RBR DC

Some time ago there was a small group of men assembled to address overtaking in F1 and that group was named the Overtaking Working Group (OWG) in a master stroke of being literal commanders of the obvious. The intent was to increase overtaking in F1 and improve the “show” for the biomass or restless natives called fans.

The group toiled away burning the midnight oil and wiping the sweat from their brow from crumpled up FIA press releases and dog-eared copies of the financial Times. Snacking occasionally and imbibing only the most basic of sustenance, this group forged the design of the most outstanding, amazing, exemplary, brilliantly ugly car in the history of F1—but it’s not their fault. They weren’t charged with making pretty cars, they were tasked with making them pas each other and that’s not easy.

The design was complicated and intended to reduce the aerodynamic down force achieved by a modern F1 car. The reliance on tire and mechanical grip was the more pressing desire but not at the risk of removing all aero down force—just enough to make the cars less turbulent and more capable of running closely with each other.

The group consisted of such luminaries as Ross Brawn (Honda/Brawn GP), Paddy Lowe (McLaren), Pat Symonds (Renault) and Rory Byrne (Ferrari). By all initial observations this looked to be the type of crew that would design the ultimate car with the ultimate goal achieved. A group of adroit men which the likes of the “Deeds before Creeds” crowd would be impressed with since unleashing OppenHeimer on the world. These brilliant men set about making F1 a new venture of competition through machination instead of specification.

After all the gnashing of teeth and robe tearing they were thrown a vile bosie they had to address—KERS! FIA president Max Mosley felt that “greenwashing” F1 was more important than actually developing a resource-reducing concept for the sport. The birth of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) came out sideways and tragically wasn’t still born but more pissed off by the trouble of being born at all. Exacting its revenge on the sport like a Kinetic-Mosley-Retard-System. After all the design and intricate concepts of mechanical versus aero grip had been developed, debated and screamed; they had to thrown 60 kilos at the car—deadweight.

How has it gone? Well…not good! This year has seen very little passing but what ever was gained during the design process was lost when the KERS unit turned in to the push-not-to-be-passed button. Some teams made better use of the unit than others and some had all the best intentions but fell short of realizing the goal—I’m looking at you BMW and Williams F1. The very concept to reduce aerodynamic force while increasing tire and mechanical grip was destroyed by the whimsical notion that an 80bhp boost for six seconds was also a good addition to the OWG’s car.

So where do we go from here? ITV reports that Ross Brawn mentioned something about less aero and more grip. Really?

“I still think we’ve got the ratio of tyre grip and aerodynamic grip wrong,” he said at Suzuka last weekend.
“I think we’ve got far too much aerodynamic grip and not enough tyre grip.

“We really want a lot of tyre and mechanical grip and we want to diminish dramatically the aerodynamic grip, and then I think you’ll get cars that can race with each other more effectively.
“These cars are better than we had last year, for sure.

“But we’ve still got cars which rely heavily on aerodynamic performance, and because they do, it’s very difficult to create a package whereby one car can follow another.”

Now you may be asking yourself if this is the same Ross Brawn that exploited a loophole in the regulations and designed the infamous dual-diffuser that saw 6 victories on the trot for Brawn GP at the onset of the 2009 season. Well, as a matter of fact it is the same Ross Brawn but he was more introspective than just taking blame for an obvious loophole. Brawn feels the damage was done long before the dual-diffuser came along,

“I think there was a reasonable push to be very draconian with the aerodynamic regulations, and it was resisted too much,” he said.

I guess one would expect that kind of answer from Brawn but in the end was it a case that the OWG didn’t go far enough in their design or was it the clown-from-the-cake KERS unit that urinated in the OWG’s swimming pool? I’m going with the latter and there is bugger all you can do to convince me otherwise. Although you may recall Mosley’s stern warning that if this didn’t work in 2009, the OWG was finished! Uh, that’s fine Max; guess we’ll be taking that issue up with Jean Todt or Ari Vatanen.

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Fandangio
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Fandangio

Whilst it was great to have the skills of the likes of Ross Brawn on the OWG you have to question the integrity of such a group. I thought at the time that this could be open to abuse. For example if Ross Brawn had an idea of the doule decked diffuser whilst he was working as part of the OWG (as surely any engineer worth his salt would be devising ways to combat the reduction in aero grip as they were working to reduce it) it would have been entirely possible for him to steer process and wording of… Read more »

JD
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JD

Personally, I think Adrian Newey would be excellent at coming up with ideas separate from his own agenda. Then again, one of his casual suggestions is to get rid of wings entirely, which doesn’t play well in 8 place de la Concorde, Paris. I don’t see how a link can be drawn between KERS and the role of aero. If anything, KERS demands a larger car due to packaging which should punch a bigger hole in the air and also be less efficient. This should actually reduce the influence aero has on preventing overtaking. Another consideration is that one of… Read more »

Dan
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Dan

Correct me if I am wrong, but only Mclaren and Ferrari have stuck with KERS throughout the season right? If KERS is the reason cars aren’t overtaking more this season how do you explain the rest of the pack not overtaking each other left and right? Without the 60 kilo deadweight as you call it wouldn’t the KERS penalty be neutralised? The OWT did a good job but as Ross says in the quote you referenced they needed to go further but it was resisted. I remember reading a driver quote (don’t remember who, maybe Jarno) which said that dirty… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

First thing i want to comment on is the fact that the Mclaren KERS weighs only 23.5kg (as quoted from F1 Racing magazine Oct 2009 P72) a far cry from the 60kg the article above quoted (the first system tested on track only weighed 37kg) second is that I think they haven’t gone far enough with KERS, make it 100-120bhp and 8-10 sec but as well a that give it to everybody those that haven’t developed it or couldn’t for financial reasons get a customer version third I agree with Ross Brawn they didn’t go far enough with the reduction… Read more »

SteveH
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SteveH

But Richard, if everyone had it isn’t that equivalent to no one having it? Why waste the time and money to give everyone the same thing? Just get rid of it.

Richard
Guest
Richard

It all depends on how it is used if everyone is using it to better their lap times it becomes irrelevant but if people are using it to over-take and defend it becomes a question of who has more at the time if the attacker has more he gets past if not he doesn’t the other part of the debate is not about the F1 cars but the development of the KERS system for road cars F1 has long been a testing and development bed for technology which filters down to the cars you and I drive and I know… Read more »

SR
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SR

Look at all this support for KERS. I love it! The systems should definitely be run in 2010, if the decision is made to scrap the idea after the ’10 season fine, but at least let the teams who’ve spent the money refine the systems to see if their use can produce better racing. I’ve been vocal about my support for KERS and the need to tweak the rules that govern it and allow teams a little more latitude to develop the systems. Hey JD, best quote of the bunch so far: “…and Kovalainen has not demonstrated an abnormally high… Read more »

The Captain
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The Captain

I like how Ross try’s to make himself out to be the victim of exploiting the rules (and a FIA that in the end really didn’t care about overtaking, but shaking up the grid). While it was reported by the drivers that the diffuser cars where defiantly harder to follow than the non-diffuser cars, that seems to be a problem. And I think he’s right about the aero to grip ratio. But to me KERS is the scourge of F1 right now! Even if it is let loose for full development, all it will do is allow certain cars to… Read more »

JD
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JD

Regarding electric F1 cars, has anyone else driven an electric kart? They’re exciting from the aspect that acceleration is instant and the motor really pulls strongly up to about 80% and then it just tops out.

I wouldn’t give up a gas kart entirely to run electric karts, but they do require a smoother driving technique that is enjoyable and something to look forward to.

Arnet
Guest
Arnet

I agree that having only one designer design all new circuits limits variety and creativity, especially considering his past “track” record. We have to spread the blame, however. Tilke is somewhat restricted by what the FIA will allow him do do. Perhaps what is needed, as suggested, is another group to conduct the research into how one can combine safety and excitement. There is ample proof that current safety measures work and track designs don’t. Time to mix it up without compromising on safety, which shouldn’t be all that hard to do. I’m sure the new regs wouldn’t allow for… Read more »

peterriva
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peterriva

My opinion? OWG (Oh why give….) and any other top down enforced regulation impedes F1 development. I understand safety regs- reduce the engine size, put a red light at the back, weigh the cars (and max out the driver weight like horse racing, say 100kg) DO NOT stick all that fuel in the car… but anything else impedes car development. Let the tires, wings, shape, controls, brakes, gears, engine change, revs… make all that the mfg’s deal and – if Bernie is worried about cost – stop any development more than 50% of the cost of the cars per year.… Read more »

royce amatique
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royce amatique

here here, less government, more anarchy. Surely overtaking can be improved by allowing more underbody aero and less reliance on wings, maybe like what Newey was alluding to.

Fandangio, Brawn said during diffuser-gate that he had warned the rules were open for interpretation of something like a DD diffuser, but no-one listened.

I disagree with Todd that current cars are ugly (McLaren/Ferrari/Brawn/Williams good, Redbull awkward & ugly imho). Have a look at end-of-08 cars to see what ugly looks like.

Arnet
Guest
Arnet

As I recall, Ross Brawn tried to warn the rest of the teams that there was a loophole in the regs, but they, BMW in particular, didn’t want to hear about it. Tough nuts then, Mario. Have you people forgotten what a great start by a talented driver looks like? Good lord, I thought it was plain as day to every F1 fan that KERS was just another of Max’s follies. He has no rhyme or reason. If things start to approach anything like normal, he has to shake his crazy idea tree and see what falls out. A couple… Read more »

Fandangio
Guest
Fandangio

I think you are right about RB warning the teams and FIA about said loopholes. As I said I have high regard for RB but the original point still stands in that this method of working towards new regulations can be open to abuse.

royce amatique
Guest
royce amatique

ok, but who else can write the rules, the FIA? Their track record of thinking things through is pretty crap.

I would have thought that technical people from the F1 teams were in the best position to understand the full implications better. Like any process it could be open to abuse, but then the other team’s reps should be able to see through attempts to “steer” the rules.

What ever happened to KERS in Indycar or CART, whichever series it was in?

JD
Guest
JD

In reference to the question of how the CART boost button was different from F1’s, the “KERS” in CART (Power to Pass or P2P) was actually a temporary increase in RPM to increase horsepower for a pre-determined allotment of time over the entire race (not per lap as in F1). Like KERS, it was activated (“deployed” in F1-speak) by pushing a button on the steering wheel. The strategic difference in CART versus F1 was that Power to Pass was never “recharged.” It was up to the driver to determine when to use it and how much. If the driver had… Read more »

JD
Guest
JD

Another thing to remember is that KERS is still in the rules. However, the FOTA coalition (or monopoly) has an agreement to not use it.

I would rather see FOTA be neutral about KERS and the FIA say that it is not mandatory. Then we will have an opportunity for teams to take advantage of the rule for competitive reasons. I would compare it to the 3.0L normally aspirated/1.5L turbocharged engine rule that was in place for decades, but was never exploited until Renault came around.

Benalf
Guest
Benalf

IMO, KERS should stay as long as they give total control to the driver to use it and to increase the amount of kW able to be stored. I think Macca and Ferrari did a good job adapting the device and make it work properly. It it crazy to stop using it after the amount of HR, time and facilities to make KERS a reality; teams will end up wasting a huge amount of money for nothing. If you ask me about less aero and more grip? I think that’s difficult to achieve; teams were developed to learn about ways… Read more »