Should KERS Be Abandoned for 2010?

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Should KERS Be Abandoned for 2010?
(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Yesterday, at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton drove the first KERS car to win a Formula One race, 10 races after its baptism into F1.

During winter testing most teams tried out a KERS system but several struggled with its development and many teams have given up on installing KERS onto their car. Ferrari and McLaren are the only two teams still to race the device after Renault and former KERS enthusiasts, BMW Sauber, decided to scrap the regenerative braking device.

In June this year, FOTA announced that they had come to an agreement to abandon KERS altogether from 2010 onwards despite it providing a extra 80bhp for six to seven seconds every lap. 

Prior to the race yesterday, there existed a consensus that KERS was good for an exciting race start only and that if three or four cars have the device then it provides more unpredictability to the race but this was not enough to keep it in the sport.

However, with Lewis Hamilton winning yesterday, the first time a KERS equipped car has won a race, is the decision to scrap KERS the right one?

We'll have to look at all aspects of the system to decide whether or not it should be scrapped or not. Can small, independent teams afford the device? Is it worth carrying extra weight if it doesn't give that much of an advantage in the long term? Is there any point in KERS at all if all 20 cars on the grid carried the device?

The cost to develop, install, and race a KERS system costs millions, and when the benefit is 'just' between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds, one would wonder what is the point in KERS, when aero updates can provide an extra 0.8 seconds per lap (as proven by McLaren in recent races).

On the other hand, the grid is ever so close this year (the top 15 in Saturday's qualifying were separated by just over a second) any benefit should be taken and used to the advantage of the driver and the team.

Also, for heavier drivers, to install KERS on their car could prove to be a huge mistake. The device weighs between 25-35kg, which seems relatively light but, on average, teams have around 70kg of ballast to play around with once the weight of both car and driver have been taken into account. 

This means, for a heavy driver, the amount of ballast available to improve the balance and feel for the car could potentially half.

Another disadvantage of running the KERS system is that although it is a step in the right direction of making F1 a more environmentally friendly sport, is that if all cars were to run KERS, there would be no advantage at all, as all drivers would be able to push the button when the lights go out.

However, we all like the start of races with the, now traditional, KERS versus non-KERS run down to the first corner don't we?

For this reason, I remain a fan of KERS and think it should be kept for 2010, but not as KERS as we know it.

As I mentioned before, if all 20 cars had KERS, there would be no advantage and no added excitement. 

That's why I've come up with an idea of a KERS rota system. I haven't gone into the complications and technicalities of this idea as, admittedly, it is slightly far fetched. 

The rota system would involve KERS independently made (which saves on developing and installation costs) systems that would be shared around the teams throughout the season. So one week, McLaren, Ferrari, BMW and Renault could have KERS and the next week Brawn, Red Bull, Toyota and Williams would have the systems on their cars.

So what about chassis differences? Surely this would mean standard chassis regulations?

Well, initially the systems will be on every car, but if it is not the turn of the driver or team to use the device, it will be switched off for that weekend. Simple as. The team won't be able to cheat and turn it on as KERS will be controlled by the FIA.

With this idea we still have the KERS versus non-KERS start. We still have a greener sport. We still manage to cut costs with standard systems.

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