Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull Racing cannot afford to continue without KERS for much longer if it expects to stay ahead of his McLaren team.
Red Bull decided not to use its KERS during the Australian Grand Prix weekend but, despite that, Sebastian Vettel managed to take a commanding victory ahead of Hamilton. The characteristics of the Melbourne circuit, however, did not make KERS vital during the season opener, but Hamilton reckons it will be a must for Red Bull in the next race in Malaysia. The Briton still expects Red Bull to be very strong, but he is confident he will be able to challenge the team in the race, especially if it doesn't use KERS.
"Malaysia is a massive downforce track so you're going to see Red Bull be as quick if not quicker," said Hamilton. "But I have no doubts our car can be competitive as well.
"I don't know if you've seen their front wing, but it's like trailing on the ground. That is massive downforce. Ours is much higher off the ground. That alone is like 20 points of downforce, like half a second, so as soon as we close that loophole or find out how to do that, we will close that performance gap.
"We have some small upgrades coming. Whether or not we can compete with them on pure qualifying pace, I don't know, but I think when it comes to the race there is a much longer straight going into Turn 1. If we can get on the first two rows again we can compete with our KERS. I don't think they are going to be able to go too long without KERS."
Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button suggested Red Bull's KERS was not as strong as McLaren's at the moment.
"Most teams are getting 3.5 to five tenths out of KERS, and I think they are getting 1.5," he said. "It is good for us and something we need – we need to have a strong KERS system because in terms of their pace and every other area they are very strong."
Button, however, feels Vettel was still not showing Red Bull's true pace in Australia, despite the dominant win.
"I still think we are a long way off the Red Bulls, I don't think Seb is showing the full pace yet," Button added. "He can make some good improvements for the next race because this is really the starting point with this exhaust system.
"Everyone else had the whole winter to play around, so we can make some good improvements in the next two weeks and it will be a circuit that is good for our car, and where it was working well."