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GP Week : Issue 35
> F1NEWS> Toyota delays KERS debut THE Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 Team will start the 2009 season without Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems fitted in its cars, it has been revealed. With the new eco-technology due to make its non-compulsory debut in F1 in 2009, Toyota does not believe that it will be far enough advanced in its development of the systems to make an effective or safe use of KERS at the season- opening races. “It is very unlikely that the first race we will have a safe and reliable KERS that will add performance benefit,” admitted Toyota team President John Howett. “I am not saying that after some time it won’t, but there are some pretty big issues. We believe we have a very good system and we have it under control, but safety is an important issue for us.” Toyota was forced into admitting that it would not run KERS at the start of 2009 after McLaren CEO Ron Dennis told an FIA press conference that one team would not be running the system in Melbourne next year. This admission came after FOTA met in China and the teams confidentially discussed their KERS progress and intentions of running the system in 2008. Howett was naturally upset that such confidentiality had been broken. “I do resent that people have mentioned that,”he admitted. “It was a genuine meeting of absolute confidence where everybody sincerely explained, saying that if we allowed this concession on certain discussions then we want to freeze the monocoque. We said okay, this is our sincere position at the moment.” Which Brazilian at Renault? THE 2009 Formula 1 race possibilities for Brazilian Renault drivers Nelson Piquet and Lucas di Grassi remain open according to sources close to the drivers. GPWeek understands that the possibility of either driver racing for Renault next season remains good, but that the other open seats at Honda and Toro Rosso are a serious consideration. With oil company Petrobras set to leave Williams and shift allegiance to Honda next season in a deal worth $60 million, the Brazilian company would be happy for Honda to run a Brazilian driver alongside Jenson Button, and Rubens Barrichello’s position at the squad is far from secure. While sources close to Piquet and di Grassi could not confirm that either would be testing for Honda over the winter, GPWeek understands that all options remain open to the drivers and so it is too early to discount such a move. Should one find a berth at Honda, it is likely that the other would be retained by Renault. GP2 Vice-Champion Bruno Senna also remains in the frame at Honda and Toro Rosso (see separate story) and his ultimate destination may yet dictate the options open to Piquet and di Grassi. Renault also has young Frenchman Romain Grosjean on its books. The stand-out rookie from the 2008 GP2 Series remains in a strong position at the team, both through his nationality and steep curve of progress, and while the strongest rumour at present links him with a second season in GP2 (moving from ART to Renault-friendly Alejandro Agag’s Campos team) Renault F1 is also believed to be weighing up its options over running him in a 2009 F1 race seat. Renault is expected to announce Fernando Alonso’s continuation with the team in 2009 this week. 11 It is understood that FOTA also remains adamant over its intention to see a standard KERS unit in F1 from 2010. Although the manufacturers have already spent a great deal of time and money on the technology for next season, the future development costs of KERS have such a high potential that at a time of essential cost-saving in the sport, the teams are reportedly in agreement that standardising the technology is the only sensible option.