The 2011 Formula One season sees the re-introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which stores energy used by the car (for example, under braking) and stores the energy to be used as a performance boost, activated using a 'Push To Pass' button on the steering wheel.
KERS can only be operated by the driver, and is limited to a fixed amount of boost (equivalent to just a few seconds) per lap.
As the system effectively recycles energy, usually by recharging a battery stored in the car, it is seen as a 'green' performance enhancer and is therefore used in an effort to increase the sport's environmental image.
Use of the system is encouraged, but not compulsory. It is thought, however, that teams using KERS will see a significant performance increase over their rivals. The nine established teams are expected to begin the season with a KERS system in place, but apparently Marussia Virgin and HRT will not use the system in 2011. Team Lotus may introduce KERS to their cars later in the season.
The main disadvantage of KERS is the significant weight of the battery which can hamper performance, as explained on the Formula1.com website:
"A typical KERS system weighs around 35 kilograms. Formula One cars must weigh at least 620kg (including the driver), but traditionally teams build the car to be considerably lighter and then use up 70kg of ballast to bring it up to weight. This means that teams with KERS have less ballast to move around the car and hence have less freedom to vary their car’s weight distribution. Heavier drivers are at a particular disadvantage, an issue addressed by the raising of the minimum car weight for the 2011 season."
With this in mind, we have produced a table showing the height and weight of each of the drivers involved in the 2011 season, below:
This data suggests that Force India may be the most affected by running KERS, as they have the largest drivers, and perhaps Sauber may benefit the most, as their drivers are the smallest. However, each team runs a different KERS design, with different levels of success and reliability. Williams have even discussed the possibility of using a flywheel based KERS system in place of a battery later in the season.
How big a part will KERS play in 2011? Only time will tell.