Refuelling rig fires and failures hit race

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Several drivers had their Hungarian Grand Prix spoiled by problems with the refuelling equipment – which worryingly caused a number of fires.

Sebastien Bourdais, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg were among the drivers affected. But what was the cause of the problems?

Sebastien Bourdais was the first to suffer a problem when he pitted on lap 31. Fuel leaked from the vale and caught fire, and the team doused the car with extinguisher foam before sending him back on track again. It happened again at his second stop as well, as he explained afterwards:

It all went to hell at the first pit stop, as the guys had to use the fire extinguisher and I got a lot of foam on my visor.

It happened again at the second stop and this time I had foam inside and outside my visor and couldn’t see a thing so had to make another stop to get it cleaned.

Rubens Barrichello also suffered a fire when he pitted and the team had to switch to the reserve fuel rig to get fuel into the car.

Team boss Nick Fry suggested the problem was caused by the heat at the Hungaroring causing leftover fuel in the system to expand, causing the valve to malfunction. But although the temperature was above 30C, it’s not unusual for F1 races to be held in hotter weather.

Honda had a problem with their fuel rig in the British Grand Prix as well, and afterwards Ross Brawn said Barrichello would have finished second that day (instead of third) without the delay.

Nico Rosberg was also delayed by a problem with his refuelling rig, although there was no fire.

I’ve never been a fan of refuelling – I think it brings nothing to F1 except for an added expense and safety hazard. To me this is just another good reason to get rid of it.

35 comments on “Refuelling rig fires and failures hit race”

  1. Phil – I think that would be the quickest way of making refuelling less reliable, more dangerous and more expensive. The teams would be trying to increase fill rates to crazy speeds and there would inevitably be more problems. If one company with 15 years’ experience making rigs for ten-plus teams can’t get it right, then each team working on their own won’t do any better.

  2. Keith: Couldn’t disagree more. The teams are already responsible for one half of the refuelling system: The fuel tank, the valve and everything else downstream from the nozzle. How many times does that brake? Hardly ever.

    Why do the team created cars only explode in fireballs when they are connected to the FIA created rig?

    Cars that explode cause the loss of staff and victories. No team wants to do that. The ‘one company with 15 years experience’ isn’t exposed to competition, that’s why it can’t get it right.

    Do you really think it’s that difficult to quickly refuel a car? I don’t.

  3. If they still have to stick to a certain fill rate limit then maybe I can see your point, but I still think it would be more expensive than having a single supplier.

    But then I’m not interested in making refuelling better, I’m interested in getting rid of it!

  4. I actually wouldn’t mind if they got rid of it, after all it is a little artificial but I think most of the problems people are bringing up could be fixed by letting the teams have control of the rigs. It would be easy to limit the flow rate by simply checking the fuel level in the bowser before and after and dividing by rig-to-car-contact-time.

    My biggest frustration is that races are affected so frequently by something outside of the team’s control. To me it’s like advertising hoardings falling down and taking out competitors every other race or so…..

    Also it seems strange to me that of all the complex problems solved by the teams this one is beyond them because of an FIA statute that has so clearly and spectacularly failed to deliver its aim of ‘safety’ for 15 years.

    If the teams can work out a way of sending an employee into a concrete wall at 150mph unscathed they can get ~60 litres of fuel into a tank in ~6 seconds.

  5. I wonder if marketing has anything to do with refueling. Maybe the petrol sponsors like Shell want some action. A good idea for Bernie would be to allow the fuel providers to build the rigs. That way the announcer could say that a Shell rig just pumped a half a race of fuel in seconds.

    Bernie if you make money of of this cut me a small share.

    they made Bridgestone tires exciting with the two differently compounds and here is a way to make fuel exciting as well. Only thing is, what di you do if the rig kills someone. That would be a massive backfire.

  6. Robert McKay
    4th August 2008, 19:34

    If we’re talking about real-world applications…the average person doesn’t need to fill a car tank in 8 seconds flat. They need a car that does 30% more miles to the gallon.

    Anyway, it doesn’t make the racing any more interesting. Maybe 10 years ago, when genuine different strategies were at play, but “the top 10 pitting a bit early, one or two laps apart, and the bottom 10 pitting later” isn’t strategy.

  7. Fuel Stops are all part of the strategy i love in F1, cars blazing down pit lane, what burns my but is the ‘Safety Car’ bs! keep the slower billboards off the track! OK max 3 laps, once the commentators start grumbling and complaining about the need and or amount of laps SC pulls.

  8. Clearly what we need is to remove that crap where anyone qualifies on race fuel.

    There should be at max 4 laps of fuel in a car when it qualifies. That way we’d see real fuel stratagies again.

  9. Qualifying with race fuel is, since the demise of ‘fuel burn’, the most ridiculous aspect of F1.

    I actually like knock-out qualifying but the whole idea of building the tension through the session is hampered for me by the fact that they can frequently go faster in Q2 than Q3. What were they thinking when they brought that in?

  10. just had an epiphany, which is probably way off base, but hey i shall share because i care x.

    at what point does the fuel used reach flashpoint?, and does the 5% biofuel make it EVEN MORE combustible?, also the 1% that they oil companies can change… does that increase the above as well!?

    also, the fuel goes into the F1 cars pretty much right next to the vented exhaust system, the hottest part of the car.

    So my point is, do certain teams use additives that make the fuel reach flashpoint at a lower temperature?

  11. Sush: I would expect the teams to use fuel that has a high flash point allowing for higher cylinder pressure and temperatures.

    A fuel with a low flashpoint would be unstable and could ignite before the desired ignition point.

  12. Re-fueling should be banned as it stops cars trying to overtake on the track. Re-designing cars to have bigger fuel taks is simple we used to have them before pointless pit stops were introduced. Max wants to cut downforce well guess what happens to downforce if you stick a bigger fuel tank in the middle of the car.

    I would dispute the assumption that a smaller tank is necessarily more fuel efficient. If both cars are driven the same way that is the case but that isn’t what happens. Drivers push much harder because they know they have to build a gap before the pit stops. If you ban re-fueling and ban tyre stops drivers have to preserve their tyres so don’t burn as much fuel.

    I want F1 races to be sorted on the track by the drivers not by a pit crew or by someone like Ross Brawn operating a driver by remote control.

    Gilles Villeneuve’s legendary win at Jarama in 1981 is revered because he kept 4 much faster cars behind him for the whole race and gave us a facinating afternoon we still think of 27 years later. Had there been tyres and fuel stops he would have been fifth at best after the first stop and would have been lucky to be in the to ten at the end.

    I believe the only way a driver should gain a place is by taking it from the driver in front by better driving(or mechanical faults etc). I don’t elieve that a driver should ever lose a place to a driver who is racing on another piece of tarmac due to some clever strategy. At Imola one year Schumacher went from 12th to 2nd and overtook one car. That is not how F1 should be. F1 should be about two drivers disputing the same piece of tarmac like Villeneuve and Jones did. We have great cars and great drivers now. Lets have them settle things on the track not in the pits.

  13. Polak, while I thank you for the reply, i already know that… i’m not actually as stupid as I seem.

    what I would like to know is, the teams with the problems,
    do their fuels reach flashpoint quicker? do those cars generate more heat? is the biofuel mixture aiding the process? also would this have happened 10 years ago before rory byrne introduced exhausts above the engine as apposed to in the diffuser like years gone by?.

    i say i’m not stupid but I ask alot of questions to a fuel expect would be childs play, lol, so i am stupid.

  14. Sush, in that case I’m afraid you will have a hard time getting an answer. You are looking for secrets hehe

  15. indeed, i’ll go investegate, surely there is something on the internet !

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