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

  1. Vinc said on 25th March 2008, 10:52

    Today, at Q3 session, the driver in pole position is not the fastest but the one with less fuel in the tank. It’s not what I wish to see in qualif session. I remember great fight in 2002 between Montoya and Schumacher for pole position. To have more interesting races in 2008, let drivers fight at their best in Q3 (like in Q2 and Q1) and allow the top ten to fuel its car same as the other 10 drivers. We will have again great fight in qualif and strategy is less predictable at race. But I agree that ultimate thing to do is to ban refueling during race.

  2. oliver said on 25th March 2008, 10:54

    The cars are getting very similar everyday that banning refueling may just result in a very boring race. Cars may just finish the race in the same position they started from.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th March 2008, 11:20

    Qualifying fix expected for Bahrain.

  4. NO WAY, keep tyre change and refuelling, otherwise it would be a procession from start to end!
    The little twists in the pitlane make F1….eg Lewis at the weekend, had to work harder than normal and showed he has actually got some fight in him!
    It all adds to the excitement of the race.

  5. Ogami said on 25th March 2008, 11:37

    I’m not in favour, for two reasons, first this year a ban on refueling would result in almost no overtakings, but well yes you’re right next year that could be an option.

    However i think it would tend to make car slower and since we’re already to have slower cars next year i think that’s enough.

    Also i like the strategy dimension as said for example one of the very few highlights of malaysia GP is that kimi raikkonnen had to dash while felipe massa was in the pit stops.
    I like that "do x laps at that pace" thing, and if i remember correctly that’s what the race engineer of lewis hamilton said exactly during the last Gp, something like "give me 5 more laps like this and you’re good".

    I think that’s quite fun, after all racing is also about driving.

    Overall i ask you keith, if we have good aeros (logically next year) and refueling, don’t you think we can have both of the worlds?

  6. 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.

  7. Rick DeNatale said on 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.

  8. FLIG said on 25th March 2008, 12:28

    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Nautilus said on 25th March 2008, 13:01

    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

  12. Fred B said on 25th March 2008, 13:20

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. @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.

  15. BigG said on 25th March 2008, 13:44

    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…

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