MUNICH // BMW-Sauber have the KERS energy system in place and ready to go for Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 29. Whether the German team uses the hybrid technology in Melbourne, is still undecided. "Now it's just a matter of weighing up the pros and cons," the team principal Mario Theissen said. "On the positive side, the drivers would have an extra 82 horsepower at their disposal for 6.6 seconds per lap.
"However, the system adds weight to the car and this has an impact on the car's weight distribution and tire wear. "We will make a decision on a driver-by-driver, circuit-by-circuit basis." The Kinetic Energy Recovery System is not mandatory for Formula One teams this season, although the governing body FIA wants it to be from 2010. It is up to the 10 teams to decide if, and when, they elect to use it in 2009.
BMW-Sauber has been one of the champions of the green technology, which stores energy under braking that can be released for overtaking. Theissen said that the KERS package had been a "huge challenge". "When I look back at how far we have come in such a short space of time, it really is very impressive," Theissen said. "Here, Formula One has taken on the role of technology accelerator for series production cars of the future."
KERS is part of a raft of regulation changes that F1 is integrating in a bid to slash costs amid the global economic downturn. It has made the 2009 season hard to predict with McLaren, who spearheaded Lewis Hamilton to the Drivers' Championship last year, struggling, while Brawn GP, the team that replaced Honda a month ago, are the pacesetters in the recent testing in Catalunya. "Once the cost-cutting measures have taken full effect, I expect further independent teams to come into Formula One and be able to compete on a sound financial footing," Theissen added. "I am in no doubt that Formula One will emerge stronger from the current situation."
News that the American team USF1 is set to join motor racing's premier sport from 2010, backs Theissen's claims. BMW emerged as the third team behind Ferrari and McLaren last season and through Robert Kubica, scooped their first grand prix win in Montreal. "Alongside the savings already being made, which will be backed up by further economising in the future, we have started to enjoy success on the track,"
"So it's not only our marketing experts who are saying Formula One is a valuable tool for BMW. "F1 remains the core of our motor sport programme. Nowhere else will you find such charisma exuded on a global level on such a frequent basis. "And nothing else offers a technical challenge so fruitful that it benefits the research activities of an entire company." The positive sounds coming out of Germany is a welcome tonic for the sport, after miserable news clouding the sport during the postseason.
"Today, BMW is spending 40 per cent less on its involvement in Formula One than in 2005. From a cost-benefit point of view, Formula One is very positive for us," Theissen concluded. "I think our sport is heading in the right direction." email@example.com *With agencies