Upgrade works for Red Bull and McLaren ditch KERS (British Grand Prix round-up)

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Ferrari were the only team using KERS but Massa had good things to say about it

An aerodynamic upgrade for Red Bull helped wing the performance advantage their way – while cool temperatures at Silverstone left championship leader Jenson Button flummoxed.

Meanwhile yet another team abandoned KERS leaving Ferrari the only team still using the energy recovery devices – although Felipe Massa reckoned it paid dividends for him at the start of the race.


The only team left using KERS after McLaren’s abandonment of the technology. And they’re not happy about it, either. Stefano Domenicali said:

I cannot [say how much it has cost] because it is too heavy for me to say that, to be honest. I know that if you put that amount of money into the development of the car, then you would have been fast like Red Bull today. It was millions of Euros.

However Felipe Massa drove a fine race to salvage fourth from 11th on the grid, thanks in part to the system:

My start was very good, thanks for the KERS. I did a very good initial start, even without the KERS. I passed Fernando and when I got the power from KERS, I was able to push and pass more cars. So the KERS was a big help for us – although more on the start.


Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Silverstone, 2009

Abandoned plans to bring new parts to the race. Lewis Hamilton ran his car without KERS on Friday while Heikki Kovalainen continued with the system, allowing the team to decide whether to continue with it or not. Unsurprisingly, Kovalainen’s car also ran without KERS on Saturday, and both cars remained that way for the rest of the weekend.

But it did little to improve their performance – in fact one wonders whether Hamilton would have benefitted from KERS after he found himself 19th on the grid, losing his final flying run following Adrian Sutil’s crash. A light-fuelled strategy proved ineffective in rescuing his race, which he ended in 16th, and indulged in a quick ‘doughnut’ afterwards. Martin Whitmarsh mildly rebuked him for putting unnecessary strain on his engine and gearbox, but he knows as well as anyone it’s the least of McLaren’s concerns.

Heikki Kovalainen had just been passed by Hamilton when he was hit by Sebastien Bourdais. He took on new tyres after the contact, but with the rear of the car vibrating strangely the team elected to call it a day.


Having shown signs of progress with their new diffuser at Istanbul, BMW once again languished at the back at Silverstone, despite using a mildly revised front wing. Nick Heidfeld compromised his progress further by damaging his front wing at the start, though it was mild enough for him to be able to wait for his first scheduled pit stop for a replacement. Despite this, he still managed to keep Fernando Alonso behind for many laps.

Mario Theissen has vowed to increase the pace of development on the car, an are in which they are conspicuously lacking this year having been strong in recent seasons. The team also confirmed it will not use KERS again this year, despite having been the strongest advocate of the technology before the season started.


Fernando Alonso was held up by Nick Heidfeld earlier in the race, and ended up finishing two places behind his team mate.


Both the Toyotas made poor starts. Jarno Trulli suffered a “launch issue” and dropping from fourth to seventh at the start (hampering Jenson Button’s progress), and Timo Glock also slipped three places to 11th. Like Brawn, Toyota were unhappy with the cooler temperatures.

Toro Rosso

Sebastien Bourdais was left fuming after his collision with Kovalainen:

He changed line twice. At the exit to Stowe, I was on the normal line and he went to the inside, I moved to the outside, then he moved over so I moved across to the other side and he changed again. He braked early, because he’d only just left the pits on full tanks and cold tyres. I was trying to out-brake him, but he should not have changed line like that. It was frustrating and then at the end I lost water pressure and had to stop in the garage.

Meanwhile the yawning gap in performance between the Red Bull-Renault RB5s and Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR4s grows ever greater:

Fastest laps

1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull – 1’20.735
2. Mark Webber, Red Bull – 1’20.915
16. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso – 1’22.466
19. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso – 1’22.711

Toro Rosso do not yet have the double-decker diffuser used by Red Bull (either the first version introduced at Monte-Carlo nor the new one brought to Silverstone).

Red Bull

Wider front nose on the Red Bull RB5

With a revised front nose and updated diffuser, Red Bull were emphatically fastest from the word go. They were one-two in both Friday sessions, one-three in qualifying (Mark Webber briefly held up by Kimi Raikkonen, who went unpunished), and one-two on race day.


Nico Rosberg’s fifth place moved them up to fifth in the constructors’ championship ahead of McLaren. Rosberg’s fastest lap was the third best of the race, beaten only by the flying Red Bulls.

Force India

New parts arrived straight from the factory on Friday, but the team only had enough for Adrian Sutil’s car. He duly impressed with the third-quickest time in second practice. But on Saturday his brakes failed at the Abbey chicane and he crashed heavily. The team repaired his car overnight but discovered a fuel pressure problem shortly before the race, which meant he had to start from the pit lane.

Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella, meanwhile, had an excellent run to his second top ten finish in three races. The prospect of a points finish on merit has never looked stronger for the team.

Brawn GP

Jenson Button, Brawn, Silverstone, 2009

Rubens Barrichello finally put one over Jenson Button. Button seemed ill at ease with his car on Friday and was nearly squeezed out in Q2 on Saturday. He may have rued the cool temperatures afterwards, but for the first time this year he plainly didn’t get as much out of his car as his team mate.

Read more: Untouchable Vettel romps to Silverstone victory (British Grand Prix review)

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Upgrade works for Red Bull and McLaren ditch KERS (British Grand Prix round-up)”

  1. I think the real problem with KERS performance is limited power output. For example, Williams had to put a limiter on its system from the very beggining as the rulemakers decided they don’t want to give an ”unfair” advantage if somebody gets it right. I would hate to see it droped as I think it gives an interesting twist in the races and its tactical advantage can be significant.

    1. I totally agree.

      I belive i am right in saying that in the orginal plans the power output was going to be doubled next year. Now in theory the weight should not increase too much and thus there would be a good advantage.

      1. Yes, and it would be possible (not sure will it also be mandatory) to use kinetic energy from front wheels also so there will be 2 units in the car. But we will see will the rules change… One other thing that was done with KERS introduction was to focus R&D in that area as well as spending from the teams…

  2. Yorricksfriend
    23rd June 2009, 8:09

    Upgrade works for Red Bull do you mean, Keith?

    1. Indeed :-) Fixed.

  3. Bigbadderboom
    23rd June 2009, 8:09

    I think the RB5 really benefited from the low track temperatures and the fast corners at Silverstone, likewise the Brawns suffered as the car depends upon breaking zones to retain a higher operating temperature for the tyres. These facts exagerated the performance difference although the RB5 in real terms has made huge progress I think the next 2 races will show us how much.

  4. My understanding of the no KERS for Maclaren at Silverstone was because there wasn’t enough breaking/lap to fully charge the battery (capacitor) pack and that it will probably be back for most races.
    I also think that the organisers of the race dates should think very carefully about running in different months from previous season as it seems like Bridgestone don’t know how to make the right tyre choices. China 08 – Oct, 09 – April, GB 08 – July, 09 – June etc.

    Anybody got any idea’s why Torro Roso are so much slower than Red Bull, surely it is not just the engine, although I did read that Brawn chose the Merc engine because the Ferrari engine was very difficult to fit.

    1. The Mclaren KERS charges in less than 2 seconds so I’m sure it would have been able to charge up.

      The STR cars do not have the aero upgrade packages of the RB cars yet, so that would account for some of the difference.

      1. Just maybe, the battery pack is not big enough to give the whole 6.x seconds, so that it needs topping up as it does the lap. It is the lightest system.

    2. I assume another reason why Toro Rosso are a long way behind Red Bull is that they are a much smaller team. So it’s a smaller team that puts the cars together and creates the set-ups, I don’t want to say the team aren’t as good (cos I’m a Toro Rosso fan) but it’s pretty clear that they’re not as good as Red Bull when it comes to building the cars and developing set-ups and what-not.

      And as for the McLaren KERs thing, I did hear the commentators say during practice that they wouldn’t be able to charge the KERs around a lap. But during the race we saw a Ferrari cross the line and his KERs graphic fill back up, but I guess their KERs systems could be quite different.

      1. spanky the wonder monkey
        23rd June 2009, 12:58

        the graphic is just that. a graphic. it indicates how much time has been used with KERS actived rather than how much charge may be in the system. well, that’s my take on it anyway.

  5. Aaron Shearer
    23rd June 2009, 10:16

    It’s quite interesting to watch the difference between the Toro Rosso’s and Red Bull’s. I wonder why they haven’t been updated with the new Double-Diffuser yet, Are they just concentrating on the main team now?

    I thought you get fined if you do a doughnut at a Grand Prix? I think I remember DC saying that he was going to do one at Interlagos last year but didn’t finish so he couldn’t.

  6. I didn’t think the Red Bull RB5 looked that good when it was first launched, but I think the new wider front nose makes it look a lot better. I still don’t like the shark fin engine cover and those air flow conditioners in front of the sidepods.

    Considering the relative pace of the two teams this season the fact you would have thought that Williams would have been well ahead of McLaren in the championship rather than just moving ahead of them now.

    From the reports I read McLaren dropped KERS for Silverstone because of the nature of the circuit rather than ditching it for the rest of the season like BMW, so we will have to wait to see if it returns in Germany.

    While it looks like KERS has been a massive waste of time and money and people are blaming some teams poor performance on them focusing on KERS, I wonder if it would have been a success if the restrictions on it weren’t so big. If the FIA had said you can recover the energy any way you want had use the system as much as you want as long as it is safe.

    1. Ref KERS I have seen two reports on the costs, one says the teams have spent over 1.5 billion so far, the other said one team has spent 350 million plus it costs several 100 thousand/car/race to run it. Would not be possible to develop it or run under Max’s proposed cost restrictions.

      Also think that the KERS cars were designed to be KERS cars and changing them to be not KERS cars is not that simple.

      1. I think these figures might be over stated here

        I think the true cost is about 5-6 million for Mercedes i am sorry i do not belive any team has spent 350million devleping KERS as that is the whole budget of a very big team.

  7. Isn’t anyone going to target the DDD loophole as being bad for racing? I haven’t heard confirmation that it will be explicitly excluded next year yet. I also believe they should have some sort of instrument test for wake turbulence generated and to set a limit, If they can do performance testing for safety they should be able to do it for competition.

    1. Random Chimp
      23rd June 2009, 13:51

      Good idea.

  8. McLaren ditching KERS was the worst thing they could have done. Their car is a dog and unless they completely redesign the sidepods, it is even slower without KERS. Had McLaren kept the KERS, Lewis would have been able to pass more people in the race.

  9. Martin Whitmarsh said that “they took KERS because of the weight distribution issues.”

    I just love the last two paragraphs of his interview to autosport:

    “I don’t think we have necessarily got that right and I think we have spent too much time probably being overly analytical and not enough time being straightforward pragmatic – what is it?

    “Don’t know how it works, but it’s on another car, let’s take it and put it on ours! That is a good old fashioned approach to it, we need a bit of that and we are applying a bit of that right now.”

  10. Very interesting interview w/ Button on Autosport.com. Here is the link: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/76480.

    It makes sense that Brawn may well be able to turn the tables on RBR in the next 2 races, due to the multitude of heavy breaking zones in these circuits.

    But something tells me that RBR will have further updates on their car to try and improve in these areas, specicic to the upcoming tracks.

  11. Well it’s good to see how the new RB5″B-spec” with a new nose cone much wider and flatter that works perfectly with the up-graded double deck diffuser. This create a perfect airflow from the very begining of the car until the back.
    Also not only were the new upgrades that gave RBR the big gap, were also de cold temperatures giving a hard time to the Brawn GP cars because they never could get the most of their tyres. Even when you watch the race you can see Jenson Button entering the corners (50 meteres before) doing zig zag trying to warm the tyres, but it was impossible.

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