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. Next year, along with all the radical changes to the cars, refuelling should be banned.

    Qualifying in the same format as now, except all sessions will be low-fuel and no refuelling in the race.

  2. Another one of those debates that is a tricky one… lots of people have already said what I think already!  George K – refuelling isn’t mandatory now, but any quick bit of mental arithmetic shows that it is quicker, over a race distance to run a car on lighter weight levels for several shorter stints.  Given that you’d have to stop for tyres at some point, more than likely, you might as well take a couple of seconds extra and refuel.  The teams then deliberately build a car with a smaller fuel tank, which of course leads to aerodynamic benefits and weight saving.

    I’m not sure that refuelling has destroyed the racing.  Watch a video of any race from, say, the late 1980s and whilst there are some crackers, a great many of them were long, drawn out processions.  The myth of some golden age of overtaking, or whatever it is we are pining after, is exactly that – a myth.  I do agree that the current tyre regulations force most of the teams into the same strategy, with little room for flexibility.  This means that you are less likely to see a Nurburgring 1995 or a Magny-Cours 2005. 

    From a safety aspect – it is more dangerous, especially on the first lap, to have cars brim full with nearly 200 litres of fuel racing around than to have cars filled with, say, 50 litres of fuel on board.  Although there have been amazing advances in fire safety and a number of technologies that minimise the risk of a fire in the event of an impact, I would not like to see another accident in the manner of Berger’s massive shunt at Imola, 1989.

    And, let’s face it, before we deride the current generation of drivers for using strategy to win a race, let us not forget that the great Juan Manuel Fangio won a number of victories through daring use of different strategies.  His final, and greatest Grand Prix win came at the Nurburgring in 1957, where he stopped for fuel, whilst the Ferrari’s didn’t.  If the pitstop hadn’t been botched, he’d have won the race at a canter.  As it was, he produced one of the finest displays of high-speed driving that has ever been seen…

    Swings and roundabouts.  Though, the sooner they ban race fuel in qualifying the better.  That really should be about who is the fastest!

  3. Steven Roy said on 26th March 2008, 13:35

    I have not had time to read the comments so I am probably repeating what others I have said. 

    I am in 100% agreement re-fueling must go.  It adds nothing but ruins races.  I would ban all planned pit stops.  To me a grand prix is two dozen drivers racing from the grid to the flag unaided.  I have discussed this on a couple of sites but it bears repeating.  Imagine Gilles Villeneuve’s iconic drive at Jarama in 1981 with pit stops.  Instead of Gilles holding of a string of following cars by superbly positioning his car and winning in a car that had no right to be in the top half of the grid he would have lead into the first stop.  After the first stop he would have been fifth at best and after a second stop he could have finished 12th and no-one would have noticed.

    The idea that overtaking didn’t happen in the past is wrong.  Up until ground effect came into being at the end of the 70s it was not uncommon for the number of changes of leader in a race to be well into double figures.  There was a website that logged the changes of leader at the start line of every GP.  At Monza there were regularly 30+ changes of leader at the start line.  Multiply that by moves elsewhere and changes of other positions and you get an awful lot of overtaking.  I really must try and find that site again.  There is a reason why people rave about those Monza slipstreamers.  Overtaking at other tracks may not have been as easy but it happened regularly.

    There is a famous quote by Gilles Villeneuve which debunks the myth that the lack of overtaking is a recent phenomenon.  He said something like ‘The trouble with modern race cars is that the front wing is so sensitive that if you get too close behind another car in a corner you lose grip and the car understeers.  As a result you lose contact with the car and cannot slipstream it down th straight and overtake into the following corner.’  Max and co have consistently over the past 20 years put out the story that overtaking has become more difficult in the last 5 years but before that it was OK so a minor tweak here and there will sort it.  Gilles died in 1982.  The problem has been around for a very long time.  His solution was to take the wings and throw them away.  Don’t modify them bin them.  He wanted to fit 5 litre normally aspirated engines and big wide slick tyres.  Increase the mechanical grip and reduce the aero.  26 years on and we are still going in the opposite direction.

    Re-fueling pit stops were one of the little tweaks added to patch up the ‘show’.  Proper technical regulations would give us proper racing and we can get rid of many of the current abberations.  There is a belief in some sectors that to make radical change to the essence of F1.  It seems odd to me that so many people are attached to rules and regulations drawn up by people they despise.

    Reduce the aero + increase the mechanical grip = proper grand prix racing.

    Forza Gilles

  4. Green Flag said on 26th March 2008, 14:22

    Alan – the difference is that the extra power in the A1 GP cars (like the push-to-pass on Champ Cars) uses more fuel while the extra power from the F1 KERS uses no fuel since it’s regenerated power.

  5. josie said on 26th March 2008, 16:25

    HI To ban refuelling would make formula one racing a joke,these cars drive faster on the straight  than the speed at which an  aircraft takes off which is around 168 mph,and you want them bigger clumsier and slower, to accomodate the tanks,you can have that in champ car. bigger and uglier,I have followed gp racing for 4 nearly 5 decades,the cars are now being driven as they should by the drivers using their skill, leave it at that for a few seasons.never in the history of GP1 has so much change been forced on so many by so few, cheers josie

  6. Something to consider:

    People want F1 to be about constructors designing great cars as well as about great drivers driving them. Can you imagine F1 with one centrally-supplied car design like A1GP or in the US? Me neither.

    But that means some cars will be faster than others.

    People also want qualifying to be about cars going as fast as they can.

    But that means the fastest cars qualify at the front.

    And people also want overtaking. Natural overtaking that comes from drivers racing naturally, not from some heavy-handed manipulation like reverse grids.

    Alas – you can’t have both. If you want overtaking and wheel-to-wheel racing, you have to either fiddle the grid or equalise the cars – anything else, like banning or requiring refuelling stops, is just tinkering. But to equalise the cars you have to hobble the constructors. And the more successful you are at doing that, the more you kill what makes F1 unique.

    Cap the teams’ development budgets, force them into using blander dependable equipment that lasts several races, or prevent them from innovating by requiring them to use standard parts, and you remove a lot of the incentive for a big automotive brand to take part. You may well get a great racing series from doing it but it won’t be F1, the pinnacle of motorsport, any more.

    Is there an answer? I don’t think so. You just have to hope that economic conditions are such that several teams can all afford the price of developing state-of-the art cars.

  7. Steven Roy said on 27th March 2008, 12:29

    Moto GP has manufacturer bikes, fastest guy at the front of the grid etc etc but they have overtaking.  Formula Ford at its peak had half a dozen manufacturers and overtaking all through the grid.

    The problem with F1 is there is way too much aero influence.  It really isn’t any more complex than that.  In the days when there was a lot of overtaking in F1 (and it did happen) we had all the same elements we had now other than advanced aero, random chicanes  and pit stops breaking the race up.

  8. I’m against the re-fuel ban..

    I few comments further up say about “conserving fuel” and limiting fuel tank size to make teams develop more eco engines.. What a load of rubbish.. I don’t wanna see a race between a load of toyota prius’s!!

    Let the teams have to work out they’re stratigies.. Let the back runners take a gamble and re-fuel and put dry tyres on extra early.. Keep the race totally un-expected and random..

    otherwise, yes it will be the fastest man out there who win’s qually and yes the fastest man will win the race..

    And there will be no other excitement within the race apart from the first lap tumbles..

  9. Darrell said on 4th December 2009, 12:02

    I have been following Formula one for many many years now and have seen re-fueling not refueling and the races that stand out as the best are those with no re-fueling stops. To stop the race being a procession it may be that the points system needs to be looked at to force drivers to go for an overtake to gain significantly more points that on offer now.

    example.

    1st 20
    2nd 15
    3rd 10
    4th 6
    5th 5
    6th 4
    7th 3
    8th 2
    9th 1

    a point for pole and a point for fastest lap.

    this would then force drivers to go for it rather than sitting back happy with the place. the man in 3rd is not going to want the man in first to potentionally gain 10 points on him. it would also make them go for it in qually and the race to gain maybe 2 extra points

  10. bruffdudg said on 4th December 2009, 21:59

    goodness gracious ,when is this sport going to be given a break from constant rule changing ,not always for the better ,cant see owners being to happy at a car being totalled for a point,unless like senna you want to steal a champion ship anyhow possible

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