Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Formula 1: Of KERS it is for Ferrari!

It can be said that even with all the Mercedes power and aerodynamic capabilities of Force India, one can never outgun a KERS-powered Ferrari down the flowing and medium downforce-generating slopes of Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian GP.

By posting his first win of the season averaging 310 kph in the 7.004 km combined street and racing track, Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen proved the power of the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) boost –- electrical energy stored during braking converted to an additional 60 bhp accessed by the driver by way of a button on the steering wheel. Although KERS can be used for only 6 seconds per lap, it was enough to hold off Giancarlo Fisichella in the much quicker Force India Mercedes.

Advantage KERS? Not exactly. While sufficiently adding extra horsepower to a 2.4-liter V8 Formula One spec, the burden of adding additional weight limits its use to some teams.

BMW was the first to develop and use the system but rejected it after its poor outing after a couple of races. Teams McLaren and Renault uses it sparingly in certain circuits but Ferrari has been the only advocate of the boost system taking Kimi Raikkonen to three successive podium finishes so far, his best outing coming in first in Belgium.

The win for Force India in Belgium highlights a smaller team’s capability to challenge the big boys. Liquor baron, billionaire and Force India team owner Vijay Mallya has been ecstatic, his VJM02 posting P1 on Qualifying and ending up 2nd on the podium on race day in only two years since first entering the premier motorsports racing event. This despite the fact that India’s ministry of sports has declared Formula One not a sport disappointing fans and downplaying India’s inclusion as one of the possible hosts in the 2011 season.

So far, the 2009 season has produced six different Grand Prix winners in Formula One –- Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello of Brawn Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber of Red Bull Renault, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari. All the different manufacturers are represented but for Toyota, which also supplies Williams.

Jenson Button leads the Driver’s title but at a steady 72 points after failing to score in the last couple of races. Teammate Barrichello is 16 points adrift while Vettel is a further 19 points back. Mark Webber is 20.5 points behind Button while Raikkonen has only 34 points, not enough to make a strong comeback.

Make no mistake though that with only 5 races to go -- Monza in Italy, the Singapore night race (my favorite), Japan, Brazil and the season-ending combined day and night race of Abu Dhabi –- any of the three runners-up are still capable of surmounting a huge comeback against Jenson.