How to conquer KERS?


BMW Magazine is a smart, beautifully designed and intelligent publication that comes through your letterbox if you own one of the cars from Munich.

I do not own a BMW but I have been reading the latest edition of the magazine. A friend of mine, soon to take early retirement from a blue chip British company, may forsake Waitrose for Tesco but he’s hanging on to his BMW.

The reason I mention this is because there is a most enlightening article about the new KERS contraption that will be seen on some of the Grand Prix cars when they appear in Melbourne in March. We know that BMW is well advanced in this respect, having already developed a brake energy recovery system for its M3 models. Conversely we know that the new Ferrari F60, launched today at Mugello, is using a Magneti-Marelli system that is rumoured to be far from fully ready to race. There won’t be much rest at Maranello during the next couple of months as Ferrari, like many other teams, strives to get on top of the new technology.

At BMW’s Research & Innovation Centre in Munich, meanwhile, there is cautious optimism despite this being relatively unfamiliar territory for the engineers, none of whom have a great deal of previous experience with KERS. Mario Theissen, who leads the BMW-Sauber team, has made it clear that the new system will only be run on the F1.09 when it has “fully matured”.

I may well be wrong but I sense there will be wranglings and gnashing of teeth in Melbourne. The FIA is said to be keeping a close eye on its latest wheeze to make F1 racing greener and more relevant to the high-performance cars of the future. Brake energy recovery may not be the re-invention of the wheel but it is certainly a headache for motor racing teams who require reliability with outright speed.

Encouragingly, the driver will have to use his brainpower, as he must decide when to use the extra energy stored up by the recovery system. Boy, how this would fall into the hands of men like Prost and Lauda. But who will make the best of it as we go into the new season? Nobody has the answer to that but an outside bet on Alonso in the Renault, or Kubica in the BMW, might be worth considering.

If you own a BMW you will have read about this intriguing new development. If you don’t, then it’s still well worth keeping abreast of how this technology works and how it may help, or hinder, the teams as they approach the first race. We may fleetingly return to the good old days with a fair few mechanical retirements. Remember all those cars parked at the side of the track? Certainly the cars are going to look a little fatter and wider to make room for all the gubbins that goes with recovering energy.

The days of Cosworths and Hewlands seem an awfully long time ago, don’t they? Nice memories on a wet, windy January day. But we have to keep up and, as the Dinky Toys advert used to say, there’s “always something new” to play with.

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