Red Bull undecided on KERS debut

Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner says his team will only run its Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) in Australia if it has conclusively proved its worth in pre-season testing.

RBR is planning to use the same KERS system as Renault, which has been developed by Italian company Magneti Marelli, a Fiat subsidiary that has also had a major input in Ferrari’s device.

Renault’s engineering chief Pat Symonds told this week's Autosport that he is increasingly confident the device will be ready to use on the R29 in the Melbourne season-opener.

“Nobody knows how many teams will come to the grid in Melbourne with KERS," he said in an interview with Motor Sport magazine.

“There will be a few, but the power advantage versus the weight penalty is certainly a closely matched thing. We will only run KERS on the race car when it earns this place there, just as we would with any other new development. We are working closely with Renault on a system that is primarily designed by Magneti-Marelli but it is, shall we say, a significant technical challenge. We have to wait and see if it proves its worth in testing and then decide whether or not we run it at the first race in Melbourne."

While they offer the prospect of a horsepower boost at the driver’s fingertips, KERS systems have several drawbacks from a performance standpoint.

The heavy devices use up available ballast which would otherwise be used to move the car’s weight distribution forwards – one of the keys to getting the most out of the slick tires that are being reintroduced this year.

They also raise the car’s centre of gravity and require extra cooling, compromising the aerodynamics and causing reliability concerns.

Horner says it is far from clear that KERS will confer a net performance gain in the early part of the season – and until it does, RBR will not be using it. It’s complex," he said.

“If you run the KERS system it may compromise your weight distribution and your fuel tank capacity, among other things. So KERS, like any component on the car, has to be there on merit, has to prove its performance advantage. If the extra speed is not there on the stopwatch then, quite simply, KERS won’t be on the new car for the first few races. The challenge is in the packaging, the installation and the intricate cooling that is required. Yeah, it is one heck of a challenge, and different teams are following different solutions.

“Over a single lap, especially in the early races, it will be a close-run thing between a KERS car and a non-KERS car, although there will be situations where it may be an advantage, like a restart after a pace car, or using the extra power to overtake."

“There are issues with weight and weight distribution, and that affects tire wear," said Horner. Protection of the rear tires will be very important this year, and will be a key element in the decision. I’m sure that all teams have designed cars with capacity for KERS but most will only activate the system when it’s a clear advantage and it’s reliable. KERS is not yet mandatory – we’ll see what happens when we get to Australia."

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