The opening of the 2009 Formula one season is only a month away in Melbourne, Austraiia and, for the first time, teams will be able to compete with KERS hybrid
drive systems aboard. It's not clear yet how many of the teams are actually ready to run their systems, but there is one big concern: safety. Most of the teams are believed to be working with some sort of electric hybrid rather than a mechanical flywheel system. Drivers and pit and safety crews are working on procedures for handling the cars in the pits or in the event of a crash. Pit crews have been wearing heavy rubber gloves during winter tests and drivers are taking two footed jumps out of cars instead of stepping out to prevent contacting the car and ground at the same time. Puma is also developing special racing shoes for the drivers to try and prevent them from being shocked.
So far, shock hazards haven't proved to be much of a problem with production hybrids. However, the environment in race cars is very different. Race cars are designed to dissipate energy by shedding parts in the event of a crash in order to protect the driver. Everyone will have to be much more careful in F1 this year.