How ERS will impact racing in 2014

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Now I’m not the most technical “wonk” as Todd likes to call it, and that is not what drew me to the sport of Formula One. I thought the speed, danger and the art of sliding a car through turns such as Paddock Hill Bend (thank you Ronnie Peterson!) a much larger draw, but ever since the Colin Chapman “wing car” came around and changed everything, I do find myself enthralled by the ingenuity of the technical staffs of all the teams and how that effects the driver’s ability to be competitive and how a driver needs to adjust what they do in the cockpit to maximize these ideas. So I’m not going to go into any deep mathematical equations and diagrams—just a few thoughts on how these new rule specifications will effect a GP weekend.

One of the big changes for next year is the Energy Recovery System (ERS) all cars will be running, the ramifications of which keep swirling around in my head, I’m sure the teams have thought of way more than me, but here goes.

First, lets look at the harvesting and deployment of all this electrical energy. Right now the teams only have access to a fraction of the energy they will have next year—60kw that can be used for about 6.67777777 secs during a lap. This energy can easily be built up and stored each lap but it can only be deployed when the driver pushes a button on the steering wheel when they deem it appropriate. It’s not all haphazard to the drivers will, the teams go to great lengths to study this deployment and have set points around the track where it gives the greatest benefit to overall lap time such as using the extra torque out of slower turns for instance, rather than using it to gain a couple of mph on a straight.

This can be changed, of course, if trying to maximize a passing oppourtunity but unless you’re Mark Webber and have to drive with a broken KERS most of the time, you would stick to the team’s plan as much as possible.

In 2014 it will be quite different. The harvesting rate (2MJs) is half that of the deployment (4 MJs) so in order for you to maximize your 4 MJs you have to minimize usage on previous laps and store the excess. This will lead to the only uncompromised power usage to be in qualifying, the start, or after a safety car.

Qualifying will be interesting as you will only have 1 lap flyers. Tactics in the race will also be really fascinating as drivers will try and hustle up behind a competitor trying to store energy at the same time so they can use the boost to make a more effective pass (could this be the death Nell of the need for DRS?? Oh please say yes).

A couple of other changes that are significant are that a team may now program the usage of the extra power through the engine mapping computers and it is not only the button on the steering wheel that controls the release of stored energy. As I said before the team’s analysis of maximum benefit will not be controlled by the driver but be preset in the system.

I’m sure there is an override but for the most part the driver will not be a key part in the ERS deployment. The next part Jenson Button may be a big fan of is the enabling of electronic brake control, which we have seen many a driver lament the omission of once their KERS failed. The reason for this is the regeneration system directly effects the brake bias and once the KERS fails on a car, the driver has to manually adjust the bias to try and find the correct balance again, even more difficult should the KERS work intermittently.

So with all these things combined, I am intrigued and excited by this change in the regulations, not only because I see it as a step closer to a DRS-less world, but I see the challenge both a technical and tactical one for teams and drivers a like. So the ability to adjust on the fly whether stuck in traffic or using an advantage in handling or tyre management to creatively store the power will be a story I will follow closely.

At last a rule I can live with, now lets talk about the rear wing efficiency again………..

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