KERS return to penalise the big men again?

The return of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) to Formula 1 next year, in conjunction with improved car safety, looks set to penalise F1's heavier drivers once again.

KERS is in the current F1 regulations but a voluntary undertaking not to run the systems was agreed for 2010. Politically, however, it is thought to be a good idea for F1 to reintroduce the technology and the F1 Technical Working Group met recently to outline the format.

Despite pressure from the likes of Ferrari to increase the power of KERS systems, it has been proposed that 2011 spec KERS will remain as it was in 2009 - 60 kilowatts with a discharge of 400 kilojoules per lap. It will, however, remain optional rather than compulsory. A 5m Euro development budget per KERS system is to be imposed and teams who are buying one, have a budget ceiling of 1m Euros. Any team running their own system must also be able to prove to FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) that they can operate it for the season for 1m Euros but they are not forced to sell systems to teams which may enquire.

"Development is quite different to operation," explained Williams technical director Sam Michael. "Development means testing and making the components lighter, reducing the packaging size, that sort of thing."

As well as the KERS systems, 2011 chassis will have reinforcement to the underside of the chassis, with a 3mm Kevlar panel, similar to the panels added for improved side impact safety a few years ago, beneath the drivers' legs. Cars will also run two wheel tethers per corner, rather than the single tether currently used.

The weight limit will increase by 20 kgs to 640kgs but the increase is not sufficient to cater for the extra weight of a KERS system and the car reinforcement.

"I would say the extra tethers will put on about half a kilo per corner because it's not just the weight of the tether it's the attachment as well -- they have to take big loads so they are not small things," Michael said. "The reinforcement panels will be about 4-5 kgs, so that's about 7 kgs for that and the tethers, and then the KERS is about 30 kilos. The weight limit has not gone up by the amount that will go on, so you will see some ballast reduction."

It was a loss of ballast flexibility that was widely held to disadvantage taller, heavier drivers, such as Mark Webber and Robert Kubica, when KERS was a feature of F1 in 2009. BMW, for instance, ran a KERS system on Nick Heidfeld's car but not on Kubica's. Red Bull, like Brawn, opted not to run the system at all in 2009 and there was a feeling among some teams that the systems should either be compulsory or, as per 2010, not run at all.

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