Audi has given the clearest hint yet that its R18 will accept alternative propulsion systems, but said it will not be limited to a KERS-style hybrid power train. They will also be closely related to production car technologies rather than the sport-specific KERS solution employed in Formula 1.
"The basic concept provides for electrification of its [the R18's] drive," said Michael Dick, Audi's director of technical development. "However, we will only incorporate it when the technology has been proven, and it will also be carried over to serial production."
Ulrich Baretzky, Audi Sport's head of engine technology, confirmed that they are looking beyond conventional hybrid systems.
"One of the reasons we decided to have a V6 engine [in the R18] was to have enough space and the maximum variability to integrate engine recovery systems of any kind or shape," Baretzky said. "Energy is going to become more precious than it has in the past. We are going to have to change our minds completely about how to use it. This is also true for Formula 1 and it was very courageous of Jean Todt and the FIA to insist on it [in the putative 2013 engine regulations].
"People will lose interest in wasting energy, in the boring negligence of the needs of the time. It's a clear responsibility we have to the spectators and the public to use this special role we have in motorsport to showcase solutions that are also viable for them.
"I don't like to use the word 'hybrid'. I prefer to look at complete energy recovery systems which include every kind of energy efficiency technology. A brake energy recovery system like KERS is just one of them, for sure not the only one, and maybe not the best one."