Formula 1 has been involved in energy recovery for a while now. KERS, Kinetic Energy Recovery System, first came into the sport in 2009 and while adoption was slow due to the weight and unreliability of early systems, over the years it has become an essential part of the power unit in an F1 car, especially since the start of the hybrid era in 2014.
Formula 1 games have featured some sort of deployable energy boost before, but in F1 2018 you get a six-speed deployment system that you can control. Far better than the simple "boost button" it used to be.
Using this system requires careful management though. You can only deploy so much energy in a lap, and finding yourself with none left when you hit the pit straight can leave you vulnerable to overtaking moves into turn 1. Worse, you can completely drain your battery and lose over a second a lap while you charge it up. This can greatly impact both your qualifying hot lap and race. So how should you best manage your ERS?
Don't leave it in Hotlap
During qualifying your ERS will start in Hotlap mode. This is good as it is the optimum mode for your qualifying lap, but it also drains your battery dramatically and around places like Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and Italy it can leave you with no energy left for the final sector. But how can you turn it down without losing time?
The art here is to manage ERS on the straights. Coming out of corners you want as much ERS deployment as possible as you get the most benefit from it by getting up to speed quickly, but in the second part of the straight you can turn it down without losing too much time and save yourself a lot of energy. This is best visually represented within the ERS Management practice program in career mode, which gives you an energy usage meter to show just how much you are saving or using.
Here you can see the bar holding steady down the pit straight as we are in Medium ERS mode, but as we hit 200mph we flick it down to None, resulting in no loss of speed but a nice shift of the bar toward purple even before we get to the braking zone.
Now this style of ERS Management does require a bit of work. Coming out of this corner the ERS needs to be bumped up again, and if you are surrounded by traffic, then it can take your eyes off the road. However, on qualifying laps where you are alone on track and need to save some ERS so you can still put it into Overtake mode later in the lap, this method of energy saving is vital to find an extra tenth or two that could otherwise elude you.
Here you can see that after passing the ERS Management program we get a nice layout of the way in which we are deploying energy throughout the lap. The red is heavy deployment and is almost entirely in acceleration zones, while the green is saving, coming at the end of straights and into braking zones, as well as parts of the track where you simply allow the momentum of the car to roll through a corner. By studying this as well as your sector times you can start to find places where you are inefficiently using battery and begin to save energy for when you need it most.
During a race the ERS system is best used for overtaking. When you come off the line at the start of the race you are put into Hotlap mode by default. This is to help you slip past a few cars on lap 1, but once the race settles down you should lower the ERS mode to Medium and save some battery for attacking.
Many circuits only have one or two true overtaking places, which can make a race rather frustrating if you get bottled up behind a slower car. This is where ERS can kick in. While Hotlap gives you terrific acceleration out of a corner, your top speed is only achievable when you engage Overtake mode. This dramatically drains the battery so you should only use it for a short period of time, but it can help get you in position for a pass in places like Singapore or Suzuka where you would otherwise have to wait patiently and lose time.