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. Adam said on 17th April 2009, 13:56

    I completely disagree.!

    I dont know about anyone else but i kinda like the strategy elements of F1. I think most of the drivers are so closely matched that removing strategy options will make it all too predictable. I.e. At tracks where overtaking is very difficult(Hungary,Valencia etc) – the fuels stops i think are the most watchable parts of the race.
    Also, all this talk of drivers having to protect tyres more is a little worrying. I like F1 as a team vs team and not racer vs racer. If i wanted that then id turn my playstation on and turn the damage off.

    I dont want conservation – I want flat out racing

    • Nick said on 13th July 2009, 10:08

      completely agree! well put
      tacticsare the most exciting part of F1 and don’t be stupid with todays technology there’s no way that the teams will run out of fuel, besides the F1 people prob wont allow the cars to take risky fuel loads caz it will massive safety hazzard if a car infont of u all of a sudden stops in the middle of the track.
      + the drivers are already forced to protect tires and whats going to happen with full fuel loads. also they won’t save the cost of fuel hoses caz theil still have to fuel the cars and theil still have to have a spare one incase one goes wrong on race day, just caz they wont refuel during raced doesnt mean they wont re-fuel pre-race. also weather will have much more of an impact on fuel load therefore thweil have to leave fuelling as late as possible so theil have to invest in more proffesionals to manage their fuel so dont think this will actually save that much cost + they might lose sponsors…

  2. Maurice Henry said on 21st April 2009, 2:06

    If you want a vision of formula racing with no refuelling watch GP2 or A1GP. Some exciting races some dull races. That’s racing. The “good old days” led to a few exciting races at the end but not that many…rose tinted glasses are all the rage this year. Limiting fuel tanks to get fuel economy relevent to road cars? No, no, no. The best engine techies always won. 1984 Tag-Porsche; 1985 Tag-Porsche; 1986 Hon…I mean Tag-Porsche (so there’s always the odd blip); 1987 Honda; 1988 Honda; 1989 Honda – Are you seeing a pattern here?; 1990 Honda; 1991 Honda; 1992 Renault; 1993 Renault – I hope you get my drift. A classic non stopper – Hungary 1990, Italy 1991. The top three or four chasing each other for 80% of the race. I hope for 2010 they:
    (1) Do not reduce the race distances – why would people pay £100 to see a race reduced by up to 50Kms?
    (2) Allow unlimited fuel tank capacity – the bigger the tank the more of a weight penalty the driver had to carry around for the whole race back in the day – that’s one of the reasons why Ferrari saw the light and stopped building V12s after 1995. From the Gorgio Piola books I have, Sepang requires 170 kilos of fuel, for example.
    (3) Keep the prime and option tyre rule
    (4) Sort out whether KERS is really just a marketing gimmick or whether it should be the push to pass saviour of dull racing. I’m not convinced. Back in December on Radio 5 Live, I heard John Watson say engineers in one team had told him that they were going to throw the batteries away after every race! So much for saving money! And then during the Sebring 12 hour ALMS race Johnny Mowlem said that one manufacturer in F1 had spent around £50 million developing the system.
    (5) Cut revs again if they want to maintain engine life and cut rebuild costs for customer teams
    (6) This should probably have been number 1 – decide now whether or not double/triple deck diffusers are going to be illegal before the teams spend a gazzillion dollars on research in simulators and wind tunnels for next year. I know this is highly unlikely to happen but this is my fantasy, damn it.
    (7) Why is it I can watch a NASCAR race where they race for 500 miles and refuel from a fuel can that reminds me of a genetically modified bong a dozen times, but yet F1 must be pure and have no refuelling?

    With or without refuelling the tracks will have a big influence on how good the races are going to be.

  3. antonyob said on 21st April 2009, 9:00

    All very good points maurice but you miss the point. Non fad f1 watchers are quite happy if there are other important “outside” influences. The engines/tyres/engineers all impact the winningness of any driver and thats fine. If i want to watch a sport where man is the only influence i’ll watch the 100metres

    • Maurice Henry said on 21st April 2009, 17:07

      Fair point Anthony, but what I railing against was the idea that non stop F1 fuel economy races were ever that exciting on a regular basis. Putting my cards on the table I don’t mind refuelling where there can be variations in strategy, but I’m a realist and know that all those clever engineers in F1 will tend to find the one best way to do anything. Therefore you get predictability. So much so that the Gorgio Piola F1 Tech Analysis books haven’t bothered with a “Winning Strategies” chapter for the past two years (those covering 2006 and 2007). My suggestions were about what I hope will prevail if refuelling is banned.

  4. antonyob said on 21st April 2009, 17:19

    I agree, f1 when it was a marathon wasnt wall to wall excitement

    There are unintended consequences to any rule changes. I dislike pitstop overtakes more than anything else in F1 but id also bring back manual gearshifts and lose the power steering. Really downforce needs to be banned all together but im not sure its governable and we’d end up where we are now: One long squabble about anything and everything.

  5. O8h7w said on 26th April 2009, 17:30

    I’m worried about start action. When everyone starts with the very same amount of fuel (I doubt there is fuel efficiency differences between them) we won’t see all the overtaking in the beginning we are seeing right now, really, the cars will start to perform towards the end of the race when they’re further apart from each other. Doesn’t seem that fun to me.

  6. Maurice Henry said on 30th April 2009, 19:36

    My query has been answered. I am interested to see that people are constantly refering to the cars having the same weights at the start. Back in the turbo days fuel capacity was limited to 220 litres 1984-85, 195 litres 1986-87 and finally 150 litres 1988 (free for atmo powered cars). The secret to making this varied and “exciting” is to allow engine builders free reign by not enforcing a fuel tank limit. The performance imperative will always be the top priority. Economy will always equal less fuel at the start line with the consequence that you are not carrying a weight penalty around for the rest of the race. Remember the strategy info we get at each circuit about the weight penalty of 10kg of fuel. And don’t forget the “KERS system” that can give them that boost out of slow corners on full tanks. As for qualifying, the sensible thing – yes, I know that this is the FIA I’m talking about – to avoid teams spending money for no good reason is to:
    (1) Cars qualify in a low fuel shoot out in the same sequence as it is now. This will force teams to put their cars out in every segment of qualifying
    (2) Maintain the Parc Ferme conditions that exist today post qualifying
    (3) Teams fuel up their cars pre-race
    (4) Two compounds of tyre have to be used during the race
    (5) KERS energy store limit is doubled and its use still limited to 5 times a lap

  7. Billy7766 said on 1st May 2009, 13:06

    Urrrgghhh…..imagine a Micheal Schumacher era when there were no pit stops. The whole interest in F1 is strategy vs speed. If you take that away what’s the point? Also I really don’t see how 20 fuel rig transports per race add much when you consider the hundreds of people and millions of pounds (and lbs) of kit. This seems nonsensical.

    Also, as others have noted, starting loaded with fuel will make for limited overtaking at the start, and none later as the cars will be millions of laps apart.

    I’m all for low fuel maximum attack qualification but this is dumb, I think they just killed my sport by the back door

    • Maurice Henry said on 1st May 2009, 18:56

      You make some very valid points Billy. That’s why I think they’re trying to encourage the uptake of KERS. Of course the problem I can see is that a lot of engineers are looking at 2009 cars on lowish fuel strategies chewing up tyres because KERS compromises car layout. Imagine what it will do when you are carrying around 180kg-200kg of fuel? However, this may be offset by the power of KERS aiding midrange acceleration out of corners. The two compound rule is a backdoor method of instigating pitstops. It is stopping short of A1GP/DTMs mandatory pitstop windows. I agree that sometimes a non stop strategy would be exciting to see against a 1- or 2- stop strategy. However, next year we will see drivers have to conserve tyres, brakes, engines and fuel for a big push at different stages of the race.

  8. S. Wibberley said on 26th July 2009, 13:11

    Years ago they didn’t have fuel stops and the driver who got pole was often the driver who won, this made for a very boring procession of way to many laps. I see no reason why F1 should want to go back to this unless in my opinion it’s because their finding it to hard to fix the outcome anymore
    Racing its more like wrestling on wheels

  9. Horse said on 30th August 2009, 15:16

    Personally, I think that by loosing refueling, the races would be a lot less interesting. There would be much less action at the start, as being all the same weight there would be much fewer dramatic start of race place gaining. Strategy has also really become part of modern F1, it’s one of the most interesting things finding out who’s going to do a 2 stop/3 stop race, and guessing which driver out of 2 battling will stop first. If this comes into effect, it will be another rule that seems to have only been put in place to slowly destroy formula 1.

  10. Isn’t having a car extremely heavy on fuel would discourage drivers to overtake?
    And how much fuel is it going to take to complete the whole race? I hope they’re not planning to cut the number of laps…

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