Two good reasons to ban refuelling

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, Sepang, 2008, 470150

Two areas of the F1 rules have come in for criticism following the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix.

The qualifying format is under fire following the incident involving Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton in Sepang. And the safety car rules are being examined after several drivers were disadvantaged by them in Melbourne.

Happily, both these complicated problems share the same simple solution: ban refuelling during the race.

Qualifying has been changed several times over the last five years and although the current solution is very much better than some of the past efforts one sticking point remains: the dangerous situation where drivers returning to the pits very slowly after qualifying to save fuel are being passed by much faster drivers still on hot laps.

And the safety car rules were changed last year to prevent drivers rushing to the pits as the safety car arrives on track to get in a quick stop for fuel.

What’s the common problem here? Fuel or, rather, refuelling pit stops. Since it was re-introduced in 1994 to improve the ‘show’, fuel stops have added a rather tedious strategic dimension to F1 races.

In the 15th year since it was brought back I can remember many great and exciting battles for position on the track, but I can’t remember a single interesting pit stop, apart from the ones that went wrong and drivers were doused in sheets of flames. I can, however, think of many promising races spoiled by problems with refuelling rigs…

Ban refuelling, and we don’t have to have ‘race fuel’ qualifying – here are ten reasons why that’s a good idea. Ban refuelling, and the need for drivers to dash to the pits during safety car situations is considerably reduced.

What do you think of my solution?

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55 comments on Two good reasons to ban refuelling

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  1. i actually enjoy the extra dimension pit stops bring to the mix,Kimi would not be ‘Jack the Lad’ today if Mr. Hamilton had not slid of the pit lane in to a gravel trap yet!2008 will go down in my books as one of the best dog fights on and off the track in years!

  2. AJA: Hamilton would have had to come into the pits regardless of fuel, as he was changing tires from wets to drys. Note that Keith isn’t calling for a ban on pit stops, he’s calling for a ban on refueling.

  3. werner said on 25th March 2008, 7:31

    in my opinion, refueling give’s an extra dimension to the races. different fuel loads, different number of pits stops,…
    i’d hate to see it go

  4. With the current aero regulations I think you have to have refuelling to have any strategy dimension whatsoever. If you’re within 1 second of the car in front you’re in the dirty air and the aero doesn’t work as well.

    In 2009, though, this is probably the way to go.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th March 2008, 8:32

    I agree it’s an extra dimension, Werner, I just don’t think it’s a worthwhile one. It doesn’t make the races better – it often spoils them and makes them harder to follow.

    And it creates a lot of extra complications which in turn require more solutions which inevitably lead to even more rules which is the problem we have with the qualifying and safety car situations.

  6. Getting rid of refuelling is a good idea. It would mean that, in qualifying, we’d know who was the fastest guy out there, instead of saying that Raikkonen is on pole but he’s not got much fuel and Massa in 3rd is fuelled heavy but not as heavy as Hamilton in 2nd so he’s actually fastest. F1 should be about who’s fastest, not who has the best strategy.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th March 2008, 8:56

    I like it when people come along and make my point better than I can :)

  8. Jimi said on 25th March 2008, 9:01

    I agree that refuelling should be banned. It really doesn’t add any "extra dimension" because all the teams have essentially the same race strategy anyway. On the contrary, before refueling was introduced, I remember there were huge differences how cars performed with different fuel loads, some cars were relatively slower at the start of the race but relatively faster in the end, and sometimes this caused some really interesting race endings. Nowadays racing seems to stop after the last pit stop. It would also be environmentally justified to limit the fuel load to a certain amount, which would force teams to develop engines that would conserve fuel.

  9. Brad Pitney said on 25th March 2008, 9:16

    well to be honest, the same really should go for tires.

    If Michelin can make tires that can last going around the world once, why can’t a tire last a race distance!? yes, I know the ad means in an "ideal world" but hopefully you see my point.

    Malaysia also probed that having to use a Prime & Option tire in the race doesn’t really add much, where as the old way was so much better, working out if soft or hard in qualifying was better for the race day.

    Plus it must cost more overall?

    +1 on refuelling ban.

  10. I totally agree with you Vertigo (and Keith) that race fuel loads should not be a part of qualifying. I also think you make a good point when you say "F1 should be about who’s fastest", but am nervous that banning refuelling would have quite the opposite effect.From memory, one of the reasons that refuelling was introduced in 1994 was because drivers stood much to gain by taking it easy. When drivers contested the whole race on a single tank there was an advantage to be had in saving fuel and (more importantly) conserving tyres. Whilst that was interesting in itself, it was not always the ‘fastest’ driver who won but the driver who looked after their consumables most efficiently.Whilst I appreciate the many positives that would arise from a ban on refuelling, it might be better for the show if drivers push as hard as they can over three ‘sprints’ than spend 50 laps within their limits.

  11. Varun.S.Murthy said on 25th March 2008, 9:30

    I remember those races when Michael Schumacher would use pit stops and fuel strategy to win races..like having 4 stops and racing like a madman on track when everyone else would have one pit stop less..but that doesnt happen now at all..everyone always uses the same pit strategy..

    Getting rid of "race fuel" qualifying is definitely one of the things the FIA should do immediately..its screwing up qualifying..there are days when i would watch qualifying just for the pure thrill of it..the dying seconds would be totally awesome..the qualifying sessions now are totally useless and very very boring..

    Theres just one doubt that i have though..If re fuelling is banned,will cars be able to make full race distances?Will they be able to carry so much of fuel?

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th March 2008, 9:36

    This year’s cars wouldn’t, they’d have to make it a rule for next year so the teams would have time to add larger fuel tanks to their designs.

  13. Derek said on 25th March 2008, 10:08

    If you want to ban fuel stops then obviously tire stops would go aswell or the whole show would be the same. Pit stops would  only be allowed for emergency repairs eg. nose cone/wing. replace tires for puncture damage or wets etc. A good driver would have to pace himself on fuel consumtion and tire ware in addition to speed.

  14. I think it would lead to overall slower lap times… that makes me wish against this.

  15. there pros and cons and people above mentioned both …

    ban refueling – yes, it would solve few issues and likely improve the qualifying spectacle. On the other hand I am afraid there also might be lots of fuel saving instead of racing … I am not sure the limits on anything are good for F1. Look at the 2 race engine rules and the engine saving it results in …

    The big difference in the weight of the car at the beginning and towards the end of the race might however create new extra dimension ….

    So if you have an undecided category here, count me in :-)

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