The cost-cutting plans: refuelling ban

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Refuelling will be gone in 2010. Three cheers!
Refuelling will be gone in 2010. Three cheers!

Two months ago Max Mosley rubbished FOTA?s suggestion that refuelling during F1 races could be banned.

Now a refuelling ban is on the cards for 2010. What has brought about the happy change of heart at the FIA?

As with tyre warmers I think banning refuelling will both improve the F1 spectacle and reduce costs.

Adds nothing to the spectacle

Since 1994 the FIA has clung to a notion that refuelling somehow adds to ‘the spectacle’ of F1. I don’t see how – in fact, I think it shows a complete failure to understand what is truly spectacular about motor racing. If you want to go to a race and see something stunning, watch the drivers brushing the barriers at Monaco, or twitching through Eau Rouge in the damp, or slipstreaming each other at 200mph. Watching a couple of guys pump petrol into a car isn’t spectacular. You don’t get crowds of people standing around filling stations.

I don’t want ‘interesting strategies’ I want pure, unadulterated, heart-pumping racing.

The FIA doesn’t seem to understand this. Back when it surveyed the fans on what they wanted from F1 in 2005 and 2006, it never even bothered to ask whether anyone liked refuelling. When FOTA first raised the possibility of banning refuelling Max Mosley said rather sniffily that he would not consider proposals that threatened to change ‘the show’.

Either he has been convinced that refuelling will not affect the show, or it will improve it, or FOTA have got the better of him politically.

A worthless cost

I expect the decision to drop refuelling isn’t about spectacle, it’s about cutting costs. At present each team has two refuelling rigs, meaning a total of at least twenty that have to be flown and driven around the world. They only make races interesting when they fail (and they do that too often – remember all the fires at Hungary this year?) so they are not worth having around.

More good news: at a stroke it would make qualifying better by removing the confusing, excitement-sapping ‘race fuel’ element. And it would largely solve the problem of drivers having to pit for fuel during pit lane closures and getting penalties.

The FIA has also said it will conduct research into whether F1 races should be shorter. There is no reason why Grands Prix would need to be shorter if refuelling were banned – race were not made longer when refuelling was introduced in 1994. The teams would simply have to use larger fuel tanks in 2010, and there’s plenty of time for them to factor that into their designs.

Getting rid of refuelling would be worth doing even if it cost money. As it is, this is a win-win scenario for F1, and I looked forward to refuelling-free racing in 2010.

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62 comments on “The cost-cutting plans: refuelling ban”

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  1. If there’s no refuelling how many times will drivers come in to change tyres? I’m in favour of the refuelling ban, but is it possible that if overtaking doesn’t improve with the new regs we could have processional races from start to finish?

    I also noticed that market research might determine whether races should be shortened. I hope Max doesn’t get the idea that a shorter race makes for a better TV show.

    1. but is it possible that if overtaking doesn’t improve with the new regs we could have processional races from start to finish?

      My thoughts exactly.

  2. Surely no refuelling means shorter races?

  3. Do you thik this could possibly have anything to do with Ferrari twice making refuelling mistakes?? maybe Max thinks that if he takes away refuelling, he’ll remove more opportunities for Ferrari to lose races??

  4. Given that there is a single tyre supplier, surely the graining rate of the tyres could be controlled so that the optimum strategy would involve pitting for tyres at least once. If it comes to that.

    Before control tyres, it is even more likely that tyres would not last the entire race. Competing suppliers would focus on eking out the last possible ounce of performance, rather than opting for conservative designs that will be more durable.

  5. Watching all the old F1 videos from when there was no refuelling it led to exciting finishes,
    the leader trying to preserve what fuel he had whilst second place is catching him will lead to great drama.
    plus any one remember the famous Monaco race(can’t remember what year now) when it five or so leaders in the last lap because they all ran out of fuel.

    Good on you Max!!!
    The right outcome for the wrong reason.

  6. Ratboy, it was 82. Thanks to a last minute rain not unlike the ones we got at Spa and Interlagos this year, Both Prost and Patrese spun, while De Cesaris and someone else went out of fuel and Patrese who TV didn’t notice manage to restart his car ended up winning (his 1st win). I think one can still find this on you tube, Murray Walker completely lost at what is going on at the track is pretty funny.

  7. I am too young to remember the times of fefuelling-free racing, but I think that with no fuel strategies it will be very easy for a faster car to stay behind trying to overtake slow cars.This plan can be only good if the 2009-changes actually increase overtaking(which I don’t think so).Also sponsors like BR(man with yellow shirt in Williams pit-stops) Mobil 1 , Shell will be very dissapointed because in a pit-stop they now have their OWN MAN working for the team ,he will not be necessery in 2010.

  8. Surely no refuelling means shorter races?

    In a word, no.

  9. In a word, no.

    Well put. Three more words – bigger fuel tanks.

  10. HounslowBusGarage
    12th December 2008, 22:21

    But it does mean either refuelling after qualifying, or Q3 qualifying with full tanks.

  11. Terry Fabulous
    12th December 2008, 22:24

    This will force Lewis into a refinement of his driving style since he is quite rough on his boots.

    And Kimi will have to pass people on the track!

    Great news though.

  12. So far, teams would still have to pit for tires. The proposal doesn’t include not stopping for tires. And we all remember how more “exciting” racing was in 2005. The tires were compromised and safety was affected. It’s going to be the same with heavy fuel loads, we won’t see exciting racing throughout the grand prix, they’ll be so heavy and bloated to do anything it won’t even be funny.
    And now days the fuel systems are so precise that it will be very hard for a team to “run out of fuel” in the closing laps of a race. Telemetry now days will completely eliminate the only exciting part of yesteryear racing.
    Also Keith, everyone but two (I think there are only two fuel rig guys) would be included in the pit stop. Everyone else will have to be there to change tires. So a team thinking of saving money by banning refueling is a pretty dumb idea. They’re going to use just as much or even more fuel than before to MAKE SURE they get to the end.

    I’m against the refueling ban. How many times have we seen drivers come out ahead or behind due to the pit stops this year; Canada, Valencia, Hungary, Singapore, are only a few that come to mind, and those are the deal breakers, there are probably many other times where refueling helped some cars move up a few spots. And I have a soft spot for BMW, who this year was undoubtedly the fastest pit stop team. What’s going to happen to teams who base their strategies on refueling?

    I’m too young to the non-refueling days, but I think those who believe that it’s going to be like “the-good-‘ol-days” again are going to be in for a big surprise.

  13. HounslowBusGarage
    12th December 2008, 23:17

    Ccolanto, there’s no such thing as ‘the good ol’ days’. I know, I was there.
    With this particlar regulation, I think the devil will be in the surrounding detail; whether they allow post-qualifying refuelling, whether they still require two types of tyre compound to be used, whether there will be a restriction on fuel tank size etc. We will have to see, but you have to applaud the intention which is to keep cars on track more and to force position changes onto the track and out of the pits.

  14. Good point Josh J. I just don’t think these guys have thought things through enough. Oh well, we’ll see.

  15. swapping position because a longer fuel stop isn’t racing!
    And if you read the article you must have read that costs will be cut!
    The rigs + transport and less people will be needed during a stop (will probably be regulated)

  16. Robert – According to the ITV website…

    A ban on refuelling stops is the headline announcement, meaning that from 2010 cars will have to run on the same tank of fuel for the entire race distance for the first time since 1993.

    The change may also lead to a reduction in the distances or duration of races, a proposal on which the FIA says will be submitted following market research.

  17. Keith, isn’t this going to increase cost for the teams. What it means is that all the design process going into building the 2009 cars will be wasted as new cars have to be built for 2010. Does this help the smaller teams in any way?

  18. Ccolanto –

    they’ll be so heavy and bloated to do anything it won’t even be funny.

    Ayrton Senna had a full tank of fuel during the first lap at Donington Park in 1993, and he did alright. Racing drivers are still racing drivers even with a heavy fuel load.

    Solid –

    swapping position because a longer fuel stop isn’t racing!


    Manatcna – The statement from the FIA lists the refuelling ban and potential shortening of the races as two separate things. Given that one has been decided and the other is being given further thought, I don’t think it follows that a refuelling ban must lead to shorter races.

  19. Oliver – Surely given that practically every team builds a new car design each year it wouldn’t make a difference?

  20. This gives the better teams an even greater competitive advantage on the track if its pure performance and no strategy. There will be even less passing and fewer variations at the top since all will be on the same strategy.

    I might be the only one, but I do not like it. Underdogs stand no chance as is in this sport, no wonder Honda quit. Get ready for an even smaller car count. The sport might be getting less expensive, but who on earth wants to sponsor a car with no chance?

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