Goodbye to?? refuelling

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.


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247 comments on Goodbye to?? refuelling

  1. HounslowBusGarage said on 26th October 2009, 21:05

    There are still going to be mandatory tyre changes in a race, so overtaking will still be focussed on when competitors go into the pits to change tyres. Instead of a one fuel stop versus two fuel stop, we will have a choice of one or two tyre stops instead.
    Next of course, the cars will be about 100 kg heavier at the start of the race than they were this year. 100kg extra of fuel. Which means that they are all going to have to start on the harder grade of tyre. Which means they will all be on the same strategy, plus or minus a lap or two.
    There is no safety benefit either. The incidence of fire in the pits has been very low over the years (count the fires versus the number of pit stops), and it’s the best place to have a fire anyway as there are lots of people around with lots of extinguishers. Instead we are going to have twenty something cars all contesting the first laps with vast amounts of heavy fuel on board on granite-grade tyres, and that’s just dangerous.

    • John H said on 27th October 2009, 4:31

      It’s looking extremely likely Button will be the last real F1 World Drivers Champion.

      2007 and 2008 were two of the most entertaining seasons I have witnessed. Not capitalising on this just highlights how much the OWG and FOM have blundered IMHO.

    • Maksutov said on 27th October 2009, 16:13

      There are still going to be mandatory tyre changes in a race, so overtaking will still be focussed on when competitors go into the pits to change tyres. Instead of a one fuel stop versus two fuel stop, we will have a choice of one or two tyre stops instead.

      And on top of that, the teams will also be able to make calculated predictions based on tyre type and tyre ware and “listen to the radio” to predict when another team are most likely to enter their cars into the pits. Hence, we could get the same saga, if not worse because there will be a train of slow gutless cars just following each other and waiting …

      Anyway I hope that does not happen but I fear it.

      • Maksutov said on 27th October 2009, 16:15

        lets repeat that


        And on top of that, the teams will also be able to make calculated predictions based on tyre type and tyre ware and “listen to the radio” to predict when another team are most likely to enter their cars into the pits. Hence, we could get the same saga, if not worse because there will be a train of slow gutless cars just following each other and waiting …

        Anyway I hope that does not happen but I fear it.

  2. Ulfuls said on 26th October 2009, 21:17

    Looking forward to seeing it go. I agree with Keith — there’s no drama created by it any more. Far more exciting to see something like Mansell at Silverstone in 87 — turn up the mixture, damn the fuel gauge, and go like hell.

    If the fuel volumes are set low enough, there will be a very interesting calculus between conserving fuel at certain points in a race and opening up the mix at others to storm away or catch a rival.

    But maybe it’s just what you came into the sport watching — I started watching during the mid-1980s and got used to seeing mechanics in shirtsleeves rather than Nomex — and even now a firesuited pit crew looks sort of alien and unfamiliar to me. Someone who started watching in 1995 likely thinks refuelling is the one true form of the sport.

    • Tony W said on 27th October 2009, 4:33

      Well I’ll be, if this doesnt bring todt, owg and the bernie to its knees nothing will. I will certainly follow the it if it starts, but I do believe this is the last ace in the pack and are calling the refueling bluff. Either way the refueling ban would finally allow some awesome engineering and racing machines. I for one will be watching. F1 next year without the refueling will wither away and never recover. The FIA have to collapse now, but more likely Bernie will be proverbially sh****ng himself!

  3. what people have seem to have forgotten is that without refuelling we will know who the fastest driver is in qualifying as, before the amount of fuel you had affected your qualifying pace, now everyone will be on equal fuel and pole position will be earned by the fastest driver. senna earned his pole positions not by the amount of fuel but by his sheer speed.

    • Tony W said on 27th October 2009, 4:34

      I am very surprised at how quiet Bernie has been lately.I wonder what he’s doing behind the scenes?

  4. My worry is that re-fuelling will make races processional. But largely, they already have been this year.

    I wonder if it will all become about saving fuel and tyres – but to a large extent it already is.

    I was concerned about losing the ability for the little guys to jump ahead in Q3 and go for gold – but Force India showed us you don’t need fuel loads to move up the grid, and what’s the fun of a lighter car inevitably being passed in the pit-stops or, as we’ve seen on many occasions, their strategy ruined by an early safety car (far more times than a timely safety car appearing after the first stopper’s stop preserving his lead)?

    Strategy won’t disappear, guys. Some people will gamble on one-stops, using the harder tyre for a long first stint, others will go for 2-stops using 2 sets of softs (and if they fall away quicker than expected, at least the driver won’t have to stop “too early” to get rid of them). Hopefully Bridgestone will have a dose of common sense and make both viable options on paper. Not to mention drivers using more fuel in the first part of the race to create a big gap and nursing it home, only to be caught out by a safety car and someone who saved more fuel at the beginning. The cars will also be fastest at the end, making for a mad dash for the finish. And at least we won’t have the silly “splash and dash” situations that compromise drivers’ races.

    F1’s fundamental problems do not lie in re-fuelling, and for that fact alone its removal is unlikely to weaken the sport, and banning it has the prospect of making things a little better, at worse making no overall difference except for not having people set on fire in the pitlane. With re-fuelling gone, some elements of F1 will go with it, but it’s a small price to pay for moving the action more to the track.

    Yes, it’s a team sport, but out on the track I want to see the drivers decide things, and the teams decide the things that aren’t part of the on-track action. I for one would rather dull races where everyone is managing their fuel and tyres than one where position changes are created artificially, largely beyond the drivers’ control.

    • Hopefully this also means an end to Sepang, Singapore, Shanghai, Valencia and Barcelona.

      Hopefully todt sees sense and includes Magny Cours, Montreal, Jerez, Portimao and A1 Ring.

  5. Harv's said on 26th October 2009, 21:25

    i cant wait! car will actually be force to make passes on the track because that will be the only way. i think that overtaking has suffered this year because driver have just thought ” hey if i stay close to this guy, he will pit first and then i can pass him”

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 26th October 2009, 21:54

      No. They won’t.
      The cars will still have to pit for tyre changes. They still have to use both grades of tyre.

      • Maciek said on 26th October 2009, 22:21

        yes, but stopping for tyres is different – you don’t stay out a lap or two longer than the other guy to gain time on him so then you can come out ahead – that’s gone now. This will bring enormous changes to how teams and drivers approach races and ‘strategies’.

        • TODT should resign now!!! said on 27th October 2009, 4:36

          I hope it’s only a bluff. Anyway if it¿s true than it’s a very very sad thing. I’ll never watch F1 again and I hate to admit that refueling f1 or however it will be called will not be the same it will take many years to develp a mystique around it.
          F1 R.I.P.

  6. Maciek said on 26th October 2009, 21:27

    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.

    • TODT should resign now!!! said on 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!

  7. 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.

    • Oliver said on 27th October 2009, 4:39

      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!

  8. Jhunt123 said on 26th October 2009, 21:31

    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!

    • 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……

  9. Sush Meerkat said on 26th October 2009, 21:32

    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.

    • Spiffy said on 27th October 2009, 4:42

      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.

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

    • steph90 said on 26th October 2009, 21:43

      No :)

      • Spiffy said on 27th October 2009, 4:42

        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!!!!!!

  11. steph90 said on 26th October 2009, 21:41

    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.

    • Cameron said on 27th October 2009, 4:45

      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).

    • sumedh said on 27th October 2009, 14:18

      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.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th October 2009, 14:04

        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.

  12. David said on 26th October 2009, 21:55

    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.

    • Salty said on 27th October 2009, 4:46


      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.

  13. David Sherwood said on 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.

    • Terry Fabulous said on 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.

  14. HounslowBusGarage said on 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.

    • Patrickl said on 26th October 2009, 22:35

      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?

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 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.

        • Patrickl said on 27th October 2009, 0:22

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

          • Oliver said on 27th October 2009, 4:58

            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?

  15. Bullfrog said on 26th October 2009, 22:14

    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…

    • Oliver said on 27th October 2009, 5:00

      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. :(

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