I am talking about KERS — the Kinetic Energy Recovery System — which some teams will and some teams won't be running when they get to Australia. Remember KITT's 'super pursuit mode' in Knight Rider? Well, the KERS button does a similar job. Sort of.
The KERS button can give a driver an extra 80 horsepower (10 per cent more than normal top power) every time he presses it — but only for around seven seconds per lap. That equates to a maximum of three tenths of a second per lap but, crucially, it gives drivers the chance to select the exact moment they need extra power — and either use it to attack the car in front, with one full boost, or defend position, using short bursts throughout the lap.
The KERS units work by storing energy. Every time a driver brakes, the kinetic energy that propels the car forward is usually turned into heat energy in the carbon brake disks. Instead, the KERS stores that energy — using a flywheel (mechanical) or batteries and electric motor (electrical) - and then turns it into power to accelerate, available to the driver at the touch of a button.
But the system is optional and so far many teams have struggled to get their versions running in time.
The new technology has been difficult to perfect, especially given the limited time available to cope with all the other massive rule changes this year, and there have also been concerns over electric shocks because of the levels of high voltage stored in the systems — although those problems are hopefully now fixed.
In fact, so far only BMW have said they are definitely ready to race with KERS. McLaren say they have confidence in their system and Ferrari have suggested they are happy with theirs. But that seems to be it so far. Brawn, Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso (and therefore almost certainly Red Bull) have all confirmed they will not run their system in Australia. Indications are that Toyota also plan not to use it while Renault have so far simply said their KERS development has been "demanding".
Even if a team is fully happy with their system, though, the decision whether to run it will depend on its potential advantage at each specific track relative to the disadvantages it creates due to added weight and the affect it has on the car's balance.
Nick Heidfeld got his first experience of how it feels when another driver presses the button when he was testing his BMW the other day. "You're just left standing," he said.
It remains to be seen whether Melbourne will be one to favour KERS — but if it is, winning in Melbourne could just be down to who's pressing the right buttons.
DATE PUBLISHED ON: 17 MARCH 2009