14 reasons to love the refuelling ban

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Drivers will have to pass on the track, not in the pits, in 2010
Drivers will have to pass on the track, not in the pits, in 2010

The F1 Sporting Working Group has been asked to come up with new ideas to “improve the show” in F1 in 2010.

But the best decision to improve the show was taken this time last year. After 16 years, refuelling during the race is finally being banned. This will make F1 more exciting, easier to follow, less expensive and safer.

1. Qualifying will be more exciting

For the past few years whenever a driver pulled a quick lap out of the bag to snatch pole position the response was not “what a great lap” but “How much fuel has he got on board?”

Next year when a driver hangs it all out and grabs the number one spot by a few thousandths we’ll know it’s because of what he got out of the car and not how little fuel was put in it.

The nay-sayers who insist it will lead to the fastest car always starting from pole position should pause to consider the last season in which we had proper low-fuel qualifying. Juan Pablo Montoya started from pole position seven times in 2002 – but never won a race.

Read more: Real qualifying returns in 2010

2. Easier to compare drivers’ performances

With all drivers qualifying on low fuel we will be able to tell very easily who got the most out of their car over a single lap – especially between team mates. The tedious and contrived calculations about who did the best ‘fuel-adjusted’ lap will go in the bin.

3. Easier to follow races at the track

Sat at home with the television broadcast, F1.com’s timing screen and, of course, the F1 Fanatic live blogs, it’s easy to keep on top of the race strategies. But sat in the rain at Pouhon without a TV screen, no Kangaroo reception and the tannoy drowned out by the scream of the engines, who knows which driver is on what strategy.

Yes, they’ll still be tyre stops in 2010, but the added complexity of different fuel loads will be gone, making it a lot easier to follow a race. That can only be a good thing for the accessibility of the sport.

4. Racing will be less artificial

Although knockout qualifying has brought an exciting dimension to Saturdays, it has created the strange phenomenon where drivers on row six can be better-placed strategically because they didn’t make it into the final ten and therefore have free reign on their fuel strategy.

In short, qualifying ninth or tenth can put you at a disadvantage compared to starting 11th or 12th. This artificial advantage will be neutered in 2010.

5. It will save the teams money

This is the main reason why refuelling is being axed – and it’s a sound one.

Lugging a pair of refuelling rigs per team around the world isn’t cheap, especially when there’s a bunch more new teams showing up.

Read more: The cost-cutting plans: refuelling ban

6. No more fuel-saving means they’re flat out all the way

If the widespread use of in-car radio in F1 has shown us anything it’s that as soon as drivers get stuck behind a rival they concentrate more on trying to save fuel – and therefore pit later and more advantageously – than trying to overtake.

I doubt banning refuelling will lead to a lot more overtaking – that problem is more to do with the aerodynamic sensitivity of the cars and, to a lesser extent, track layouts.

But it will at least remove an incentive for a driver to sit back and not try to overtake, which can only be a good thing.

7. Race strategy will be more interesting and exciting

Smart tyre strategy helped Schumacher win in 1993
Smart tyre strategy helped Schumacher win in 1993

Banning refuelling does not mean the death of race strategy. Instead, Grands Prix will have a strategic dimension which has more interesting consequences for the racing.

Now it will be all about which drivers can get through the race on a single tyre stop, nursing their car in the early stages on a heavy fuel load, and which ones have to make an extra stop. Already some commentators are talking up the chances of drivers who are kind to their tyres (like the current world champion) versus those who might not be (like the last one).

When the refuelling rules were brought in for 1994 the governing body ignored the fact that this very facet of the rules allowed for one of the rare occasions when the dominant Williams of 1993 was beaten by a lesser car on a dry track. Michael Schumacher elected not to make his final stop for tyres at Estoril and clung onto his lead despite being chased down by Alain Prost in the closing stages.

There are rumours the governing body is considering making two pit stops mandatory in 2010. That would be a terrible idea as it would completely kill any potential for strategic variety. Instead, they should go in the opposite direction and remove the present need for drivers to make at least one pit stop.

8. Fairer competition

F1 has never been properly set up for refuelling, in the modern era at least. F1 pits only permit one car to be serviced at any given time, forcing teams to run drivers on at least slightly different strategies.

So on occasions where the safety car has been deployed we have seen drivers’ races ruined because they had to queue up behind their team mate before they could take on fuel.

It’s disappointing no-one tried to fix this problem in the last 16 years, but at least it won’t matter any more now.

9. Harder for teams to favour one driver

There is no question there is always one fuel strategy that is superior to another – even if the difference is only a lap here or there.

Without refuelling it’s going to be a lot harder to have those “Team X always favours Driver Y” arguments in 2010.

10. More challenging for the drivers

No-one’s saying F1 is easy. But at the moment F1 drivers have to prepare their cars to work within a weight range of around 630kg to 700kg. That range will be roughly doubled next year, leaving them having to prepare cars that will handle radically different at the start of the race to the end, with lap times falling by around five seconds during the race.

That opens up a far greater scope for variety in set-ups, strategies and performance – not to mention potential for people to get things wrong and end up with a car that destroys its tyres at the beginning of a race or can’t get heat into them at the end.

11. More exciting pit stops

The pit stops that do happen will be brief, exciting bursts of energy as teams scramble to get four tyres off and on the cars as quickly as possible.

As refuelling almost always takes longer than a tyre change the pressure on the mechanics has been less severe in recent year.

But in 2010 how quickly they turn the car around will determine how little time their man loses. In 1993 Benetton whittled their best tyre change time down to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 3.2 seconds. Will any of the teams be able to top that next year?

Read more: A brief history of pit stops in F1

12. No more races ruined by rigs

Giancarlo Fisichella pits for fuel at Catalunya in 2006
Giancarlo Fisichella pits for fuel at Catalunya in 2006

Despite having 16 years to perfect refuelling rigs, last year faults were still causing drivers to receive too little fuel, ruining their races – notably for Felipe Massa at Catalunya.

No more will we see a closely-fought battle between two drivers spoiled because one of their races was ruined by a dodgy rig.

13. Improved safety

Just as 16 years of development hasn’t stopped fuel rigs from failing, it also failed to weed out refuelling fires. There was a spate of fires at the Hungarian Grand Prix last year and more incidents this year too.

The trade-off for that is that cars will be carrying much more fuel at the start of a race, which is potentially an increased risk. However cars today are far less likely to catch fire on impact and marshals are much quicker at arriving on the scene than they used to be. On balance I suspect we’re better off this way.

14. Overtaking will be more important

A battle for position is more exciting when it’s significant. A driver on a lighter fuel load breezing past a much heavier car is less compelling because you know he’ll eventually have to pit and, in all likelihood, lose the position again.

Next year when a driver passes another it’s much more likely to be decisive. I’d far rather see that than an occasional jumbling of the order just because some drivers have pitted to refuel.

I know some people are unconvinced about the refuelling ban – especially those who didn’t watch F1 before 1994. There are downsides to the refuelling ban but I think they are vastly outweighed by the benefits. Tell me what you think in the comments.

F1 2010 rules: Refuelling ban

Image (C) Williams/LAT, Ford.com, Renault/LAT

154 comments on “14 reasons to love the refuelling ban”

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  1. A lot will depend on what type of tyre is used at each race won’t it? If Bridgestone take something that is much harder and will last, then the more aggressive drivers will be favoured?

  2. Oh! Keith! you are goin’ to get a real slack on this issue :( But I support you 7 the ban on re-fueling.

  3. “There are rumours the governing body is considering making two pit stops mandatory in 2010.” Please nooooooooooooooo! You may as well not ban refuelling then!

    Give the rule change a chance before ruining it! The prospect of having a number of drivers on differing strategies during a race will add a new dimension to races in the 2010 season. Personally I can’t wait for the first time a driver decides that the time he will loose while making a stop for fresh rubber is worth it because he’ll be able to breeze past the car in front once he catches him up again! What drama! The last 20 laps of F1 races will be a spectacle again, not a farce with cars cruising around in an attempt to “save the engine”.

    Let’s just wait and see how the races pan out in 2010 before making pit stops mandatory. If the powers that be are considering a rule change, they mandatory use of two tyre compounds should be the first to go…

  4. Agree on everything.
    “There are rumours the governing body is considering making two pit stops mandatory in 2010” really I hope it doesn’t happen.
    In general, to me, we need to have as less rules as possible. I don’t want races to be determined by a mandatory pit stop, or a mandatory stop and go for box speeding, or some grid penalties and so on. These rules make the races too complex. We need to keep Formula 1 to “drive and go (and overtake)” at the most.

    1. Your speed limit argument is weak. Drivers need a speed limit and it as to be harshly enforced. Otherwise they would all try to get the most out of the pit lane.

  5. Keith, I think you’re my hero. Your articles are awesome. Aren’t you published in the mainstream press yet?

    1. Aren’t you published in the mainstream press yet?

      What do you mean mainstream? F1F is the main”est” of all the streams! Its like the Amazon river, the rest are tributaries :P


    2. It is an awesome site and I would consider it mainstream. It is ran so well, that it is hard to believe it is ran by a single person. Ohhh, I know he is not doing everything by himself, but he is the most ‘hands on’ administrator I can remember seeing and is an awesome writer, SUPER informative and fully deserves a spot at any top level F1 publication. GJ Keith. I too am a fan of F1Fanatic and recommend it highly.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys
    17th December 2009, 7:55

    15: Compromise, compromise, compromise

    Given the varietry of conditions the cars will be ruunning under – no fuel, fresh rubber in qualifying; full load, fresh tyres / half load, worn tyres / half load, fresh tyres / low fuel, worn tyres and everything in between in the race – it’s going to be impossible for the teams to produce a car that will be the best in the field under every single condition. It will be possible to make a car that is a jack of all trades and master of none, but that is going to require compromises. The FIA seems to be daring the teams to build a car that is good under certain conditions so that they’ll be the strongest during a certain phase of the race, which is a major argument against building a jack of all trades: if your car is decent all the time, but mine is excellent at the start of the race (but not so much at the end of it), we have a situation where you might catch me – but you’d have a better chance if your car was designed to run best at the end of the race, even if it means sacrificing the start. It will be interesting to see which cars perform best under which conditions of their relative fuel level and tyre wear.

    1. yep I like the idea,I would even like to go further with the renascence of f1 and ban telemetry.
      Ok for fuel/water and oil temp, but no yaw/dampener/rev etc none of it.
      Let the driver communicate to engineer what the car is doing and what he wants rather than staring at a graph and numbers.
      We will see who is the best rounded driver..one that is fast, and also can communicate and has a firm understanding of the car.
      It will also add in an element of uncertainty as cars wont be as precise as now, and may just lead to more racier drivers struggling with cars that weren’t digitally re-mastered in the pits.

  7. I’d far rather see that than an occasional jumbling of the order just because some drivers have pitted to refuel.

    hear hear !

    My fav jumbling of last year was Singapore, after some mayhem the display on BBC had Sutil in 6th place, there was so many cars pitting the LG computers didn’t know who was where.

  8. i agreee with 9-10-12-13-14

  9. I agree with you on many points,but mandatory pitstop will be a nightmare for the spectator.But I am thinking places like Monza which is one of the killer on brakes,we saw many times in the past that 1 stopper are having trouble on brakes,with 200+litre of fuel,roughly 180 kg (if I am not wrong) will any team struggle on brakes.But I think in raceday refuelling was a part of the show.

    Can anyone tell me what will be the fuel tank capacity for 2010?In 2009 it was 150 litre.

    1. This was addressed by the teams by proposing larger discs. Williams (suprise suprise) were the only team to block it. Anyone know the state of play on this at the moment? I hope we don’t end up with more retirements like Hamilton at Abu Dhabi as a result.

      1. Hamilton’s problem in Abu Dhabi was in the brake manufacturing process, nothing to do with the size or thickness. There were several cases last year of people running thin on brakes though (Webber in Singapore is the obvious, also a few guys in Valencia iirc).

      2. NO to bigger brakes!!! crickey lets have drivers adapt and nurse cars if they need to instead of getting bigger brakes and then finding a way to use them to 120% as they do now…meaning there would be no difference to now. Plus overtaking would become even harder.

  10. inc0mmunicado
    17th December 2009, 8:35

    Reason #5 is probably only half as good a reason than you thought—Bernie’s paying for shipping everything for all the flyaway races. It’s just gonna cost CVC less money…

    I think banning refueling will be a good change overall. We will probably see quite a few races lost by teams that spend too much time fixing broken front wings…or by teams that don’t get the lugs on all the way cause they rushed (like Renault:P).

    Questions remain though–is the FIA mandating a fuel level for starting each race? How will they know how much fuel to put in at a new track…I don’t want to see a race end with everyone running out of gas..

    1. José Baudaier
      17th December 2009, 20:50

      Don’t worry, the teams will know.

  11. Although I advocate the ban on mid-race refuelling, I don’t think it will have a huge impact. The post-qualifying parc fermé will continue to exist (Sorry Keith, ‘real’ qualifying won’t return) and engines are still homologated. Without the engine homologation manufactures would have had a clear incentive to improve fuel efficiency. Due to ‘engine freeze’ some manufactures have an unfair advantage.

    1. The engine manufacturers are allowed to make updates on the engine that do not increase its power output. Therefore it is possible for them to improve the engines fuel consumption throughout the life of that particular type of engine.

  12. Great article! And, you made a mistake, Massa had a refuelling problem in Singapore, not Catalunya.

    1. He did at Catalunya, as the team didn’t know if he had fuel put in and he had to let Alonso through.

      1. remember this year saloolas?

        well i thought keith was meant to say singapore too but after a while i figured it out. the pic of fisi at catalyna doesnt help either, makes it look as if keith has made a mistake

    2. Oh, right. Thanks

  13. I have one question though – how will they put fuel in the cars before the race. Or in qualifying as I presume the cars will allways drive with minimal ammount of fuel.

    1. Cars will still be refueled in practice and quali but not with the super high tech rigs from 2009. Time won’t be a factor so in theory you could use a gas can and funnel to refuel. Even if it takes 30 minutes.

  14. Id ban all pitstops, its a contrived nonsense anyway. No pitstops means lugging even less tyres around therby saving more moneyand also means theres no chance someone can “kimi”* past another driver whilst they pit, they will have to ACTUALLY overtake on the track. !!!gasp!!

    *deliberately provactive namecheck to wind up kimilubber lubbers

    1. if they change for tyres it wont make a big difference like it did this year, if it was 1 stop min, pitting wouldnt cost you any time because the feul load would not change at all, infact being out on fresh tyres could help you be faster than the guy you were racing before you pitted

    2. Never mind, you can just drive round the outside of the trees and pass someone, but then block pass them onto the inside and get them dq’ed.

      Even more deliberate spa/non racing driver namecheck intended for the same wind up. Merry xmas antonyob

    3. Not quite sure how that would work with changing weather conditions.

  15. I agree with Keith. I’ve watched F1 pre 1994 and I prefer to see drivers pass for position on track. Even if it means less passing (yes, there could be) it will mean that drivers have to pressure the guy in front to make a mistake and pass him.
    I’m also really looking forward to low fuel qualifying and the super quick tyre change pit stops. Bring on 2010!

  16. I cant decide if this is a good or bad thing so far.
    Dont agree with point 1 but point 5 is good, allows for more teams etc.

    Im worried though that this new ban on fueling strategy will result in drivers who are good to there tyres but not especially fast holding the pack up as its still hard to overtake.

    We should be favouring the true racers who put it all on the line.

  17. Re. point 7 about being kind to the tyres. Why are people still stuck in 2007 with regards to Lewis Hamilton – it really irks me. In 2009, he was on a one stopper in Turkey (where he had previously had to make 3 stops) and in Brazil. If he was that bad with his tyres, he wouldn’t be able to make a one stop strategy work. As it was, he went from 17th to 3rd in Brazil and didn’t harm his tyres at all. For God’s sake, can we all now put to bed this “ruins his tyres” nonsense once and for all? It is clear he has learned and adapted, as any brilliant prodigy of a driver like Lewis would be expected to do.

    1. And I forgot to add that he pitted on the FIRST LAP in Brazil so made his tyres work for the entire rest of the race.

      1. I agree with you 100%

        1. I know, it’s so annoying to see the same old rubbish regurgitated again and again when it is simply NOT TRUE!

    2. S Hughes, can’t you post at least one comment without making a reference to holy Hamilton?

      Is he your boyfriend or something?

      1. Why don’t you read my post and comment on its content instead of carping about my posting about Hamilton?

        Do you agree that Lewis now doesn’t have a problem with his tyres? That would be interesting to discuss, not my fandom of Hamilton.

        1. Hamilton sets up the car with more oversteer and so he will be impacted more relative to the other drivers. But don’t forget Senna did the same of course and he didn’t fair too badly in the ‘no refuelling’ days.

          The fact is his driving style is less suited to these conditions – specific cases aside (Turkey only really… I don’t think any driver has a problem with wear at Interlagos).

          1. But he was on a one stopper in Turkey this year and managed okay.

          2. Keep in mind an understeering car is just as likely to kill the front tires too

    3. “, as any brilliant prodigy of a driver like Lewis”
      Ok man that just make me ill…and it’s kinda creepy too.

    4. you can damage tyres in 10 laps, altough you can save tyres if you dont have to break to late or your car is gentle to tyres. if you remember Kimmi makes a flat spot on front tyre because of late braking driving for Mc Laren.

  18. Hooray for point 9 re. having same strategies for teammates. But Keith, you and I just know surely that that won’t quell the “Hamilton is favoured over Button” hoo ha in 2010!

    On balance, I agree that banning refuelling seems like a good thing for F1, but I never watched before 1994 so do not know what the downsides are. Could Keith or anyone else in the know give a rundown of the downsides?

    1. Nigel Mansell could probably give you a couple

  19. dam the error 500 !

  20. even just the 1st reason is enough for me, 2010 rules are better than 2009 rules.

    However I would rather go back to the pre 2003 style refueling rules, refueling allowed but no race-fuel qualifying. That way a driver in a lesser car had the chance to run an agressive strategy(fuel and tyres) and had the potential to win.

    1. I agree. Its a pity that lesser cars will have lesser chances to forge ahead even for a sight of a win. I do understand that this is all about the car’s performance and driver skills but still.

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