So much for safety

RefuellingMax Mosley’s 1994 refuelling rules have gone up in smoke.

Twelve years after the reintroduction of refuelling and the reaction to the disasters at the San Marino Grand Prix, three important rules governmening how refuelling would be made ‘safer’ after Imola have all been dropped.

These were Mosley’s words after Imola 1994:

The immediate safety measures we can make for the Monaco Grand Prix will concern the pit lanes. They are the following:

1) The entrance and exit to the pit lane will be shaped to deceletrate the carsm thus reducing the number of pit stops because of the time loss.

2) It will be prohibited for anyone to stand in the pit lane unless they are about to work on a car or have just finished.

3) We will ensure that the number of cars that come in on each lap is very limited.

(Christopher Hilton, “Ayrton Senna: The Whole Story” p386)

Rule one must have ceased to be a priority long ago. Even at 100% new facilities like Bahrain and Turkey the pit lane entrances lead straight as an arrow from the circuit.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Magny-Cours, 2004In fact for the 2004 season the pit lane speed limit was raised specifically to encourage more pit stops in the (false) hope that it would make races more entertaining. As a result Michael Schumacher was able to win that year’s French Grand Prix after four scheduled pit stops.

Rule two is still on the books under section 64h of the Sporting Regulations (in the 2008 version as well as the current version – see the FIA’s website). But how many times have we seen pit crews in the lane waiting for drivers who do not pull in – either electing to run another lap or because they had mistakenly believed they had incurred damage?

I cannot think of any examples of how or when rule three has ever been implemented. In fact in modern races it is common for the exact opposite to occur under safety car conditions as in last week’s Turkish Grand Prix. The practice of ‘stacking’ cars (servicing more than one at a time) and even using those ‘stacked’ cars to block rivals is widespread.

I have never been a fan of refuelling from a point of view of safety and from the point of view of how it disrupts real, on-track battles for position.

If F1 is going to have it, then it must be regulated very tightly and made as safe as possible. I am concerned that refuelling rules are becoming too lax in an effort to improve the ‘action’ – when really most fans want more genuine, on-track action rather constantly watching the same tedious rigmarole of refuelling being performed over and over.

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