Archive for February, 2009

Williams won’t use KERS in Melbourne. Will anyone?

February 18th, 2009 No comments

Nico HulkenbergWilliams have ruled out using KERS at the first race of the season in Melbourne at the end of March and as the Malaysian Grand Prix is the following weekend it is unlikely they will run the system there, either.

KERS devices store energy created under braking which can then be converted into power at the touch of a button, giving a boost of up to 80hp.  Williams have chosen to go down a different route with their KERS development; while most teams have opted for an electronic device, Williams are using a kinetic version that uses a flywheel instead of storing electrical energy in batteries.

A Williams spokesman said:

We’re clear that we’re not going to be using it in Australia but not clear when we will use it.

Integrating KERS into an F1 car raises a number of complications.  Electrical devices generate significant heat which must be dissipated somehow, a problem made harder by the new aero rules banning ‘gills’ in the bodywork. Williams’s kinetic device shouldn’t have the same heat problems as the electrical devices but it still has what is probably the biggest drawback to using KERS: weight.

To get the most out of the slick tyres being introduced in 2009 an F1 car’s weight needs to be shifted forward.  A KERS device takes up weight that could be used for ballast to better balance the car.  It also shifts the car’s centre of gravity higher and it’s location may compromise the fuel tank capacity.

So what have the teams said of their KERS development?


Williams haven’t even run KERS in testing.  Kazuki Nakajima:

To be honest, so far, I have never run a car with KERS.  We once had KERS on the car but we didn’t use it – I never pushed that button.


The only other team, apart from Williams, to definitely rule it out.  At the launch of the TF109, Toyota announced they would start the season without KERS.


Heikki Kovalainen seems pretty confident in his McLaren:

KERS has been running pretty well – it’s been running at full-power without any errors so that’s quite encouraging.


Despite being one of the most vocal critics of KERS, Ferrari’s testing seemed to be going well.  At Mugello Kimi Raikkonen had positive results saying:

The system works well like every other new component.

However on Tuesday Kimi  spent more than three hours in the pits because of a problem with the cooling circuit.


KERS’s biggest supporter, BMW’s Mario Theissen, is not sure whether it will be ready for the first race:

I am sure we will be ready at some point; I don’t know if we will be ready for Melbourne


Fernando Alonso seems to think Renault will use KERS in Melbourne:

Our system is truly competitive, it is working well with no problems.  I think we will start the championship with it and without many concerns, but we have to test it first.

Red Bull

Red Bull have the same KERS system as Renault but team principal Christian Horner won’t say when they will use it:

We have to wait and see if it proves its worth in testing and then decide whether or not we run it at the first race in Melbourne.

The others

While the Force India and Toro Rosso cars are yet to be revealed it is expected they will incorporate their respective partners’ devices; McLaren for Force India and Ferrari for Toro Rosso.

So will any teams use KERS in Melbourne?  While no-one wants to commit to it publicly, I reckon we will see at least one team ready to push the K button at the first race.  Yes, there is a weight trade-off and cooling and reliability could be a problem  but I think that extra 80hp could really provide an advantage even if it is only used off the line and into the first corner.

Image: Williams F1

Categories: Cars Tags: ,

What is aero mapping?

February 17th, 2009 No comments

BMW scale model in the wind tunnelThe pre-season testing reports have often made reference to ‘aero mapping’.  But what is it?

In this post I take a look at what it means when Hamilton spends the morning “concentrating on aero mapping and finding a good balance” but first, a disclaimer: I’m no aeronautical engineer.  If there are any engineers reading this, please feel free to correct any mistakes in the comments!

Basically, an aero map is aerodynamic data; numbers on a piece of paper, or more likely in a computer. The aero map shows how the wing elements and ride heights on a racing car perform in different settings in terms of lift and drag.  Race engineers can then use these maps to help them choose the best settings for a particular circuit.

Because it is just a set of numbers, the aero map can be loaded into a simulator for testing.  Pedro de la Rosa explained how they simulated Ferrari’s flexible rear-wing:

In the simulator, we tried an aero-map, all theoretical, nothing physical. Based on those numbers, we were able to achieve higher topspin. This is what I tested in the simulator. As far as I know, we never raced with that. It was just another item tested in the simulator.

Although a racing car’s basic shape and general aerodynamic performance are first sketched out on the designer’s drawing-board, this is only the beginning.  Over the course of development and testing every team spends many hours in the wind tunnel trying different setups and parts and ‘mapping’ the results.  The same concept can also be applied to track testing using laser sensors and suspension force transducers.


A slightly less technical solution was also seen in testing at Jerez recently when the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen was spotted with a green liquid on the chassis.  According to a McLaren spokesman:

This is what we call a ‘flow vis’  – where we take a paraffin-based light solution and apply it to the car.  The solution is light enough to flow over the car, drying quickly to determine the airflow over the bodywork.

This is a common occurrence when testing new cars and is used to confirm the wind tunnel readouts.

With the limitations on testing this year and the new aerodynamic regulations all the teams are working hard to make the most of the track time before the season starts.  The aero maps created will be vital in helping the race engineers find the perfect setup for Melbourne in a month’s time.

Images: BMW AG, XPB

Categories: Cars Tags: ,

USF1 wants Danica Patrick

February 16th, 2009 No comments

Danica PatrickLast week I suggested that IndyCar driver Danica Patrick could be in the running for a seat with the new USF1 team.

The 26-year-old became the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she won at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi in 2008.

Now, according to an Associated Press report, it seems USF1 technical director Ken Anderson is interested in testing her.

To be honest, I would be surprised if they didn’t test her.  She has shown she can win, although winning in one series doesn’t necessarily translate to winning in F1,and the publicity she would attract from being the only woman on the grid would be hard to ignore.

Speaking to the AP in a telephone interview, Anderson said:

She’s great. She gets a lot of press.  I don’t know if it’s something she wants to do. We’d certainly love to test her and go from there.

So it doesn’t sound like Danica is the one driver USF1 are “close to signing” but it definitely puts her in the running.

Image: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Categories: Drivers Tags: ,

A family business

February 15th, 2009 No comments

Bruno & Ayrton SennaWith all the rumours about his possible signing for Honda we’ve been seeing a lot of pictures of the young Senna and I’m often struck by how much he looks like his uncle, especially when he’s wearing his helmet.  Not only does he have the most famous surname in Formula One but when he puts on that familiar yellow lid he looks like him too!

There are a few young drivers at the moment following in their fathers’ footsteps.

Nico Rosberg is the son of Finnish 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg.  He impressed by winning the first GP2 Championship in 2005 and moved to the Williams F1 team in 2006.  Apparently he achieved the highest ever score on the the Engineering Aptitude Test, administered to all new Williams drivers.  2006 started well for the young Rosberg; he scored points in his first Grand Prix at Bahrain and became the youngest driver in F1 history to set a fastest lap.  The rest of the season didn’t go quite so well and he had to wait until 2008 to get his first podium finish; 3rd in Australia.

The son of another Brazilian triple World Champion, Nelson Piquet Junior raced against Nico Rosberg in the 2005 GP2 series and finished second to Lewis Hamilton in the 2006 GP2 Championship.  Piquet made the move to Formula One in 2007 as test driver for Renault, gaining a full race seat the following year.  2008 was a difficult rookie season for Piquet with seven retirements, but he scored his first points with a 7th place finish at the French Grand Prix and claimed his first podium with second at the German Grand Prix.  This was enough for Renault to sign him for another year in 2009 alongside Fernando Alonso.

Outside of Formula One, Martin Brundle’s son, Alex, finished fifth in last year’s Formula Palmer Audi series, Damon Hill’s son, Josh, won the 2008 Ginetta Junior Winter Championship and four-time World Champion Alain Prost’s son, Nicolas, won the 2008 Euroseries 3000 championship.  In America, Marco Andretti is carrying on the Andretti tradition in A1GP and Bobby Rahal’s son Graham is racing in IndyCar.

In 1993 Ayrton Senna famously said:

If you think I’m good, just wait until you see my nephew.

If the Honda rumours are true, maybe we will.

Categories: Drivers Tags:

Unverified rumour of the day: Senna signs for Honda

February 13th, 2009 No comments

Bruno SennaThere are rumours that Bruno Senna has signed a deal with Honda and that the team’s position on the grid in 2009 is now secure.

According to, Jenson Button will remain with the new team and the car will use engines supplied by Mercedes-Benz.

However, on Thursday Senna denied having signed a contract to run in 2009 saying his situtation had not changed.

GP2 Series runner-up and nephew of the legendary Ayrton Senna, Bruno Senna had been testing for Honda in November of last year and was lapping within 0.3 seconds of Jenson Button when Honda announced their withdrawal from Formula One. has also picked up on the rumour saying:

Ross Brawn – team principal of the beleaguered Brackley-based outfit, put up for sale by the parent company in Japan back at the beginning of December – has circulated an e-mail to staff to the effect that a deal has been done to secure the squad’s future, and that everybody should begin preparing for Melbourne.

Of course, no-one has seen this email and no-one at Honda is confirming anything yet but an official announcement will have to come soon if Honda are to fit a new engine to their chassis in time for the Australian Grand Prix at the end of March.

Categories: Teams Tags: ,