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. At this stage our development has been completely based at the factory, rather than the race track, because 95% of KERS development can be done on the KERS 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.
When will Toyota run KERS in the car for the first time?
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.
How important will KERS be in terms of performance?
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. KERS will not make a massive difference to lap time as the extra power will only be available for around 6.5s per lap, so a time benefit of around 0.1s and 0.3s per lap is realistic, without considering the weight distribution and packaging implications. But an additional benefit KERS could offer is a chance to overtake. 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 but, providing that you have traction, you could have a better chance to overtake.
So would your KERS car be heavier than your non-KERS car?
No, it is expected that our car with KERS would still be at the minimum weight as defined in the rules because at the moment our car is significantly lighter than the 605kg minimum but we comply with the regulations by using ballast. If KERS makes the base weight of the car 25-35kg heavier, then you have less ballast to move around and this could have a performance impact as it limits the opportunities to change weight distribution. However, we do not know exactly what effect this will have as we obviously do not have experience of the TF109 on track, therefore we are pressing ahead with our KERS development.
Is it an option not to use KERS next season?
The 2009 regulations make KERS optional, not compulsory, so it is logical that every team has considered that possibility. 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 1 and brings performance increase. We have a group dedicated to this and we trust them to deliver.
Has KERS caused an increase in costs?
Inevitably, a new technology of this kind requires significant resources in order to develop a safe and effective solution. Costs have been particularly significant with KERS because it is a major new technology for Formula 1 and there are a number of potential solutions which had to be looked at.
Is KERS 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. We are in the development stage of KERS in Formula 1 and we 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.
Does Toyota have an advantage with KERS considering its expertise in hybrid road car technology?
If there is some know-how in a company it has to be an advantage but we do not expect this to provide us with much tangible benefit compared to the other teams as KERS is not directly comparable to what is done on a normal road car. Formula 1 is a unique environment where weight reduction is vitally important. The way Toyota develops a road car is different and the aim is for efficiency in terms of fuel consumption. The ideal version in a road car is more sophisticated than KERS in Formula 1 because it not only means you can downsize your engine, but also takes into account other conditions, it recovers energy from the front and the rear and there is no limitation on the time it is deployed.
Will KERS help Toyota's other hybrid projects in road cars or in racing?
Toyota is a world leader in hybrid technology and we are the market leader in hybrid vehicle sales, with over a million sales of the hybrid Prius, a fact we are very proud of. KERS development will inevitably increase our understanding of hybrid systems but, at this stage, we do not expect it to provide any major breakthroughs for road car development. In terms of racing, Toyota has already won the Tokachi 24-Hour race with a hybrid vehicle which uses more advanced technology than the KERS system in Formula 1.