Goodbye to?? refuelling

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa might not be too disappointed refuelling is being banned
Felipe Massa might not be too disappointed refuelling is being banned

It’s the last race of the season so we’ll be saying our farewells this weekend – some of the fondly, others not so much.

One goodbye likely to divide reaction among fans is the long-awaited banning of refuelling.

When we witness our final refuelling pit stop this weekend will we have lost something special from F1? Or, like me, will you be saying good riddance to the tedium of race refuelling strategies?

Refuelling was last banned at the end of the 1983 season. Today fans are likely to argue about whether it makes racing better or worse – but on that occasion it was banned because it was deemed unsafe.

Even 25 years later, safety is still a concern. During the last race at Brazil we saw Kimi Raikkonen’s car set alight when another was sent from the pits with a refuelling hose still attached.

This time refuelling is being banned to save money. Lugging two refuelling rigs per team to every race incurs huge freight costs, especially for flyaway races.

Banning refuelling is going to have a big affect on F1 and that will be the subject of a later article here.

But as F1 approaches its final race with refuelling I wanted to ask a different question – whether refuelling has become irrelevant as part of the F1 ‘spectacle’.

F1 coverage, in Britain at least, is much more sophisticated now than it was 15 years ago. We know how much fuel a car has at the start of the race, and when they make a pit stop we can predict quite accurately when they’re going to stop again.

So a change of position due to a refuelling stop becomes more or less inevitable. When Jenson Button beat Rubens Barrichello at Spain because he used a two stop strategy instead of three there was little excitement or surprise at the outcome – other than the fact that two team mates had been put on different strategies.

To my mind it’s been five years since anyone did anything remarkable with a pit stop strategy – when Michael Schumacher won with four pit stops at Magny-Cours.

I’ve got a list as long as my arm of reasons why I’m glad to see the back of refuelling. But the most compelling justification is that it’s always the same and no-one seems to be surprised by it any more.

Are you happy refuelling is going? Was Grand Prix racing better before 1994 or after? Share your reaction in the comments – and do mention whether you watched F1 before refuelling was brought back in 1994, and what you thought of it.


Read more on the 2010 F1 season

247 comments on “Goodbye to?? refuelling”

  1. I’m quite surprised at the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the ban. Among many, many other points, maybes and what ifs, two things: the cars will be more evenly matched (no big differences in fuel loads, no stretching out big leads on fuel strategy) and we will see their relative performance more clearly. The second thing is that the cars are going to be quicker and quicker as the race progresses, unfailingly, in every race, which in itself brings along a host of variables that at this stage no one can predict.

    For those of you who only began watching F1 with refuelling – you can’t know that it’s better if it’s all you’ve ever known.

    1. TODT should resign now!!!
      27th October 2009, 4:37

      Good for todt to make a stand and the willingness to take a risk and start something that adhere to his values instead of someone elses. I am sure the new refueling ban have alot of hicups but I for one will be looking forward to its growth and races!

  2. For me it adds a new dimension. Button may do very well again next year as he is very easy on his tyres which will play a big roll. Lewis for example is much harder on his tyres so it will be interesting to see what effect this maes next year. With no refuelling it will add more excitment as no one will really know if a driver has to pit again or not. Im looking forward to it myself.

    1. Urgh!!!! When will this hell end! refueling ban will never work.

      Todt needs de-throning – end of, then we can have a proper debate.

      As Martin Brundle puts it “Come on guys, lets take a sensible pill”

      What a way to overshadow the last Grand Prix of the season Shame!

  3. Make a tire that can last half the race, then make the other one that’s two seconds faster but lasts 5-10 laps. Then watch them go!

    1. I agree, and perhaps the best part is about hundreds of gallons of petrol being saved. Todt and Bernie were too big to think about that kind of stuff……

  4. You people are mad, refuelling doesn’t create racing, it creates strategy. Sorting the men from the boys in the pit lane is a sad way to race, I say sort the men from the boys on who can go race distance being fast with the petrol in the tank.

    Bring it on.

    1. It’s too bloody late in the night for me to wrap my head around this and all its implications now. I just know that it sounds fantastic, sounds very idealistic…if the ‘new refueling ban’ isn’t a massive bluff.

      Whatever happens now, I still support refueling and trust that this is the best course of action.

  5. The title of this article worries me, is the next one “Goodbye to… the British Grand Prix”?

      1. Lets hope that the refueling hold firm – a as exists now is not good for any sport
        One question – what tracks will be avaliable for the new series? Silverstone may get a GP next year after all and please bring back Nurburg, Montreal and maybe Adelaide!!!!!!

  6. I’m expecting a lot with the ban, maybe too much as there is always the problem that the cars will end pretty much the same as they still can’t or won’t overtake. This may not be that radical until the cars are tweaked or the tracks or both to aid overtaking but it will give the drivers a kick up the backside and show them they have to do the work on track.
    For all F1 is the very pinnacle of what is possible, or maths, engineering and pure racing. The fans of racing will want it gone and some will just love the element it brings to strategy (though drivers still have to put in the times to make strategy work).
    Having said all that there is still the issue of tyre strategy.

    1. Bye Bye Todt and Bernie… Hello refueling ban! :) I’m all for the the ban, if even after this call Todt and co refuse to give in. I’ll watch. Hopefully Sky TV here in New Zealand take up coverage of this ! (and keep F1 coverage, if Hesketh, Maserati,Shadow,AGS etc end up on the grid next year).

    2. I love the strategy aspect of Formula 1. No other sport I follow, crikcet, tennis has this intelligence aspect.

      But again, I haven’t seen any races without re-fueling. So, would love to see something new.

      Keith, could you tell us what happens in other open-wheel racing series, is re-fueling banned there as well? and has it caused improved racing.

      I ask this, since all reasons in favor of the ban on re-fueling state instances from the 80s or before. And the field then used to be over 4-5 seconds apart. So, the plenty of overtaking which happened then was due to lack of re-fueling or huge difference between car capabilites? We don’t know this for sure.

      Now, you see 1 second covering the 20 cars. Surely, overtaking is going to be million times difficult. Re-fueling made it easier. Without re-fueling, my guess is it will be even harder.

      But lets see, by May 2010, we should be able to conclude if this ban was good or bad. My hunch is, it is going to be bad.

      1. Keith, could you tell us what happens in other open-wheel racing series, is re-fueling banned there as well? and has it caused improved racing.

        There’s quite a bit of variety. I don’t think there’s any other single seater series like F1 which has refuelling and yet does not have large enough pit lanes for all the cars to be serviced at the same time.

        Indy Car racing (in its various forms through the years) has refuelling, but they have large enough pits for all the cars to be serviced at the same times. Generally they also have more safety car periods (‘cautions’), so drivers are more inclined to take a gamble on strategy.

        GP2 (which, for my money, offers the best pure racing of high-level single seater cometition) does not have refuelling.

  7. I’m happy with refuelling banning.
    It is because I remembre pre 1994 races, and they were really somehow different from now: you didn’t need to deal with strategy (it is something that to me is not spectacular at all) and the driver needed to “manage” the car all the race long. So it happened that a car that was slowest at the beginning went increasing through and through, and you say great recovery races.
    You may say that after all the drivers will need to change tyres, ans so they will need to pit again. But pitting for refuelling is very different from pitting for tyres: refuel is something that you can forecast, tyres wearing is much more unpredictable, and the driver has a lot to do with it with his driving style.
    And last but not least, the drivers will not be allowed to wait for pitting, to overtake somebody ahead. They will not be allowed to perform an overtake just by fueling for a shorter time…the will need to overtake on track!
    Wait and see…26 cars in one second and a half lap time and no refuelling should allow for exciting races.

    1. Good.

      refueling ban was always about racing & innovation.

      refueling was about politics and ego for too long.

      I wish the ban every sucess and look forward to the racing.

  8. David Sherwood
    26th October 2009, 22:07

    I am old enough to remember when there were no pitstops, not even for tyres and the only way to overtake was on the track. I would love to see that situation brought back as I have always felt overtaking in the pits to be cheating. However, I have to agree that with todays cars and a lot of todays circuits it would be boring – for the first year or so. Hopefully, if people were to stick with it, designers would be forced into producing cars that could overtake on the track. If they did not, they would not win races. It might be the best thing that could happen to F1 design in years.

    1. Terry Fabulous
      27th October 2009, 2:08


      As David Says, This should force designers to build cars that can maintain their speed in dirty air so they can overtake on the track.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        27th October 2009, 4:51

        Yeah, and that’s going to be cheap.

      2. we know it, explain that to FIA.

  9. HounslowBusGarage
    26th October 2009, 22:14

    Back in the mid-80’s when the turbo cars were around, there was limit on the amount of fuel that could be used during the race.
    This was intended to be socially responsible and to promote the efficiency of racing cars.
    However, the watching audience were treated to the pathetic sights of Formula 1 cars running out of fuel as they tried to finish the race.
    There were many other ocassions when lesser teams grabbed a moment of glory for their sponsors by allowing their drivers to turn up the boost and increase their fuel consumption. This extra performance would allow them to move towards the lead of the race and grab some TV time, before running out of fuel ten or so laps before the end.
    This was not good racing, and I fear that a prohibition on refuelling will allow this to happen again.

    1. Running out of fuel was caused by not taking on board enough fuel at the start. It had nothing to do with a fuel limit.

      I’d assume these days they know exactly how much fuel is still left in the car. They could tell the driver upfront to change to a different mix and save fuel.

      Although Massa had a fuel problem in Spain when he supposedly ran out of fuel, but Ferrari later claimed that he did have enough fuel after all. So maybe they don’t know and they just guestimate it?

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        26th October 2009, 22:44

        Not sure I agree with that. Cars were limited to 240 litres for the entire race in 84 and 85. I’m sure they loaded on the max, but it was the rate of burn that caused them to run out of fuel before the end of the race.

        1. Ah ok, I was thinking about the McLarens in 90 something.

          1. Several teams have pulled out their application to enter F1, Lola and N technologies, who is to say the others on the waiting list will not do likewise. They all are against refueling ban! can you believe that?

  10. The ban should shake things up a bit in that it brings out the best in some different drivers. Schumacher only won regularly after refuelling came in. I’ve read how Prost lost the 83 championship to a fuel-stopping Piquet, and he retired just before the return of refuelling (did he see it coming?) I’ll be interested to hear what Martin Brundle has to say: he raced both with and without refuelling.

    How many drivers had their race ruined by an FIA-supplied fuel rig that didn’t work? And how many times did James Allen tell us how excited we all were about cars 30 seconds apart on the track? The ban’s long overdue for me.

    I’m a bit concerned about the field spreading out and the fastest cars disappearing off, but now there’s always the threat of the safety car to close the field up. Particularly with drivers told to stay in their cars if they crash, and even more so if Piquet gets a drive…

    1. If Todt goes ahead with refueling ban (a possibility) then Alfa Romeo have a contract with FOCA, not bernie.

      Bernie also has the rights to the “Aston Martin” name

      In a way, ironically, the fans might actually need Bernie in order to keep the refueling. :(

  11. I can’t see the ban being a good thing. We do see overtaking now but this is usually a fast car overtaking a slow car, or a light fast car overtaking a heavy fast car. Once they were on the same strategy this year, we haven’t seen lots of overtaking, first lap aside.

    Next year, we’ll see the fast cars at the front. No doubt about it unless someone makes a mistake in qualifying due to all the cars making fast runs. That means fast cars at the front, slow ones at the back and around they’ll go. At least this year, if a driver in an average car put it in the Q3 they could have a chance of mixing it with the big boys with strategy.

    Do we think we’ll see a driver come through from the back of the grid and make it on the podium next year with no refuelling? It’d be magic if it happened but extremely unlikely.

    I think this years rules have been fantastic. Button dominated the opening events but after that there was a real sense that you wouldn’t know who would win a race, even if there was a fast car on pole, and that kept me watching till the wee hours (I’m in NZ).

    Aside from that I love watching F1 cause its awesomely fast, and yes I like the transfer of technology to road cars and all that but not at the expense of the driver having to take his foot of the gas to make it to the end. Is that racing? I can’t race with him because I won’t make the finish so I’ll let him past.


    1. Maurice Henry
      27th October 2009, 5:04

      I think the FIA have p****d off shell and mobil 1. The advanced nature of shell’s project showed their commitment but this was thrown aside more than likely due to previous actions on the part of both companies. Additionally, colin chapman has already commented on the adverse impact this war is having on signing title sponsors. How could any major business get involved with an FIA F1 WC with a potentially low quality fuel suppliers ? How could shell and mobil 1 now rustle up the finances to run in 2010?

      This IMHO is greatest example of brinkmanship I have seen in a while. Bernie has put the ball firmly in fuel suppliers court. Either they get rid of Todt and his cronies to keep the shell & mobil 1 or they suffer the massive negative publicity and associated financial loss in losing the big names in F1.

      Personally, I’m now at the point where I am so turned off by Max and Bernie, that I would rather watch FOTA’s championship than anything these two old, greedy fools have to offer. They’ve got to go. Now!

  12. I won’t miss refueling during the stops. Having cars on different fuel stops was an additional strategy factor, but I don’t consider it necessary for interesting racing.

  13. A couple of points need to be addressed in this debate:

    1.) pit-stops will matter even more.
    Drivers will have to make pit stops and how fast his crew can change tires will actually matter. Nowdays it is the same do they change them in 4 or 6 seconds, they allways have to wait for fuel hose to come out, a well trained crew could bring valuable seconds to the team.

    2.) faster cars in qualifying doesn’t mean that car will be faster in race.
    Setup is still fixed before the end of qualifying, teams shall face a choice – better qualifying position or better race-pace depending on will their car be tuned to work better with empty tank or heavy fuel load.

    3.) different cars will reach peak at different parts of the race.
    Some cars will work better with heavy fuel load so they would definitely put the faster tires in their early stint trying to take the most advantage of the period when their cars are fastest. They would want to make the big gap at the start of the race. Then there should be some good finishers who would be faster in lighter car so they would charge in the second part of the race (think Kubica at Australia this year).

    Maybe we are not even seeing some things teams will look to exploit, we all hope this will increase on-track battles and overtaking, honestly – I don’t find it very exciting to see will somebody make a stop on lap 13 or 14, especially as we know when will drivers stop and every team knows it too.

  14. The only concern I’ve got is that we’ll get back to the days of drivers backing off in the last half dozen laps to make sure they get to the end of the race. The days where the prospect of running out of fuel rather than finishing 7th were dreadful.

    1. The sri lankan
      27th October 2009, 5:06

      actually……does this mean teams will start work on a new car? im sure for most teams work on the the 2010 F1 challangers are underway but with a refueling ban in place what are the cars going to look like and whren does the work on them start? its quite late as it is to make another racing car th this stage especially for next year. any thoughts?

  15. Also, I just remembered why banning the refueling is cost-saving. Teams need to change the fuel rigs and it is a considerable investment for a piece of equipment that makes no increase or decrease of performance.

    1. Much as I think this showdown had to happen, for the good of the fans and the sport, it is terrible news for formula one isn’t it?

  16. I began following motorsport seriously in 1984 (@ age 12-13). As a US fan who watched Indycars, NASCAR, and F1 (it was great back in the 80s, as it was all on ESPN), the fact that Formula One didn’t have refueling seemed weird to me. The more I read, I understood about the pre-1984 safety concerns…but refueling isn’t inherently unsafe, so I thought it was a good thing when it was brought back in 1994.

    Was the racing any better or worse due to refueling? I’d have to say not really.

    I thought the racing was really good in the mid to late 80s when you had a solid group of good drivers (Prost, Senna, Piquet Sr., Rosberg Sr., Lauda, Berger, Mansell) who were threats to win every race and multiple makes who were competitive (McLaren, Brabham, Ferrari, Williams, Lotus).

    The racing got boring when one make got a competitive advantage over another, and that team dominated, as McLaren and Williams took turns doing from 1989, and Benetton and Ferarri did in the mid to late 90s. Adding refueling was an attempt to change that, but it really didn’t change much.

    Two keys for competitive races, IMHO. The first key is having competitive balance among the manufacturers, which we’ve had this year.

    The second key is tire variation. Bridgestone has to be made to bring tires with substantial differences between them next year, like a super soft vs. a hard tire. That will make for real differences in strategy (run fast on supersofts or longer on hards – do the long stint early or late? Do two stints of equal length? Do three?).

    Suggestion: a change that could make for better racing would be to have Bridgestone bring three compounds, and have the teams required to only use two of them (but maybe they could use all three). The surprise/strategy would be that we (and the other competitors) wouldn’t know if a driver was using hards/softs or mediums/softs or mediums/hards, or softs/softs/mediums, etc. That would add an element of drama. And teams could change strategy on the fly based on weather/changing conditions/safety cars/etc.

    Or, as someone said above, have a tire war. That would create drama, too.

    1. This is how I see it…

      1) The teams can’t afford to run two fuel pumps, will want to go with the refueling, but will need to get out of their contracts with Bernie
      2) Until they can get out of their contracts, the fuel suppliers will not commit to races with the teams.
      3) There is no rival fuel pump manufacturer until there is the budget cap is lifted.
      4) The sponsors will not want to spend any money until they are sure there is fixed fuel supplier.

      So we will have a stalemate. Meanwhile, the motorsport authorities will be putting pressure on Todt to resign. This means both sides will be groveling to each other to reconsider.

      The most likely scenario is that someone caves in.

      The second most likely, considering the stalemate outlined above, would be no fueling at all. Most of the teams wouldn’t mind this, considering the recession. They would all like a year off to save money and come back stronger next year.

      Even if the rival manufacturer can get the pumps together, the FIA will be moving to get rid of todt. Maybe then the teams would be invited back into the fold, on their terms. Because it would be embarrassing to run a failed fuel pump where the second manufacturer is EuroBrun. This is the third most likely situation.

      A distant, distant fourth option is allowing two fuel pump manufacturers, but I see one of the above happening first.

    2. All the teams would start with hard tyres with the heavy fuel load and then switch to super soft when the fuel load went down enough. So they would be forced into the same stategy.

  17. I would like to see the return of Q-cars. I know it is expensive, but even qualy-only enginces would be nice (with or without rev limits…). Even relaxed parc fermme requirements would make it more interesting. The qualy:race performance relationship will govern the early season race strategy more than we give credit. E.g. Jarno and Mark – quick on one lap, but poor over a race distance.

    Also – why are we maintaining the 3 qualy sessions when there is no longer a fuel correction in the third? I’m not suggesting single hot laps, but 45 minutes of track time and the grid is set in order of finishing.

    As for refuelling – car design/engineering will be much more important. I fear for the new teams. They will each run out of fuel once before the season is finished.


    1. Maurice Henry
      27th October 2009, 5:17

      Shell is out of contract after this year. They’ve got to supply for Moto GP in 2010. mobil 1 is out of contract after 2010 and castrol cannot afford the franchise fee on its own so they might pull off. petrobras is off at the moment, but ELF is still owned by a renault or someone, I think. Montreal, Indy, Suzaka or Fuji. Imola, Brno.

      The thing is , the contracts are already drawn up and I seriously doubt they exclude other fuel suppliers from the circuit (pesky EU laws on competition as well as goods services and trade). The promoters can sign deals with other oil companies as they see fit. I think they are all up for grabs as they can see more of a share of the real profits from the races. The only ones that won’t are those owned by Bernie.

  18. James, I have to disagree with you. I agree with most of Kieth’s article.

    I started watching F1 in 1987 when I was 12. I wouldn’t say that I like one era better than the other. Both scenarios create exiting moments. but overall, I’m tired of the pit passing just like Kieth.

    The reason I disagree with James is this;
    1) you say that the ‘team’ aspect will be lost, but there are what, 3 refueling guys. they still need tires and like Kieth says, this can be very dramatic.

    2) aggressive driving will be lost….we’ve seen the opposite in the past when there has been no refueling. Drivers can’t rely on the pit leap to gain advantage and they push past. Also, you get tire masters like Prost that come to life when everyone else struggles.

    ALSO, re-fueling combined with the 3 qualifying sessions leads to every car that is 11th and up going with these huge fuel load strategies….boring and processional (Trulli train!!). Now you’ll have 26(?) cars that are starting a bit more ‘fairly’ and you will see a lot more early action that hands a little more advantage to great drivers in mediocre cars (example, Sutil in the Force India at the beginning of the year starts in 19th with a ton of fuel….meanwhile, Button is 1st with very little fuel and pulls away to gain 30 seconds on Sutil….this factor will be reduced when they are all on the same fuel loads) that example assumes that Sutil is ‘great’.

    Also, James, I don’t see how you can have lists of reasons why refueling is so great that are twice as long as my arms when you didn’t start watching F1 until they had started refueling again….

    1. Sorry James, didn’t mean for that to sound like an attack…you just seem adamant about it, but haven’t really gone through a season without fueling…..cheers :)

    2. Maurice Henry
      27th October 2009, 5:19

      F1 As we know & Love it will never survive without the refueling.Lets hope it becomes

  19. I am new to F1 and this is my first time voicing an opinion on the subject, so be kind…


    I think I agree with Anthony in that one of the unintended consequences of allowing refuelling is that you end up with cars with very different fuel loads on the track at the same time, which in turn allows more overtaking.

    Even a slower car with way less fuel can pass a faster competitor who has just topped up. This does add to the spectacle in my opinion. Overtaking on the track is still exciting, even if it is a result of different fuel loads.

    1. Todt should resign now!!!
      27th October 2009, 5:20


  20. I think tyre management is being overlooked here, that will be the key. As we know, Bridgestone don’t exactly bring two great tyres to a race, one will always be inferior to the other, hence there would still be strategy in tyre choice.

    Driver who can manage their cars better over the course of the race will benefit. Knowing when to push and when to back off. The ban will also force drivers to pass each other on track, which would be good fun to watch. We had so fantastic battles before 93, so I expect more of the same.

    I wonder which of the current drivers can adapt to this change quickly. I expect the like Jenson and Alonso to quickly pick up the pieces, the jury is out on the likes of Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton

    1. I think I’m happy about this. refueling is an enormous drag on the sport.

      F1 won’t survive as we know it without the shell, mobil 1, elf, etc. It will instantly become the “B-League”. This is especially true since the oil companies are going to be have the support of obama(as they’ll be allowed to invest in technology liberally).

      In the short-run, the sport will face tremendous uncertaintly. However, in the long-run, I truly think the sport of racing will be better off for ridding itself of the cumbersome management/regulatory framework that burdens the sport so heavily today.

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