back to article F1 chiefs ready post-prang battery safety scheme

The introduction of KERS - Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems - into Formula 1 has not been without mishap. There was a battery fire at Red Bull, and a BMW engineer received a nasty electric shock during a test at the Jerez circuit in Spain. Now F1 safety supremo Charlie Whiting has announced that track marshals will be issued with …

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William's flywheel

AFAIK, it's sealed inside a vacuum chamber to remove all resistance and it's built like a black box. So the only danger should be if it the whole unit gets ejected and comes flying at your face.

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Black Helicopters

(a title is required my ass)

why dont they just carry groundin equipment along with a fire extinguisher ?

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Paris Hilton

KERS

Is this system also available for Wide Area Networks?

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Alien

@William's flywheel

Unless of course it is some how involved in a high speed car accident and black box gets bent, contacting the internal flywheel which may then release all that kinetic energy in the form a single spinning disk or smaller chuncks of flying shrapnel. But all this should happen before the martials can get to the car so from a Marshels point of view not so bad.

(matians know all about flying saucer shapped thingies)

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Happy

I'm shocked

Well, surprised anyway. I would have thought someone would have gotten a charge out of all the positive pun material here.

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Anonymous Coward

Screw Bernie, he's a dork

KERS make no sense for F1 and is just a money pit. Bernie can't find his arse with both hands and a roadmap.

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Joke

Ah Hah

So that's what Simon gets up to in his spare time. He's been working with boys in F1 racing and giving them some new "insulation testing" gear that he'd been saving for future BOFH episodes. Oh well in these financial times I guess it's good to have two sources of income.

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Stop

Don't want to go running towards a crash

because of a little electricity? As opposed to not wanting to run towards a crash because of all that flamable fuel and oil which may or may not be on fire? I think they're made of sturner stuff than that.

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Sparks

When do we get a no holds barred battery/fuel cell powered F1?

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Flame

@Steve

Made of stern stuff indeed, but it could be viewed as an added complication and as volunteers it will all come down to the individual of choices of the various marshalls club members as to whether they consider it an unacceptable hazard or not. Whilst we haven't had a full on tank breach in F1 for some time (Berger in '89 springs to mind - radiator punched through tub and fuel bladder), this is new. The electrical KERS solutions all add a further potential ignition source. The flywheel based systems add the potential for kinetic energy mayhem, + a further but perhaps lower risk ignition source depending on the properties of the materials used.

If I were in the marshalling business rather than the watching business, I might feel altogether more sanguine if a few examples of the technology were subjected to worse case failure modes pre season. I strongly suspect that some clerks of the course would feel similarly about running some sort of risk assessment prior to the start of the season. The job is dangerous enough with the risks of preceding seasons. Whilst no driver has died in an accident in a current F1 car since 1994, we have lost marshalls a lot more recently than that bloody awful May weekend.

Apart from anything else, the worse thing a marshall can do is turn up on the scene and require rescue him/herself, and an understanding of the new risks is going to be absolutely required to prevent this possibility.

I suspect a lack of imagination crops up frequently amongst the drivers, but some of the more responsible guys will be thinking the same, partly for their own safety, that of their teams, and that of the marshalls and spectators.

I honestly believe KERS has got the possibility of adding a little extra spice into GP weekends, but it does need to be understood from a safety view, especially if the technology is going to be aimed at road car use. This season however, as with every season with hefty new rule packages, I reckon the eventual winner will be the team that comes up with the a nice simple conservative approach and finishes all their races.

We'll see. (Flames - what I don't want to be seeing this F1 season)

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@Steve Todd

It takes orders of magnitude less power to be killed by electricity than the pyrotechnic burning stuff. There is this myth around that somehow electricity is benign. However, cram it into something like the same energy density as a can of petrol and people will see just how dangerous it can be. After all, electricity stored in a battery is just a form of chemical energy. The difference is that it only requires a few joules at the right voltage to kill you whereas your need kilojoules in an explosion to do the same job (and in an open area, megajoules or more).

For that matter, many more people are killed by house fires started due to faulty electrical equipment and wiring than they ever are by nasty flammable gas, quite apart from those killed by electrocution. There is no such thing as a benign concentration of easily released energy unless it is a long way away.

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Coat

For us non-F1 junkies

I know this isn't Computer Weekly (which often explains acronyms such as RAM and RAID!), but a quick summary of what the feck KERS *is* would help those of us not at the cutting edge of the motor racing world!

Oh I expect I'm supposed to just go and let Wikipedia explain it to me am I...?

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Anonymous Coward

Not just the martals

If (and it's a big if) this could be a problem, then when the car is in the pits, it should also be grounded before any of the crew approach. A spark, let alone a shock could make a very bad day for the person trying to fuel the car.

I agree with the poster who mentioned grounding equipment for marshals. A long conducting pole, like a big police baton could be used. The handle is insulated, the main pole and the L shaped piece is conductive, touch the car and then touch the L part to the ground. Make the pole long, so that any spark while grounding can be made away from any potential fuel spill.

Also, spare a thought for marshals at Indy Car events, they have to cope with methanol which produces an invisible flame. They have managed aright over the years.

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Paris Hilton

Other flywheel problem...

Having 20 odd kg extra would seem to negate its benefit.

Also, crashes could easily result in a high speed flywheel either flying off into the air and landing on someone, or rolling across the track, smashing into other cars (chain reaction anyone? the winner is the one whose flywheel is first to roll across the finish)

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@pad

The cars _are_ grounded when they are in the pits. Have a look next time you see one approaching - there are a couple of metal straps sticking out of the ground where the car pulls up which earth the chassis to ground as it goes over the top.

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@AC and weight (again)

F1 cars are usually 80+ kilos under mass and use ballast to reach the minimum - 20kgs of KERS won't be any issue.

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IT Angle

for those who haven't heard....

KERS - Kinetic Energy Recovery System. In the F1 context, under braking, rather than conventionally disposing of the cars excess kinetic energy by turning it into heat in braking systems, the rules allow the teams to store whatever they can recover while the brakes are deployed in mechanical or electrical devices. This stored energy can then in turn be reapplied to accelerate the car for x number of seconds per lap. Spotted the other advantage ? You can get the same braking effect for a lighter application of the cars conventional braking system - if.... big if.... you can make it work seamlessly without upsetting the balance of the car.

The proposed sytems thus far seem to be quoting an additional 10 or 15 per cent power. Different principle, but the effect should be similar to the driver hitting the overboost button on the eighties turbo F1 cars. There is a trade off though, weight and complexity. Complex cars rarely do well in F1. Light and simple have historically been the way ahead.

You'll note I've hit the "IT ?" icon 'cos a lot of folk will be wondering about why it's reported here. Check the El Reg home page banner, science/tech counts too.....

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Anonymous Coward

KERS = Kenetic Energy Recovery System

Happy now? Try a quick search for technical links.

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IT Angle

grounding and loose ballast

There are grounding wires in the pit where the vehicle stops, just like in a toll booth lane.

Montreal GP, almost a F1 generation ago, when Hakkinen drove a McLaren-Mercedes, corner workers (USA for marshals) discovered what was being used for ballast. A hunk of depleted uranium departed the McLaren in a corner. It took a good sized gouge out of the pavement, before skipping into the usual tire barrier. The struck tire had a bowling ball sized dent in its side. Said tire was about 60 cm (2 ft) to the side of a hole in the catch fence where an observer was stationed.

F1 uses supercomputers to model a race weekend and during the event to adjust tactics and strategies.

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@Anonymous Coward

Of course KERS makes no sense the same as 90% of environmental measures are nonsensical gesturing.

F1 flies teams and equipment and fans around the globe emitting thousands of tons of CO2 but all is forgiven because they are trying to develop technology which will save a couple of kg CO2 emissions during a race. F1 KERS equipment won't come anywhere near saving even 1% of the CO2 emissions created by its development.

Bernie doesn't care what it does to the racing it there to impress the stupid (politicians especially I expect). The racing is already expensive and boring but people still watch, Bernie would be happier if they were racing transit vans because they have more space for advertising....

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@spam

I agree that it's terrible that KERS will only save a couple of kg of CO2 emissions during a race. If only F1 technology eventually filtered down to the millions of road cars in the world. But that's clearly just the crazy in me doing the thinking again!

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Unhappy

old tech?

A large object rotating furiously bouncing along and potentially knocking holes in things?

At least the German track marshalls should be prepared after last time.

...Dum dum dum dum de de dum dum.....

Seriously though, I presume this technology is part and parcel of making out that F1 is the cutting edge of motor vehicle development and the benfits will filter down into the average car, and not (as some might suspect) a oversize Scaletrix.*

*as in monotonous circular laps with the only excitement being when the cars crash off the track

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@AC 00:41

Its actually good to have the description here for any non F! techies to just read and know whitout having to go abuse google some more.

If i didnt know what it was i wouldnt bother i would just dismiss the article yeah im lazy Live with it

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Paris Hilton

Is KERS worth it?

Ferrarri obviously think so, they were not convinced, but after discovered almost all the other teams in the pits were busy working on it, they could not afford to start the season without it!

I recall reading somwhere, that on a typical circuit with fast straights, and lots of braking, KERS should be able to deliver 80BHP boost for about 8seconds a lap.

Now that is pretty serious boost, when you also consider that energy is removed from the braking, which also means a braking advantage too.

As for weight of the KERS, it's not a problem, cars already have balast to make them upto the minimum weight.

Also there are 2 types of KERS, mechanical, which stores the energy in a flywheel, and electonic, which stores the energy in batteries, there is a split within the teams as to which system them they are using, as the mechanical one is easier to intergrate with the existing drivetrain, but the electrical one is simpler to store, but required more complex mechanics to use.

Should be a VERY interesting season!!!

Paris for no reason other than I like looking at her simpleton face..

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@Stephen- KERS Weightq

Actually it's a huge issue. That is 20kg's of moveable ballast they aren't able to use. Taller/ heavier drivers like Kubicka, Webber and Glock are already on the back foot meaning if they use KERS, they have even less ballast to fine tune the chassis with. Hence why a lot of teams have already said they have deliberately set up KERS as an installation that can be added or removed easily depending on if the circuit will give them an advantage or disadvantage.

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Pretty fly for a brit guy....

I can't wait to see how well this flywheel works. Considering your flywheel will be spinning fastest as you enter a corner, as you will have charged it with energy from your wheels during the braking phase of cornering, the gyroscopic effects are going to make the handling of the car interesting at the best of times.

I especially can't wait to see what happens when the bearings seize. For the first time you will be able to see a car flip upside down while speeding down the main straight, or coming to stop in the pits only to start spinning like some crazy kids toy, scattering mechanics, tyres and fuel rigs....

Probably not; but the thought of it still makes me chuckle. .

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re: Kers

KERS By Anonymous Coward

"Is this system also available for Wide Area Networks?"

Well, considering the flywheel version it is designed to go On an On an On an etc.

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earth bonding/grounding strips

@ Kevin

Those grounding straps have been a feature in F1 ever since they reindtroduced refuelling. The idea being to drop the static potential of the car to that of the refuelling rig. I used to work many years ago in a factory dealing with industrial organic solvents, where similar measures had to be taken before pouring flammable organic liquids. Moving large amounts of such material will raise a vast static charge of itself. As the car is refuelled, you also run the risk of raising a substantial potential in the car and the refuelling rig, just the same as decanting large amounts of solvent in the factory - So to eliminate the chances of accidental ignition in a spill, and to keep crew from a major static zapping, all the equipment is grounded, the vehicle/vessel and refuelling rig are also electrically bonded to each other. In F1 the connection between vehicle and refuelling rig is built into the nozzle/hose and receptacle assemblies.

These days, when pit fires do occur, it's usually a result of the kind of thing we saw in Singapore (Massa clearing off with hose attached) or minor (ie >1 litre) spillages escaping the nozzle and dropping onto an exhaust.

If you spend any time sat in a departure lounge you'll see very similar measures taken for refuelling aircraft. Funnily enough that's exactly the industry those F1 refuelling rigs came from, the vendor manufacturing refuelling kit for aircraft.

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Boffin

Copy and paste the link...

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=kinetic+energy+recovery+system

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Jobs Horns

@copy the link

I prefer this one...

http://letmegooglethatforyou.com/?q=KERS

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