KERS a weighty matter to start at Melbourne

KERS a weighty matter to start at Melbourne

After months of wrangling, accusations, claims and rumors about the impact of KERS, the arguments are finally about to be settled. In less than twelve hours, the 2009 Formula One cars will turn their wheels in anger for the first time, and the ...

After months of wrangling, accusations, claims and rumors about the impact of KERS, the arguments are finally about to be settled. In less than twelve hours, the 2009 Formula One cars will turn their wheels in anger for the first time, and the differences might be visible as soon as the first corner.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber F1 Team and the steering wheel with KERS BOOST Button and Wings adjustment button.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The KERS-equipped cars -- both Ferraris, both Renaults, both McLarens and Nick Heidfeld's BMW -- will have that extra 80 hp available for some seven seconds in the crucial meters before the first corner. By some calculations, that could make as much as two car-lengths' difference, or about one row on the grid.

So with a good start and some help from KERS, the two Ferraris might be able to draw close to the Brawn cars getting into the first corner. Or, even more likely, we might see Fernando Alonso (tenth on the grid) or Heikki Kovalainen (twelfth) slip into a points position before the peloton makes the first turn.

After that, though, by most observers reckoning, the placement of the heavy KERS unit -- in practice, teams had few options for locating it -- may hurt the handling more than the straight-line boost helps lap times. Worse, the degraded weight distribution may cause premature tire wear on the rear tires, slowing the KERS teams in the laps leading up to a pit stop.

Speaking of weight, one new feature for the fans in 2009 is the publication of car weights after qualifying (see Post-qualifying car weights). Taking away the guesswork of the prior years, it's now possible to make some judgment about the fuel loads and strategies of the teams in advance of the start.

While all teams are aiming to be at the minimum weight, some of the cars may certainly be over the minimum, especially early in the season. However, comparisons between teammates are particularly enlightening.

Notably in Australia, the front-running Brawns appear to not have run light -- assuming the car is at the minimum -- with both cars weighing in near 665 kg. Robert Kubica's BMW in fourth is some 15 kg lighter, indicating an earlier pit stop; however, the lighter car may give the Pole the opportunity to hold his position against the KERS-equipped Ferraris behind him.

Further back, Heidfeld (who chose to run with KERS, unlike Kubica), has some 40 kg of additional weight, likely giving him an additional 11 laps before the first stop. Unless, of course, the KERS unit puts his BMW over the weight limit to start.

Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet (fourteenth) are similarly starting with heavy fuel loads, while defending champion Lewis Hamilton is taking his ninth-row start with the second-lightest car, second only to Kubica.

Even with the knowledge of the weights, the number of permutations and possibilities is mind-boggling. If FIA accomplished nothing else with the rule changes, at the minimum they certainly have thoroughly shuffled the deck.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Nick Heidfeld , Lewis Hamilton , Nelson Piquet , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica
Teams Sauber