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. Hurray for this decision.

    I don’t know why people complain about the cars being heavy with fuel and slow. They won’t be slow… they’ll still do 200mph in a straight line, and they’ll only get faster and faster during the race.

    Plus like Ratboy mentioned, you get thrilling finishes to races where one or two might start to slow or drop out due to empty tanks.

    Plus it means the pit crews can wear their t-shirts and shorts for the tyre changes again.

  2. I wonder what tyre options there will be under the new rules. Will there be a super hard tyre that is predicted to last the full race distance, a medium that is predicted to last 75% and a soft that will go to 50%? this would add an interesting strategy element no?

    Could we have a situation where a driver in second place opts to stop for new tyres because that should make them much faster, but a pit stop in time behind, and with him having done so the driver in first place can’t stop because the time it would take to pit would mean he would then be second place?

    I still think there is the potential for strategy here.

  3. I have never seen races of the ‘good old times’; so seeing everyone excited about this ban seems a little amusing to me.

    Ban on re-fuelling would mean lesser overtaking at the start of the races;isn’t it?

    About the end of the races being exciting.. by that time; haven’t all drivers moved atleast 20-30 seconds adrift of each other by then? (Like we see now)

    Plus; cost of developing a radical new design again for the cars.

    Anyways; I will reserve my judgement till I watch a race with all these new rules enforced

  4. naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
    i lub the stategy portion in the game :(
    i will keep my fingers crossed the whole 2009, i hope its not finalized

  5. Is there a potential risk of F1 becoming too much of an ‘economy formula’ with the absence of refuelling? It solves a lot of problems (especially Q3 and the safety car rules) but it places a huge emphasis on fuel and tyre conservation. Surely that will encourage drivers to take it much easier than they do now because there will be an advantage in doing so. Personally, I’d like to see the fastest driver win the race, not the driver who looked after his fuel and tyres the most.

  6. its not about refuelling its about pitting. ban that. It might kill Kimi’s career at a stroke but tough. Single lap qualifying killed Coulthard. I largely applaud the new rules. F1 had gone down a cul de sac with incremental changes the order of the day. Id like to see the spiritual successors to Chapman & Murray come back to F1 where we’d have cars appearing with crazy changes that pulversie the opposition before being banned.

    Whisper it quietly but Max has got it right.

  7. MartyP – In my opinion, the winner should be the driver who can conserve his fuel and tyres and be extremely fast at the same time. That is true skill to me.

  8. its A skill but f1 needs more giles vileneueve’s than it needs more alain prosts

  9. Nice to hear about the refuelling ban. But how will this affect the plank wear? Before 1994 the cars used to drag along the ground because of all the fuel they had + the low ride height. Or am I missing something?

  10. I forget how long I’ve been watching sometimes. Guys and Gals, seriously, full tanks barely affect anything. The V12 was still viable in the old days; and to the viewer there is no noticeable difference in the speed of the cars, or their ability to overtake. Alain Prost said his FW15 was better on a full tank through Eau Rouge than when it was light, as an illustration.

  11. TMFOX – Raise the ride height slightly. The downforce is considerably greater than the actual weight of the car anyway.

  12. TMFOX,
    This year there is going to be less downforce as well isn’t there, therefore the cars are already a bit higher at top speed, not much but a bit.

  13. ah geez, Keith…………this is the best line yet!

    You don’t get crowds of people standing around filling stations.

    (Actually, in my little town you do get crowds standing around at a gas station, but in my little town it only takes two to make a crowd)

    Where does the initial fueling take place now, and where will it take place after the ban on refueling during the race?

    Remove all that fuel from the pits…it carries with it the potential for catastrophe unlike anything seen in F1 history. (Please don’t point out that the fuel rigs are accident proof)

  14. MartyP –

    it places a huge emphasis on fuel and tyre conservation.

    I don’t think it will place an emphasis on fuel conservation, as there isn’t a limit on the amount of fuel a car can carry.

    TMFOX – I guess they’ll have to use higher ride heights.

  15. Don’t forget about the SC.

    No more podiums decided by the moment SC showed up. No more disscussions about if stewards decissions benefits more one driver than the others. And no more drivers driving really fast with SC on the track, because of any strategy thing.

  16. Will they still have to use hard and soft tyres during the race i.e. at least one tyre stop will be mandatory?

    Also: At what point will their tanks be sealed? I’m thinking of a situation where a wet race is possible. Some teams may wish to gamble on a low fuel load in anticipation of a slow race. Obviously, they will want to wait until the last minute before deciding.

  17. Im not optimistic. Whatever “real” racing is supposed to be like, I think we’ll see more processions. The new competition dynamic will be tire degradation. Since there is only one tire maker, there will be no real diversity of tire strategy, just as with the “option” tire business. So there will be nothing to heterogenize performance curves over race distance now.

    And I actually think the fuel strategy issues made passing more imperative because (in some circumstances i.e., for Trulli Train victims) it had to be done by a certain point, rather than just eventually. See, e.g., Turkey, Singapore, Hockenheim.

  18. Banning fuel stops is the best change of the lot. They should have done it years ago.

    Everyone uses fuel at the same rate, but the drivers make the difference with tyre wear. I hope there’s a choice of hard and soft tyre, and fuel isn’t limited – I remember it being deadly dull watching drivers trying to save fuel in the 80s.

    Those fuel rigs must have ruined many teams’ races over the years, and always looked cheap, cumbersome and out of place next to the cars with their miniature engines and perfect aerodynamics.

    And tyre-only pit stops will be properly spectacular again. The best pit crews were down to 5-second tyre stops before refuelling was brought in – wonder how quick they’ll be now?

  19. @ anthonyb

    its A skill but f1 needs more giles vileneueve’s than it needs more alain prosts

    Well Hamilton’s not a bad start! But seriously, I agree that refuelling adds very little to the show of contemporary F1. Why risk an overtaking move when a quick in and out lap plus some speedy pit work will do the job for you with less risk? The whole setup of modern Formula One seems designed to actively discourage ‘racing’. Give me sports cars any day (where, you’ll note they have refuelling and ‘tactics’ out of necessity – but then they also have abundant overtaking).

  20. Will they be able to run out of fuel?
    In MotoGP they have electronics that control how much fuel they are burining and if they would run out of fuel before the end of the race, the electronic limit the amount of fuel used to ensure that they make it to the end of the race.

    That would be funny if all of the cars finished the race but ddin’t make it back to the pits.

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