Two good reasons to ban refuelling

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

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?

55 comments on “Two good reasons to ban refuelling”

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  1. I think we should ban Bernie and Max from refueling. Then maybe they’ll expire of starvation and the sport can get back to the business of being a sport.

  2. Rick DeNatale
    25th March 2008, 11:55

    I think that one obvious fix to the qualification problem is to either allow free refueling after qualifying, or at least go back to limited refueling based on laps run in qualifying.

    I’m not sure I see the point of coupling fuel load at qualification to the race any more.

  3. I don’t know what happened to those good old days where we had most people doing 2 pit stops, some crazy ones doing 3 and racing like madmen and then suddenly, you get that guy that seemed to be dead on the race doing only 1 stop and coming back with not so good tyres to fight for the win… those were the days.

  4. On balance, I’m against a ban – refuelling adds another variable that tests which team deserves its constructors’ championship points more.

    I’m also reminded of the climax of the IndyCar season last year, when Dario Franchitti won the title because Scott Dixon ran out of fuel on the last lap and Franchitti still had fumes left. I’m not honestly sure whether that makes an argument for a ban or not (both could have pitted but gambled on staying out after a safety car period reduced how much they’d used) but it does show how fuel management is part and parcel of racing these days, and how teams have to get it right.

  5. All I see from refuelling is that cars do not have to pass in order to gain position, they can wait for a pit stop and hope. Without it, if you want to win, you have to pass. End of.

    I understand the danger that it would become a procession, but how many races do you think would go by where there was no hope of winning before the drivers started taking risks to overtake? and let’s be honest, as spectators that is what we want, risk, reward and more importantly punishment for getting things wrong.

    Ban pit stops, then make race wins the only component that matters, as Bernie suggested, then you have a situation where you either win or lose and the drivers will either step up, or lose their drive.

    Tell me that won’t be far more interesting than who has a slightly faster in-lap at each pit stop.

  6. Refuelling should stay, but the fuel load in qualifying should go. They should just fuel the car for a few laps, and let the drivers fight for pole, then make a rule that the in-laps can’t be slower than, say, 115% of their personal best. This would hopefully get rid of all the riddles now – i.e. people don’t go out until last minute to save fuel and tax super-slow after the fast lap

  7. More often that not passes for position happen during pitstops.

    In Malaysia Raikkonen got past Massa when his first stop was half-a-second quicker.  I would rather have seen him  overtake his teammate on track – but why risk your car battling for position when you can just wait for a pitstop?

    I am in favour of banning refuelling or at least slowing down the pitstops so that there is less advantage in stopping.

  8. I’ve been saying re-fuelling should be banned ever since it came in.  Not interested in arguments regarding the wonders of strategy – this is about racing, not chess.

  9. @Fred BMaybe do it ALMS/LMS style. No one can work on the car until refueling is complete — then you can do tires, wing adjustments, etc. That will slow down the stops.

  10. I’ve always thought race refulling added an interesting dimension to the GP.  These events to me are both about the driving and the chess game.  In the British GP a few years ago, I loved to see two drivers (Rubens and Takuma) racing each other, even though they were half a lap apart!  Even though I am an American, I don’t need my racing to be wheel to wheel!

    Also, Champ Car in the states mandated same size fuel tanks.  The result: boring racing.  The drivers were all in a line, but couldn’t try for a pass since they were so low on fuel!  If F1 bans refulling, that could be the result.  At the end of the race, everybody is low on fuel and coasting around, unable to challenge for position.  Then there’s the safety of carrying 100’s of liters of gasoline…

  11. ‘Race fuel’ in qualifying has a terrible consequence: since no single team is capable of doing two pit stops at the same lap, team-mates will NECESSARILY start with different fuel loads, so, the only occasion when you would know for sure who was faster than who is when, even heavier, one qualifies ahead of the other. Otherwise, it’ll be down to different fuel loads.

    In Malaysia, for example, Massa scored pole 0.492 secs ahead of Raikkonen, which is a lot of time, more than the one lap difference would explain. IMO, Massa would be faster than Raikkonen even with the same fuel load, but we can never know it for sure…

    So, fights for pole end up being fought only by one driver per team…

    Off topic: I’ve been silent about Massa’s performance in Malaysia because I had nothing to add and, in fact, I was embarrassed! I know he is better than that, but his time to prove it is running out…

  12. I’m with Clive. The argument that the "fastest" driver is the one who should win the race, not the one who drives carefully is bunk. The more skilled driver, who is able to balance all of the variables wins the race, or Massa and Trulli would be world champions. Back in the day, Prost was able to nurse his tires and judge his fuel load, adjust with a changing car, to win many races. That was skill, not race stint strategy. Not only that, but a ban on refueling and a lifting of the engine development ban would go a long way to giving F1 the green image that Max is allegedly trying to burnish. Fuel efficiency and low co2 emissions are far more relevant to the real world than KERS.

  13. If they eliminated "race fule qualifying" it would take care of your top ten reasons.  It’s not the refueling during the race, but in effect having ten cars start the race on Saturday and the other 12 start on Sunday.  Without pit stops for fuel and tire changes, there would be hardly any position changes after the first cornor.  When you have cars that are a second faster a lap, but cannot pass, pit stops allow for position changes when cars pit on different laps.

  14. Re Comment 31 – the F1 Kinetic Energy Recovery System – KERS – is extremely relevant to the real world. Within 5 to 10  years all new vehicles – cars, buses, trucks, will have some form of KERS because it’s foolish and wasteful to discard increasingly expensive energy generated as heat during braking, and innovative recovery/regeneration systems and power storage devices will greatly reduce their cost.  F1 will provide rapid innovation, development and testing for future commercial KERS and power storage mediums – batteries, ultracapacitors, flywheels and the FIA has shown great foresight by making F1 the first racing series to introduce it.

  15. Apologies – my previous comment related to Comment 32, not 31.  And I agree with Comment 33 – Q3 should allow low fuel qualifying to determine who’s fastest, with all cars allowed to refuel for the race to any fuel load appropriate to their race strategies.

  16. There’s nothing wrong with re-fueling, they do it in every other form of motorsport. What are we ……. PANSIES?  Most of the comments seem to favor re-fueling but wish for ways around the foolish "stratigies" that come into play.  The incidents at Sepang Sunday were driver errors……..what driver in his right mind would switch to the pitlane limiter while others were still at speed……you know the names!!! Allow Q3 to refuel and that wouldn’t have happened. There are solutions to every problem without BANNING anything.  Ask me, I’ve got all the answers.

  17. Right church, wrong pew.

    In my view the problem is not with refueling, but with the tire rules. Because teams are forced to use both hards and softs during races, everyone is on the same two stop strategy. I personally liked the system before hand, where teams can do with the tires whatever they damn well pleased. If you want to load up on fuel, go on a one stop strategy, and win on mileage and conserving… fine. If you want to do a 5 stop sprint to a win, so be it.

    I don’t we are to the point yet of getting rid of refueling. I think there are some things that could be done to negate these ill effects. First, lets get rid of race fuel qualifying. I want to see who really is the fastest on the grid on qualifying day. Second, if we want to make pit stops more of a punishment… why don’t we lower the pit lane speed limit from 50 to say 30… that couple of extra seconds might make teams think twice  having  so many stops in their strategy.

  18. As opposed to banning refueling, how about making it optional, after qualifying? You can start on full tanks or vapor, which leaves some strategy to the teams.

    Tires need to be constant, as in capable of going the distance, but allow changes if you decide on light tanks and a refueling strategy.

    You would then have best Q results and possible differing fuel and tire wear strategies. I would have to believe no one would settle for a no stop strategy as too much track position would be lost trundling around with full tanks and worn tires at the end.

  19. Green Flag, I am not saying that KERS isn’t important in terms of F1 and road car use, but Toyota’s Luca Marmorini has opined that the model for KERS that the FIA has chosen is "primitive." If the energy recovery device in a Prius is more advanced than that on an F1 car, which is what he is suggesting, then implementing it in F1 will not help the automotive industry at all. My larger point was advancing fuel efficiency research will help applying that to road cars, whereas the current KERS devices probably won’t.

  20. I’ve said in previous posts that overtaking is what I’m most interested in, but.
    Motor racing as it stands today, is a team sport and must include all of the team. Sometimes a race is won by using the correct strategy, as the driver can’t be expected to know exactly what’s going on, and sometimes a race is lost by a mishap in the pits.
    If you want no tyre changes or refuelling just watch drag racing

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