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. Daniel said on 25th March 2008, 14:36

    ‘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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Green Flag said on 25th March 2008, 15:56

    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.

  5. Green Flag said on 25th March 2008, 16:10

    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.

  6. Number 38 said on 25th March 2008, 16:40

    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.

  7. Dan Brunell said on 25th March 2008, 16:51

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Manatcna said on 25th March 2008, 21:55

    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

  11. Short answer – NO – leave it alone – in fact bring back another tyre supplier as looking at this years tyres they degrade alarmingly quickly or just dont grip – when you are a sole provider why spend money in developing better mixes and co – operating closely with certain teams??(oops was it the ferrari teams supplier that was kept?)

  12. ps kers sucks – it contradicts the whole point of motor racing  – ie he who is fastest wins – not the most economical!!!

  13. Green Flag said on 26th March 2008, 1:02

    Arnet – The FIA have not prescribed any particular KERS technology, only that it cannot produce more than 60kW in motor or generator modes, that energy released from the KERS may not exceed 400kJ in any one lap and that the total amount of recoverable energy stored on the car must not exceed 300kJ, and recovery at a rate greater than 2kW must not exceed 20kJ.  This allows electric, hydraulic/pneumatic or flywheel based KERS to be employed. The issue that bothered Marmoroni is that only the rear wheels may generate or be powered by by the KERS, but, unless AWD is allowed in F1 that’s the way it is.

  14. Green Flag said on 26th March 2008, 1:10

    Alan – KERS is not about economy, it’s about additional power generation and will make the cars faster. A typical F1 engine puts out about 800 HP.  A good KERS will add 60 kW – about 80 HP – so that for a few seconds each lap a driver will have 880 HP available – what’s wrong with that?

  15. Green flag – doesnt that sound like the power button on A1 GP? – that series from next season will all have ferrari based cars – hopefully that avenue will allow ferrari to develop more reliability – if it gives more power ok – if it goes like that power button – keep it

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