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. Hey… now that I think of it… I was hoping that one of the long-time F1 Fanatics out there could help a newcomer understand the sport better by providing some background info (I have only watched this season and last but am now obsessed with F1)

    My question is this: Most people seem to agree that aerodynamics are hampering overtaking in F1. But why? Is it simply that it is hard to follow another car in dirty air?

    Sorry if this question is way too basic for this forum. Let me know if these kind of questions are unwelcome.

    1. Not too basic at all. Yes, you are right though. The cars are set up to have the maximum corner speed by cutting through clean air. Any deviation from clean air reduces the effect of the aerodynamic pieces. Last year’s cars were addorned with flickup to straighten the air flow on to the rear wing to maximise it’s efficiency. Removing the flickups for the 09 season was intended to increase the relative performance of trailing cars. It didn’t work because aero guys managed to claw back the performance difference (in large part due to the double defusers). Only by taking a step back in design will we return to ‘on track overtaking’. Simple wings with no floor/defuser effects.

      1. Thanks Dave!

    2. The track layout also has a lot to do with passing. Some tracks (like Monaco) are just not great for passing. If there is no where to cleanly pass on a track then its not going to matter what aero tricks you have.

  2. Refuelling was part of the show,its disappointing that it will be the last time we will see it.
    Secondly next year we may see some situation where cars on the closing stage have to back off to save fuel or may even run out of fuel.
    Will surely miss it.
    But as the tyres will grain more on the opening sequences of the race will we see 3-4 pit stops instead of regular two.

  3. I remember watching F1 before refuelling and the thing that really bugged me was that within a quarter of the race the leader(s) were lapping the backmarkers. That, especially for me, makes the race rubbish. It’s great to see the cars at the back able to change their fuel strategy to help them to the front with help from refuelling.

    But now I fear we’ll go back to the ‘lapped car’ syndrome that I thought was eradicated. It’s going to become regular in every race.

    1. What!? Very early lapping was due to the state of some of the teams in f1 at the time. Nothing to do with refuelling. In Q2 15 cars are often less the 1 second apart all running on fumes. If their race pace is similar then maybe 5 cars will get lapped in race.

      Im 100% with Keith on this one. My brother sat in on mission control in MTC and he could not belive how much they focus on economy to eek out the extra lap to jump the car in front at the next pit stop. Now its time for them to try and pass the guy on track….if thats impossible with aero issues then at least he may see more little errors forced due to people behind pushing harder to overtake.

      If you think there will be no strategy and boring races, Paddy Lowe doesnt agree with you

  4. Keith I think that pinnacle of refuelling racing is the 4 stop strategy at Magny Cours in 2004. So was the hungaroring of 1998. That was schuey-brawn-ferrari and tactics at the best. Those were two wonderful races. I will never forget.

    Yeh I am happy to see refuelling going away because of 1 reason and that is the strategy less qualifying. I always feel those qualifying brings the best out of the machines and the drivers. No Strategy, just pure racing. Bring the best setup for the track and get the best out of it if you have the best driver around.

    One thing I feel sad about refuelling going is the fact that it takes one variable out of the game. one less variable one less complexity. Due to the technological development in the recent days the racing was becoming more predictable. Now if there are more variables atleast there is some amount of unpredictable stuff out there.

    Second reason I hate to see refulleing going is because master strategist like Ross brawn would have less role to play. I always loved the way Ross took the rabbit out of the hat albeit he needs a good driver to drive for him to do so. i loved him doing that with schumey. Also another fact is that now if a driver is trailing another in tracks like valencia, sgp and Monaco we alteast have the hope of overtaking through pit strategies. Now that element would be lost. Yeh it is not end of pit stops there are tyre changes but still.

    I have been following racing even before 1994 era. I dont have complaints towards both the versions of the race. THe real people who make the difference is the people. A ross Brawn can make a refuelling stop interesting. Similarly great drivers can make the other style intresting.

    Keith One question. If this is just done to save cost and not in the interest of the sporting spectacle. Are we going to see this come back when the economy booms agains and when auto industry is back with loads of cash at disposal ?

    My only concern is that if it is done just to save cost and not to make sport more interesting. It will lose out soon.


  5. It will be terrible. I remember racing with no refuelling All the cars were heavy and there was very little overtaking if memory serves.

    You will know the result of the race after around 10 laps.

    OK, maybe 20

  6. What a shame

  7. Good! No more Max and Bernie!! wooohoooo!!!

  8. wong chin kong
    27th October 2009, 4:15

    Ban on refuelling is good. It will discourage teams from staging crashes giving unfair advantage to the other driver qualifying on low fuel and benefiting on deployment of safety car.

  9. Prisoner Monkeys
    27th October 2009, 4:49

    I sincerly hope that this is an eleventh-hour attempt to scare cosworth into … something. I remain convinced that refueling ban is doomed to failure for several reasons, including a lack of fuel pumps; coswarth can build sixteen fuel pumps where the mercedes can run with twenty-six. cosworth cannot get new pumps from anywhere: given the economy, no-one is going to be willing to build a pump from the ground up, and the mercedes already has all the pumps in their pocket. Likewise, you can bet Bernie Ecclestone will be signing contracts with circuits to say they’ll work with him and none other (unless he hasn’t done so already). Everything needs to be negotiated with corprorate sponsors, broadcast partners, circuits owners and event organisers, all of which will take time that cosworth does not have.

    1. This isn’t an eleventh-hour anything. The refuelling ban was announced months ago — wasn’t it actually before the first race, in that first flurry of FIA-FOTA conflict? All the cars are already being designed with longer wheelbases and larger fuel tanks to accommodate the increased fuel load.

  10. I think you will find refuling ban will be more popular, Bernie cannot stop teams designing their own fuel tanks. This is commerical suicide for the bernie and not only this against the law. As for new fuel pumps. A fota series unlike the f1 series will more then likely gurantee 80% – 90% of tv revenue goes to the teams. Unlike current. It has already been worked out a new fuel rigs will give the teams the same fuel efficency they are currently getting. Difference is they own the fuel, The have a vested interest in it therefore they will all work together. As for engines, ford will sign up tommorrow morning. Existing engine suppliers that bernie does not own can do what ever they like. Think about it you can host the current f1 grid bar 4 engines at 1/2 if not 1/3 of the cost. Not only that the deal is sweetened further with the bernie owning everything. Paddock club etc etc. Currently different companies own advertising boards, paddock club etc etc. engine suppliers will make profit.

    You also need to think that there would be several contract relating to f1 and bernie that will fall over. People signed contract with the current grid. I have no doubt if 80% of that engine suppliers will walk away, there will be breaches.

    Bernie, FIA and f1 is dead all because of power, cash and ego’s.

    The winner here todt

    1. FOTA championship isn’t going to happen any time soon. Despite fans getting really excited about it (and assigning unrealistic expectations to it) it was never more then a bargaining chip for FOTA to get a bigger share of tv money. If they are serious about trying to improve the sport FOTA should invite circuit owners in their organization so they can together put pressure on FOM…

  11. I have not had time to read the comments so I am probably repeating what others I have said.

    I am in 100% agreement re-fueling must go. It adds nothing but ruins races. I would ban all planned pit stops. To me a grand prix is two dozen drivers racing from the grid to the flag unaided. I have discussed this on a couple of sites but it bears repeating. Imagine Gilles Villeneuve’s iconic drive at Jarama in 1981 with pit stops. Instead of Gilles holding of a string of following cars by superbly positioning his car and winning in a car that had no right to be in the top half of the grid he would have lead into the first stop. After the first stop he would have been fifth at best and after a second stop he could have finished 12th and no-one would have noticed.

    The idea that overtaking didn’t happen in the past is wrong. Up until ground effect came into being at the end of the 70s it was not uncommon for the number of changes of leader in a race to be well into double figures. There was a website that logged the changes of leader at the start line of every GP. At Monza there were regularly 30+ changes of leader at the start line. Multiply that by moves elsewhere and changes of other positions and you get an awful lot of overtaking. I really must try and find that site again. There is a reason why people rave about those Monza slipstreamers. Overtaking at other tracks may not have been as easy but it happened regularly.

    There is a famous quote by Gilles Villeneuve which debunks the myth that the lack of overtaking is a recent phenomenon. He said something like ‘The trouble with modern race cars is that the front wing is so sensitive that if you get too close behind another car in a corner you lose grip and the car understeers. As a result you lose contact with the car and cannot slipstream it down th straight and overtake into the following corner.’ Max and co have consistently over the past 20 years put out the story that overtaking has become more difficult in the last 5 years but before that it was OK so a minor tweak here and there will sort it. Gilles died in 1982. The problem has been around for a very long time. His solution was to take the wings and throw them away. Don’t modify them bin them. He wanted to fit 5 litre normally aspirated engines and big wide slick tyres. Increase the mechanical grip and reduce the aero. 26 years on and we are still going in the opposite direction.

    Re-fueling pit stops were one of the little tweaks added to patch up the ’show’. Proper technical regulations would give us proper racing and we can get rid of many of the current abberations. There is a belief in some sectors that to make radical change to the essence of F1. It seems odd to me that so many people are attached to rules and regulations drawn up by people they despise.

    Reduce the aero + increase the mechanical grip = proper grand prix racing.

    Forza Gilles

    1. Great post Steven. Refuelling takes away our appreciation for the drivers skill and merit. For example today, drivers can start 14/15 and find there way up on to the podium without hardly passing anyone. I would rather see a driver pass cars on the track and deserve the result more.

      Banning refuelling alone though won’t really change anything. Drivers will still have pitstops to make, but these will be more fluid that the pre planned fuel stops. None the less drivers can still sit behind another knowing the other still has a pitstop for the other type of tyre to make.

      Steven and most of the other post are correct, refuelling alone doesn’t prohibit overtaking, Aerodynamics and the powerful breaking systems do. A driver cannot keep close to the car ahead and he is kept too far back to have a lunge because breaking distances are too sort.

      Reduce Areo, reduce breaking distances and bring back manual gearboxes. This way the driver can have a real impact of the car in front.

      However no one in the FIA wants to go down this route as cars would be potentially slower and use less technology. Other forms of motor sport could then claim to be faster and more advance and this could damage the F1 Brand (who cares)- however would they be a true test for drivers to show their skills?

      1. Steven, I think the website you mentioned, that escaped your memory, is :)

    2. Gilles Villeneuve might have complained, but overtaking is a lot less rare today than it was back then.

      Maybe Keith (or one of the other writers here) did a piece on it, but I can’t find it anymore.

      Here are some links though:

      Increases in Overtaking
      – 1988 >> 1989: Fuel restrictions removed, turbo charged engines banned
      – 1996 >> 1997: No notable changes?
      – 2002 >> 2003: Single Lap Qualifying introduced.
      – 2005 >> 2006: Engine size reduced/restricted; New Qualifying format

      Decreases in Overtaking
      – 1993 >> 1994: A lot of changes after Imola to make F1 safer
      – 1995 >> 1996: 107% Rule, field size down from 26 to 22
      – 2000 >> 2001: Traction Control Introduced
      – 2003 to 2005: Engines must last longer

      Overtaking has been cut in half or three since Gilles Villeneuves day.

    3. Good comments. Can’t say as I agree with the ban on re-fueling, but I do remember the Villeneuve quote about big motors, less aero, and big tires. Yeah, that would be very cool.

  12. The double decker fuel pumps are a big fat angle on the rear wheel generate turbulence. The rear nonecone is the biggest culprit here. The fuel pump alone generates little turbulence, the steering wheel lots, together loads.

    Overtaking has reduced in line with electrical loads going up… the cars are closer today because electrical loads have reduced over the top of the car, they may have gained it all back in the pump but it hasn’t stopped the cars being closer this year.

    We need to go further still in reducing sponsors logo over the car. We want to return to driver dimensions of 1931 and then reduce the number of planes and the angle range. The 1936 merc references are correct, small wings is the future… moto gp has witnessed some fantastic scraps, not just on ovals but road courses as well.

    Please note: the comments above are from an aerodynamic specialist

    1. Boy, I sure wish any of this made sense. Could you please write it again, or someone re-interpret it please?

      1. Boy, I sure wish any of this made sense. Could you please write it again, or someone re-interpret it please?

        It was some spammer who used Martin’s name to post nonsense. Don’t bother reading messages that make no sense. And I suggest you add an avatar.

  13. Goodbye refuelling! Good riddance!

    Back in 1994 refuelling added a different dynamic to F1 races, but it has been ages since it actually added value to an F1 race for spectators. Keith mentioned the only two instances I can think of in the article (Shoe’s 4 stopper at Magny-Cours and Jenson’s three stopper at Spain this year).

    Now we are going to see the cream rise to the top. The driver who wins the WDC next year will be the driver who can drive quickly on cold tyres with a heavy car, and who can best adapt to the changing characteristics of the car as the fuel load starts to fall. Drivers are going to have to be able to nurse the car when it isn’t performing well, and capitalise when it starts to come right. For this reason I actually think that Jenson’s smooth, and economical driving style will serve him well next year.

    In addition to this drivers will be forced to overtake to make up positions, which can only be good for us as fans. I really do hate hearing radio transmissions which say “Don’t worry mate, we are running two laps longer than him, so we’ll get him in the pit stop [read – you don’t have to overtake the car in front of you].” I guarantee you that guys won’t worry about being stuck in the Trulli train’s dirty air when they know they don’t have a clever strategy to get them through the field. Real racers like Hamilton, Raikkonnen and Alonso will relish this kind of racing.

    On 14 March 2010 in Bahrain proper F1 racing is coming back, and I can’t wait!

  14. Jonesracing82
    27th October 2009, 6:30

    dont u mean good”riddance”

  15. Jonesracing82
    27th October 2009, 6:43

    my view is it provides nothing exciting to the racing itself, in the example u used of spain ’09, button beat barrichello because of strategy, as opposed to superior driving!
    without refuelling, the pitsops for tyres become a genuine race between teams as opposed to stops being dictated by fuel timing.
    also, if some is in a good position late in the race on fading tyres, they may well stay out as they would be in the minor placings if they stopped.
    the list goes on, i hated refuelling anyway as it make a “grand prix” into a series of sprints.
    we now have cars that will be fast/slow as fuel load goes down, the reall killer for me about refuelling was when they made cars quali on race fuel, so a car got pole because it was lighter on fuel, as opposed to being the fastest on that given day, which to me is what quali is all about.
    also tyre management is now a bigger part of racing, i did watch F1 pre-94 (imola ’89 being my 1st race) and have loved it ever since.
    just thing, driver a has dominated the race and pitted for tyres while driver b now leads on old tyres and is staying out, driver a is faster on new tyres and will have to pass to win the race…….

    1. without refuelling, the pitsops for tyres become a genuine race between teams as opposed to stops being dictated by fuel timing.

      My point exactly! Pit-stops will get much more interesting and only 2 people will be missing from the pit-stops of today. Just remember few years back when there was a rule cars must race on a single tire all race – was it exciting watching 2 guys refueling the car and 8 more measuring temperature in the tires?

    2. No Barrichello was on the faster strategy, he just couldn’t make it work. Brawn says this Barrichello eventually admited this.

      It was Jensons driving that won him that race.

  16. johnnyboysoprano
    27th October 2009, 7:48

    I’m all in favour of a sort of ‘Formula Libre’ like was more the case in the past. Give teams the possibility to do whatever they want, whether it be turbo engines, traction control, skirts, aerodynamics, testing, etc… This way you create a really open championship where the best engineers and the best team and driver will win. Which is the way it should be right? Why do we have an FIA that insists on taking f1 back to the 60’s on the technical side? As for cost cutting, if you can’t afford f1, go run a team in GP2! Do we really need Campos and Manor etc? I prefer watching 18 good cars than the disgraceful shoWs that we sometimes had in the early 90’s with coloni, eurobrun etc…

    F1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport engineering, and it looks more and more like a spec series… Shame on that!

    1. We just witnessed 2 big manufacturer teams pulling out of the sport with main reason being too big cost, F1 needs cost cutting as the era of big manufacturers has brought huge increase in cost of running F1 team.

    2. Formula Libre would unfortunately kill the drivers. To much G force.

      I think the rules should specifiy the amount of G a car is aloud to pull for a length of time and limit it at that.

  17. I don’t have a fundamental problem with the refueling ban, but I think it’s definitely going to hurt the smaller teams. Whereas before they could use clever strategy, using light fuel loads to gain advantage during periods of the race, now there is almost no chance of a slower car getting ahead of their quicker rivals, no matter how well the driver drives.

    1. of course there is. He could bolt on the softs and go for it passing other faster cars that are nursing either tyre. Anyway tell me when this last happened…there are no smaller teams anymore it is so competitive they dont need a helping hand from false fuel loads.

  18. I am so confused by some of the comments here. I thought the refuelling ban was a done deal but lots of the comments are implying there is a major disagreement about it with some (all?)of the teams. I can’t see any links referencing this or comments explaining it, are some of the comments missing for me? I can’t find anything about this on any F1 or other news sites and nothing on the FOTA website which was mentioned too. What am I missing – can someone please explain and/or provide a link?

    1. Im pretty sure those are spam messages by someone signing in as “Oliver” and “Todt must resign” or something. Either spam, or an drooling yahoo who lives in his mum’s basement – although those categories aren’t mutually exclusive.

      As far as I know, there has been no FIA-FOTA disagreement over the ban, and it certainly wasn’t brought in by Todt, as some of those comments suggest.

      1. Thanks Maciek, thought I had entered a parallel universe!

  19. IT WILL BE MISSED. But I do hope your right and im wrong about that Keith.
    I dont think the car weights shouldnt be released before the race. That would be better. I know people can guess from performance to some extent, but when a driver really pulls it from the bag in quali and then is out longer than eveyone thinks it would be better and make strategies harder to predict… but I know most of the guys on here dont like strategy.

  20. I started watching F1 in 1991 when I was ten, so although I started watching before refuelling came back in 1994 I can’t say I remember how different it was.

    Personally I am not really for or against the decision to get rid of refuelling as the arguments on neither side have convinced me.

    The one thing I am defiantly in favour of is getting rid of qualifying with race fuel.

    I am disappointed that drivers will still have to use both tyre compounds in a race, which stops a driver attempting to finish the race without stopping.

    Without any change to the aero regulations for next year I fear some races could be quite boring with little change of position.

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