As you may or may not have heard, the FIA is introducing new sporting regulations for 2009 that allow for the competitive use of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, or KERS. Simply put, the energy produced under braking will be available to boost a cars power. These new regulations will no doubt add new dimensions and competitive possibilities to the sport; the idea of a 'power boost' button is a seemingly great way to promote overtaking and foster greater competition between already closely matched machines.
But is this really a competitive boost, or just a novel application of 'green tech' to make F1 seem more environmentally friendly?
The amount of boost available depends on how much braking is done at any particular track, so tracks with greater strains on the brakes would produce more energy to be used. The idea of drivers and teams strategically storing energy and using it at opportune moments seems like a good way to make things a little more interesting. Imagine drivers passing each under boost on the main straight, and counter attacking after braking through the next few corners or even being ballsy enough to boost in the middle of a corner! Sounds entertaining, no?
Just slightly, I think. It's too much like those boost mushrooms you get in Mario Kart for me to take it as a serious competitive dimension, or at least for me to wholeheartedly accept it at the moment. While new strategic dimensions would be added, to me, it belittles the skill of a driver to be passed just because an opponent had KERS, or enough energy to pass. While it may be trivial, I can't recall the number of times I've been beaten in Mario Kart after leading a whole race, just because some lucky opponent got those blasted mushrooms. I just don't want such trivialities (if that's even a word) to work their way into what I openly consider the pinnacle of motorsport.
The FIA is no doubt introducing these new regulations to promote the development of environmentally friendly technology, and to ostensibly, turn F1 into a more 'green' motorsport. So KERS would seem a good way to do so. But I've always had a lingering doubt and irksome feelings towards Hybrid cars. If I remember correctly, a while back on Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson and the others discovered that hybrids (in their case, the Prius) don't really get as much mileage as reported. A smaller, more efficient engine and lighter chassis could possibly yield greater mileage than a hybrid—think motorcycles, which get awesome mileage with performance.
Hybrids seem more like a band-aid in regards to solving our dependency on oil. While they are a good idea and a step in the right direction, they still ensure the use of gasoline, thereby, ensuring oil's influence over all of us. If the FIA really wanted to green-ify the sport, they'd follow Le Mans' lead and start development of diesel and alternate fuels to be used in the sport. Or to be more extreme, an all-electric racing series could be started.
All that aside, we'll see some teams running KERS next year, while some won't. BMW and Toyota are hard at work developing their KERS technology, while Ferrari are reportedly finding it more difficult. At any rate, things will be interesting. With high voltage machinery and volatile race fuel being used at the same time, there may be some spectacular crashes involving Zeus-like bolts of electricity and ample fire. But hopefully not.
Oh yea, on a similar note check out: Green Congress
It's a Hybrid Supra that won a 24 hour race in Japan, the first Hybrid race car ever to win a race. Just in case you were thinking all this KERS stuff was new and cutting edge, it's already been done, and done successfully before.