The cost-cutting plans: refuelling ban

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

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

  2. Ratboy said on 13th December 2008, 14:03

    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.

  3. theRoswellite said on 13th December 2008, 16:05

    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)

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th December 2008, 18:01

    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.

  5. frecon said on 13th December 2008, 20:12

    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.

  6. martinb said on 13th December 2008, 20:45

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. Speed Demon said on 14th December 2008, 22:35

    @ 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).

  10. Crockett said on 15th December 2008, 4:52

    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.

  11. Good, I am glad this is on the cards, and I think FOTA (and especially Ferrari) would have pointed out how UNSAFE refueling is, and always was, and if Max only wanted ‘the show’ to include cars and drivers being incinerated on a regular basis, he either has a very low opinion of the fans, or has some very strange ideas about entertainment (oh, but then again he does!)
    Also of course, it gets rid of the expense of paying the supplier of the fuel rigs, and the extra pit crew required to use it.
    It should also mean that drivers have to return to the days of driving fast but conserving tyres, and any pit stop in a race is an uneccessary hindrance. Although I am sure the two compound rule will stay – but how will the difference be shown on slick tyres??

  12. The main plus point for me with a ban on refuelling is the return of low fuel qualifying, we will finally get to see who is quickest at each circuit, just like it used to be. It will also solve the problem of drivers having to pit under a safety car and so ending up being penalised.

    Although it will mean an end to teams opting for different fuel strategies which I have mixed feelings about. However if the rule of having to use both types of tyre during a race stays then there still may be a small amount of strategy to play about with.

    I started watching F1 in 1991 but I was too young to remember how much of a difference refuelling made. One of the earliest races that sticks in my mind was when Senna ran out of fuel so Mansell gave him a lift back to the pits at Silverstone 1991.

  13. vvroomee said on 18th December 2008, 17:09

    No refueling is a step in the right direction. Now if they want F1 technology to carry over to the real world they need to slowly decrease the maximum allowable fuel tank size over a number of years. This will force teams to develope more efficient race cars based on technology that could benefit the entire planet.

  14. It always surprises me how many people enjoy the fuel stop strategy aspect of the current rules. But each to their own. For me, it’s decided by the techies and their input with F1 should end once the green light comes on – then it’s down to the drivers. Summed up by McLaren’s team of boffins sat in a room at the factory deciding when is best to stop – they aren’t even at the track!

    Great news about the refuelling ban, let the advantage come from better use of tyres and if there’s going to be an overtake, let it happen on the track.

    And FINALLY, we can end all the speculation about who’s qualifying lap was quickest. Nor will drivers be able to claim they were “satisfied with race strategy”, suggesting they were fastest after qualifying 4th.

  15. I think this is ruining the sport. Max Mosley is letting ferrari win at all costs, this meaning the fuel hose wont put the ferrari down to 14 from 1

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