F1 could hit the ‘push to return KERS to the grid’ button

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It sounds like KERS could be back in Formula 1 as soon as next season, although that timing does have some teams a bit concerned.

Autosport has been and is all over the story; credit where credit is due.

First off, yesterday it ran a story that FOTA is quietly considering an independent supplier for the hybrid energy system.

Renault and Ferrari have been leading the push to get KERS back in F1, because of pressures from their parent road car companies to increase the environmental message and technology transfer from F1. Their desire to see it back as soon as possible has also led Williams to support its return in 2011.

[snip]

One of the key issues that needs overcoming is the costs that the return of KERS would entail – especially for the sport’s new contenders. And although Renault and Ferrari have offered to supply customer versions of their own units, not all their rivals are happy about that situation.

However, sources have revealed that any resistance could be overcome by an offer from British engineering company Flybrid, which has put a formal proposal to FOTA to supply its flywheel system to any F1 team that wants it in 2011.

Sources close to FOTA have told AUTOSPORT that Flybrid’s offer is commercially attractive enough for it to be seriously evaluated as an option for next year, with FOTA set to discuss its latest thinking on the situation when it meets again ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

You might think (as I did immediately) that having one of the teams supply KERS, ala McLaren and the ECU, would make sense. And, yes, maybe I’m thinking Williams, too.

But Flybird does have experience:

Flybrid has extensive knowledge of F1 technology, having worked closely with the former Honda team from 2007 on a KERS system that was going to be raced last year prior to the Japanese manufacturer’s withdrawal from F1.

The knowledge that Flybrid gained from its work with Honda is now being applied to the road car industry, with one of its biggest clients currently Jaguar Cars as part of a government investment in future green technologies.

The teams, Autosport says, might talk about this issue later this week.

The second Autosport item from today adds McLaren to those teams that favor a quick return of KERS. What doesn’t get said, but I suspect is the case, is that when McLaren’s Tim Goss, its chief engineer, talks to reporters about this issue, it isn’t volunteered. Either an Autosport reporter asked about the KERS issue or another reporter did.

So, to an extent, Autosport’s first story is generating this one. But that’s how it works; no harm, no foul. Just want to tie those two stories together for you in way of additional context.

Here’s what Goss had to say:

“We fully support what FOTA and the FIA are trying to do in terms of KERS,” Goss told reporters during a phone-in on Wednesday.

“Clearly to introduce it for next season, it’s starting to get a little bit late in the day. But there are lots of people working on this.

“We understand the need for KERS for the association with road car technology, and we think it’s the right thing to bring it back. Really we’ll just go along with whatever FOTA and the FIA decide.”

[snip]

“As far as 2013 is concerned, I think Formula 1 does need to move on, and show it is aligned with the fuel efficiency age,” he said. “We fully support all that the Engine Working Group and FOTA are doing in that direction. The concept of a normally-aspirated 2.4-litre V8 is getting a bit dated. Moving to turbocharging and KERS is the right thing to do.

“Formula 1 does need to maintain itself as the pinnacle of motorsport and engine performance, so it needs an engine formula that is associated with high performance, but also fuel efficiency. Overall it’s moving in the right direction and we fully support it.”

Now, I still think F1 would be better off by making all its practices green because even the cleanest racing is still, at its heart, going to involve burning gas and burning rubber and just not be, by definition, environmentally friendly. But I certainly understand the drive to become part of the “fuel efficiency age.” I’m just not convinced that road cars are heading to a fuel-efficient future. I think they are headed to an alternative energy future, so F1 will not be relevant.

All that aside, of course, there is the issue of what KERS did last year to the racing. No sense yet how it would be added into the regulations. Anyone see a way that it could become part of the rules and add to, rather than take away from, the competition among the cars on track?

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