The latest rumour from the Australian Grand Prix paddock is that Red Bull Racing is using a super-compact ‘start only’ KERS unit this year.
After his utterly dominant performance to take pole position yesterday, the FIA Press Conference MC James Allen queried why Vettel hadn’t depressed his KERS button on his fastest lap, which was some 0.8 seconds faster than second-placed Lewis Hamilton, who had himself been unable to use the power-boosting system when it failed in his McLaren.
“We didn’t use it in qualifying, that’s correct,” answered the German.
And when asked why, Vettel simply replied: “Not fully charged.”
And when the same question was pitched to third-fastest Mark Webber, the Australian answered that it was for “reasons we will keep in the team”.
This has sparked some in the F1 paddock to suggest that the team is using a ‘start only’ KERS – theoretically smaller and lighter than a conventional KERS unit – which is charged in the garage rather than using stored braking energy when the car is travelling at speed.
When a car goes to the grid, it does so with its KERS already charged so the drivers can have a quick launch off the grid. A smaller unit – should this theory play out and be true – could be inoperative thereafter once it has been deployed at the start.
The team did briefly attempt to run KERS in 2009 when the rules allowed it, but it was discarded quite quickly. Is this system potentially exploiting a loophole in the regulations?
And is it even within the spirit of these regulations, given that it doesn’t actually harvest energy over a race distance – the sole premise of KERS – as it would be intended to as part of supporting a greener image for the sport?
It is rumoured that Red Bull’s KERS may be solely for use at the start of a race, with the unit charged in the garage rather than under braking while the car is running.
The ‘start-only’ KERS could theoretically be smaller and lighter, while not affecting the handling on track because the battery is not charged while the car is braking.