While Honda and BMW Sauber press ahead with their respective systems, Toyota has said that it will not be rushed into introducing its KERS programme to a racetrack until it is confident that it is ready.
KERS, standing for Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, is included on Formula One's technical regulations for 2009, albeit as an optional rather than compulsory item, and Toyota is determined to make sure that its development is working properly before introducing it to a track environment.
"We are working flat-out to develop and improve our KERS system, we have investigated various options and now the challenge is to refine the system before we run it in a car for the first time," senior general manager in charge of engines, Luca Marmorini, commented, "At this stage, our development has been completely based at the factory, rather than the race track, because 95 per cent of KERS development can be done on the simulation dyno.
"The 2009 regulations mean the TF109 will be quite different to the TF108, so we see little advantage in testing KERS on the track at this stage. We have not set a date for this as it will depend on our development progress in the factory. We will run KERS in the car only when the system has met our stringent requirements for performance and safety."
Despite KERS only being an option for next season, however, Marmorini can see advantages to getting the system raceworthy in time for Melbourne.
"The 2009 regulations make KERS optional, not compulsory, so it is logical that every team has considered the possibility [of not running with it]," he said, "However, KERS has the potential to bring an improvement in lap time, so we are working at full speed to take advantage of this opportunity. Our development is focused on producing a KERS system which is appropriate for Formula One and brings a performance increase. We have a group dedicated to this and we trust them to deliver.
"On one-lap performance it is questionable whether it will provide an advantage compared to a non-KERS car when you take into account the weight distribution issues. The FIA has defined the regulations in order to avoid a huge difference between a team having a very good KERS versus a team having a poor one, and KERS will not make a massive difference to lap time as the extra power will only be available for around 6.5secs per lap, so a time benefit of around 0.1secs and 0.3secs per lap is realistic, without considering the weight distribution and packaging implications. But an additional benefit KERS could offer is a chance to overtake. Providing that you have traction, you could have a better chance to overtake."
KERS systems have made the news for the wrong reasons in the past few weeks, most recently when a BMW Sauber engineer received an electric shock as the team started testing with its system in Jerez. Development driver Christian Klein completed a three-lap installation run with the device in place before returning to the pits but, as the car came to a halt and mechanics moved in, the first member of the team to touch the sidepod received an electric shock which knocked him to the ground.
Marmorini, however, insists that, despite the scare, KERS systems are usually safe.
"Hybrid systems in Toyota road cars are proven to be safe and reliable, that is beyond doubt, so the technology is not a problem," he pointed out, "We are in the development stage of KERS in Formula One and will not use the system in the car until we are sure that the highest safety standards have been met. Safety is the priority for Toyota."