especially Ferrari, Toyota, and Red Bull that either have failed to construct a reliable KERS system or find a balance have been the main source of the problem.

Ask these guys to perform miracles of aero design and they do so. Ask them to create a KERS system and suddenly they're stumped.

At the present moment only three teams will be running KERS in Spain this weekend, of which only McLaren have been able to run a successful KERS programme.

So KERS has been a failure thus far, but it is not just down to the development and implementation of KERS. The surprise is that KERS has been introduced so gradually.

Again it feels that F1 is dragging its collective heals on the subject of KERS and energy and while F1 is prepared to colour their cars or tyres green to create a theoretical "eco" message, when it comes to reality they have been severely lacking in enthusiasm.

Why was KERS not implemented from the start? why did the FIA not increase the weight restrictions? (they have now, albeit from 2010 onwards). Why with the European season about to commence has the dawn of KERS still not materialised?

Put simply its a combination of poor performance, a lack of effort on all sides and general lack of implementation. The downfall of KERS it seems is that nobody cares.