Red Bull Racing's creative thinking may again lead it into a storm of controversy after the paddock rumour mill was sent into overdrive by suggestions that neither Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber used KERS during their qualifying run.
While use of the system is optional, with some teams not being in a position to incorporate it in their 2011 designs and those drivers with it operating the system as and when they see fit, Red Bull is rumoured to have come up with an idea all of its own that sees a limited version of the technology employed to give it an advantage.
With the Adrian Newey-designed RB7 already proving to be a rapid replacement for the double championship winning RB6, the grapevine is suggesting that the team has opted to run a small enough KERS system to give it an edge at the very start of the race, without carrying the additional weight of a full system for the entire event. While McLaren revealed that Lewis Hamilton was denied assistance by a broken KERS unit during qualifying in Melbourne, both polewinner Vettel and third-placed Webber confirmed that they had not run the technology at all during the session, heightening speculation that the RB7 did not feature the same sort of system as its rivals.
and the BBC
carry similar theories, suggesting that, with both RBR drivers likely to come under threat from KERS-equipped cars at the start of the race, the RB7 has to have something its drivers can deploy to protect their position, but also confirming the belief that that is the extent of their KERS capability.
A system that only provides a power boost at the start would not require the additional means of recharging throughout the race, saving a substantial amount of unwanted weight. As all cars running KERS go to the grid with the system fully charged, and don't require the means of storing power on the formation lap, it is entirely possible that Red Bull has gone down that route, happy that the RB7 will be able to hold its own once the race is underway. With parc ferme
rules in effect between qualifying and the race, however, it could be a risky strategy should Vettel and Webber suffer problems in qualifying and find themselves mid-grid.
"All I will tell you is our system is not the same as others', but it's at its most beneficial at the start," RBR team principal Christian Horner admitted to the BBC
, while others in the pit-lane believe the speculation to be correct and reveal that they are already working on similar ideas.
Running without a full-time KERS system not only saves on weight and eases both cooling and potential tyre wear issues, it also gives the drivers one less thing to worry about in the cockpit - something that Webber has been quite vocal about in the run-up to the new season.
After the 'adjustable ride height' and 'flexing' controversies that surrounded the team last season, the latest suggestions of Red Bull ingenuity could again bring it into conflict with its rivals, who could claim that the supposedly 'energy-saving' technology isn't being used as intended by the rulemakers.