Marussia will use a KERS system supplied by rivals Williams in 2013.
Technical consultant Pat Symonds also revealed on Wednesday that Marussia, the former Virgin team he joined after bowing out of F1 amid the ‘crashgate’ affair, will remain with Cosworth power next season. The former Renault veteran said next year’s Marussia, to be called the MR02, will be an evolution of the single seater currently raced by Timo Glock and Charles Pic.
“We will continue with the Cosworth engine. We are concentrating on improving the driveability of the engine and enhancing its performance as a unit with the car,” said Symonds.
But the most surprising news is Marussia’s decision to link up with Williams for KERS, having not used the energy-recovery technology since debuting in 2010. Marussia already has a technical collaboration in place with another British team, McLaren.
“We will be using KERS next year,” Symonds announced. “We plan to adopt the system that has been developed by Williams, which was used by them with the Cosworth engine last year and is currently with their Renault-engine car. “Our 2013 unit is a development of this. We’ve been very impressed with the engineering, the efficiency and the weight. Williams are also a pleasure to work with both technically and commercially.”
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he is no fan of KERS. Although investigations of the cause are ongoing, the F1 chief executive blamed the recent garage fire suffered by Williams after its Barcelona victory on the technology.
“I think the fire was a lot to do with that kinetic energy thing which sparked,” Ecclestone is quoted by F1 business journalist Christian Sylt, according to cityam.com.
“It should never have been introduced. It’s an expensive secret because nobody knows anything about it. The public don’t know and don’t care.”
Ecclestone’s comments come amid speculation of a potential split with the governing FIA over the next Concorde Agreement. His friend Flavio Briatore admitted in Monaco that he is working on a set of alternate F1 regulations. Ecclestone is also reportedly opposed to the V6 engine regulation change for 2014, with the new rules requiring cars to be powered only by KERS whilst in the pitlane.
“If the teams reduced the size of their motor homes or the team units they would need less trucks to take them there,” the 81-year-old insisted. “Mercedes has got I think 22 trucks so if they reduced two of those you wouldn’t need to use electric motors in the pit lane. The trucks are bigger polluters than the cars.
“I’m happy that the teams want to preserve all of that for their sponsors and brand image but they shouldn’t talk rubbish,” Ecclestone charged.
Teams must embrace KERS technology if Formula One is to survive, Honda CEO Nick Fry has affirmed following trouble-free testing of the system in Jerez.
The Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), which are designed to store and re-use energy lost as heat through braking and other episodes, are due to be introduced next year to make Formula One more environmentally sustainable.
But several teams, led by Renault’s Flavio Briatore, have tried to delay the introduction of the systems on the grounds of safety and cost. The concerns came after a BMW Sauber mechanic received an electric shock and a battery fire at Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes Factory.
However, McLaren, Williams and Honda all ran fully functioning KERS systems at the four day test in Jerez last week and experienced no major problems.
Honda’s Nick Fry is adamant that KERS is necessary to secure the future of Formula One and has criticised those teams who want to post-pone its introduction.
“KERS is key to the future of Formula One, and unless we take major steps to make the sport more environmentally sensitive, then there is no future,” he told Forumula1.com.
“I think that the teams that are arguing against KERS have got their heads stuck in the sand because it is the future, and unless Formula One adapts we’re going to be in very serious difficulties.”
Responding to criticism that the systems will be too expensive to implement Fry added that teams need to balance their priorities if Formula One is to become more affordable for smaller teams:
“We’ve got to re-orientate our expenditure to things which are useful like KERS, but away from things which are less useful such as the more obscure aerodynamic components that we spend huge amounts of time and money on.”
Honda were the first team to run their car with a version of the new KERS system earlier in the year, and in last week’s four day test at Jerez test driver Alex Wurz drove with a fully functioning 2009 specification system, alongside Williams and McLaren who are also well advanced in their development programme.
“Every time that we run with KERS, we learn more and start to fully understand its possibilities,” explains Wurz. “It’s such an interesting challenge and one that we look forward to developing further over the next few tests.”
“The test was a critical stage in our development of KERS,” added Honda’s esteemed technical director Ross Brawn. “Although installed in a ‘mule’ car, the KERS system was fully functioning and very close to 2009 specification.”
“Alex was able to give an invaluable input into the track behaviour of our KERS system and highlight several areas we need to focus on. A very valuable test and I am extremely pleased with the performance and the progress we have made with the system.”
Some critics have argued that KERS, and its related costs, will damage the racing spectacle by promoting a gap between teams that can afford to develop the technology and tailor it to their own cars, and the smaller teams who will have to become customers of the system.
There is also a fear that some teams may not be able to afford to run their cars with the technology at all which would compromise their drivers in the race and lead to a greater field spread.
“I think KERS will improve the spectacle,” contends Fry. “From what we’ve seen with our drivers they’ve rather enjoyed using KERS because it does give very noticeable boost when you hit the button and will improve the entertainment value of the sport.”
“Even though some people are obviously less keen with KERS, I believe all the teams are genius enough to develop their own systems, and whilst there will be a bit of settling down at the beginning of the season, I’m confident that everyone will come up with their own solution.”
“This technical diversity of different solutions is at the heart of Formula One; it really is the essence of the sport to encourage technical innovation and that’s something we must not lose.”
Gilles Simon, Engine Technical Director at Ferrari, has said that the team are struggling with the KERS challenge. KERS will make it s debut in Formula One racing next season, and Ferrari are not the only team to appear to be struggling with the new components earlier in the year, Red Bull had to evacuate their factory after one of the new KERS components started to smoke and set off the fire alarms, and a BMW mechanic was given an electric shock after he touched one of the cars during a test session.
“The Kinetic Energy Recovery System is a complex subject, which finds us dealing with a lot of new and complicated areas, while ensuring that we still devote all necessary efforts into continuing our usual development programme on the current year car,” Simon told Autosport.
“It will be really challenging to run this system next year. We are learning every day, but we are struggling and I think that all teams will struggle to run the new system reliably right from the opening race of the 2009 season.
“Next year, with KERS as well as the other rule change allowing the use of an electronic front flap adjuster (on the front wing,) electronics will play a very big role and the common ECU will have to be fully understood in order to operate these new elements successfully.
“Managing to recharge the system under braking shouldn’t be taken for granted. Just like the system’s reliability shouldn’t be taken for granted. Same goes for that 80-BHP figure seen in the race, will that be the same at the end of the race? Those who get the project right will have an enormous advantage on his hands.”
BMW have explained that the KERS incident at Jerez testing last month, which saw a mechanic fall to the ground having received an electric shock from their new car, posed no real danger to either the mechanic or the driver, Christian Klien, despite the fact that high voltages were involved.
BMW have been investigating the incident and have said that Klien was protected from the electric shock by his racing overalls and gloves. The mechanic involved was taken to hospital after the event as a precaution, however he escaped serious injury.
Markus Duesmann, head of BMW s powertrain, answered questions over the incident:
What exactly happened in Jerez?
“The mechanic suffered an electric shock after touching the sidepod and steering wheel of the car. There was a high frequency AC voltage between these contact points, the cause of which has been traced back to the KERS control unit and a sporadic capacitive coupling* from the high-voltage network to the 12-volt network. The voltage ran through the wiring of the 12-volt network to the steering wheel and through the carbon chassis back to the control unit.”
Was there a serious danger to the mechanic and the driver?
“No, as only a small amount of energy can be transferred through this capacitive coupling effect. However, the energy is sufficient to cause an extremely painful reaction. The driver was insulated against the car by his racing overalls and gloves and therefore not in any danger.”
Why did the investigation take so long?
“It was not possible initially to reproduce the capacitive coupling effect in the car, as the problem was caused by a sporadic error in the control unit. Due to the extremely high frequency of the voltage in the steering wheel, the safety mechanisms and data recordings did not pick up on the error. In the absence of data, all the theoretical possibilities had to be systematically investigated and analysed in tests. Furthermore, the capacitive coupling effect only occurs under certain conditions. Without the option of driving the KERS test car used in Jerez again, we had to reconstruct these conditions. We also had to develop a model to be installed between the steering wheel and sidepod which replicated the characteristics of the human body as an electric transfer element.”
What measures are now being taken to solve the problem?
“In addition to the measures required to tackle the issue at hand, the extremely far-reaching analysis we conducted also gave rise to other recommendations which are of great value for the development of electric KERS systems. Among the measures arrived at are changes in the design of the control unit to avoid capacitive coupling effects, extended monitoring functions for high frequencies and a conductive connection of the chassis components to avoid any electric potential.”
What will happen with these findings now?
“We have already handed over this safety analysis, complete with measures and recommendations, to the FIA, and will also make our findings available to the other teams at the next meeting of the Technical Working Group.”
When will the next track test for KERS take place?
“We will resume the testing programme once all the necessary amendments to the safety concept have been implemented. We expect this to be the case in the autumn.”
*Note on capacitive coupling: this refers to an inadvertent transfer of electric voltage between two transfer media by inductive or capacitive coupling.
Team principal Mario Theissen has said that the system is currently undergoing a re-design however they will not run KERS at the next test at Monza on August 27-29.
“Certainly we will run it within one of the tests during the season,” said Theissen. “But definitely not the coming Monza test because that will be totally dedicated to the Monza race package.
“In our view the result is not just a step forward for KERS and F1, but also for future hybrid road cars,” said Theiseen of the diagnosis of the problem. “It’s installation and design related. In the course of the investigation we found not just the reasons for this specific incident, but also some other design principals you should respect when doing high-voltage systems.
“We ended up not just with a solution to the Jerez problem, but also a design guide to high-voltage systems which will be presented to the FIA and to the other teams in detail. We have offered to do a detailed presentation at the next Technical Working Group.”
Max Mosley is adamant the new Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) which are set to be introduced into Formula One next season are safe, despite several incidents over the past few weeks.
Some have questioned the safety of KERS after two separate incidents. Red Bull Racing were forced to evacuate their factory when a fire alarm was activated after a battery experiment went wrong. A few days later a BMW-Sauber mechanic was given an electric shock during a test session after he touched one of the cars which had been fitted with a KERS device.
Despite these troubles, Mosley has downplayed the incidents and insisted KERS is an exciting new technology.
“For us there are two main areas,” he explained to Autosport. “There’s what we call the health and safety area, which is in the factory and basic precautions of the car, and then there’s the operating it – does it cause a danger to the drivers, the marshals, the mechanics and so on? And we’re interested in the operating it bit.”
“What happened with BMW was, on the face of it, very surprising because you would think they would either insulate the electrical system or they would earth the car. I don’t know what went wrong, so I can’t comment on it but these are very elementary problems.”
“With road cars I think a Toyota Lexus has a 600-volt system, but you don’t get a shock from it.”
“I haven’t seen a report [on the Red Bull incident], but what I suspect happened was they pushing the boundaries of the units to see what happened. Anyone who has ever been childish enough to operate a model plane that runs with lithium iron batteries will know that if you overcharge them you get better performance, but they also get very hot and start to bulge, and they’re only small, so you have to be careful.”
Some have suggested that teams are deliberately scaremongering to stop the introduction of the technology into F1, but Mosley does not believe this to be the case of BMW, who have always been very positive about the KERS devices.
“There is opposition to it, but BMW have always been very enthusiastic,” Mosley continued. “They put out a very positive press release saying it had directly fed into the road cars.”
“To me, the crucial thing about KERS is that its inconceivable that in 50 years time, when you put the brakes on in your car, the energy will just burn off in heat. That won’t happen.”
“But the first thing we need is a system that’s capable of absorbing all the energy when you put the brakes on. The next generation of Formula 1 cars will be like that. They’ll probably be able to absorb, we’re talking 300 kilowatts, and giving out 200 kilowatts. That’s a two-tonne car braking at 1G. F1 will make that very small and very light, and the things that will fit in next year, in ten year’s time, will look very primitive. But that’s Formula One.”
“We’ve seen it so often in areas, and those devices will be crucial for the roads because if a KERS system is really light and can absorb all the energy, with super capacitors or flywheels, whatever its going to be, that’s really for the road, and if we advance it by several years, then that’s extremely useful and that alone can justify Formula One, because it will make such a huge contribution to the motor industry.”
“If you imagine you could have a super-efficient KERS system, five to 10 years sooner than you would otherwise get it, then multiply it by the number of cars in the world, then Formula One (costs) will be a drop in the ocean.”
David Coulthard has raised further concerns over the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) next season, both in terms of safety and the amount of time teams have to implement the device.
The KERS systems, designed to store and re-use energy lost as heat through braking and other episodes, were put firmly in the spotlight last week: Red Bull Racing employees were forced to evacuate their Milton Keynes factory when a battery caught fire and a BMW Sauber mechanic suffered an electric shock during testing.
Coulthard, who will take on a consultancy role with Red Bull when he retires at the end of the season, has joined those with concerns about the device, saying that KERS brings a new set of risks that impact on mechanics and marshals as well as drivers.
“Formula 1 is all about the technical challenge, but usually the risk is limited to the drivers,” Coulthard said in his ITV-F1.com column. “Quite clearly KERS has opened up another area.”
“You can bury your head in the sand, and it’s not politically correct to talk about it, but while we are going through the development phase there is a risk that extends to people at the factory and trackside personnel.”
The Formula One teams are under pressure to get the devices ready for next season, alongside a whole raft of other regulation changes.
Formula One’s Technical Working Group (TWG) will look at measures to ensure the safety of the devices in racing conditions at their next meeting, but Coulthard has expressed concern about the timescales that the F1 teams are up against.
“I know there are working groups looking at how to manage and overcome these issues, so hopefully a satisfactory solution will be found, but the timescale is certainly pretty tight to be ready for the start of next season,” the Scot said.
At the next meeting of F1 s Technical Working group, issues surrounding KERS will be discussed.
KERS has caused two dramas in the past week alone last week, Red Bull had to evacuate it s factory when a KERS piece started to smoke, and BMW had problems with their KERS at testing yesterday.
One of the BMW-Sauber mechanics suffered an electric shock after touching the car which had been fitted with the device for testing. The team had fitted the car out with an early version of the device along with several new aerodynamic pieces. Christian Klien put in three installation laps before heading back to the pits.
The first mechanic to reach and touch the car received an electric shock and was thrown to the ground. He was quickly pulled to his feet by his colleagues and appears to suffered only a few small scrapes from the incident. BMW chose not to run the car until they completed a full investigation over the cause, meaning Klien did not complete any further laps on Tuesday.
Some people are also concerned about the KERS batteries there are suggestions that a by-product of an exploded KERS battery contains the poison arsenic – so some are questioning how safe the energy recovery systems really are.