14 reasons to love the refuelling ban

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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

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154 comments on 14 reasons to love the refuelling ban

  1. bernification said on 17th December 2009, 15:56

    Rubbish really.

    I am under no illusion that the racing will be improved. And the cost cutting is rubbish. How will they fuel them now? Out of a Jerry can? All that expensive kit will still go with them, it just won’t be seen on race day!

    If you are claiming that it is dangerous (!), well surely cornering in an F1 car flat out is dangerous.
    There is every fail safe practical for the application. Surely when the teams get it wrong, it should serve to remind us that this is an inherently dangerous sport.

    At least something ought.
    (Massa’a freak accident aside, F1 has taken a beating with the revalation of Piquets cheating and all that entails).

    As far as low fuel quali goes, we already had that- it was called quali 2.
    Now we will be sat ready to watch as the faster cars go even faster as their fuel runs down, and the new teams on the block get lapped within 8 laps. It will be predictable.
    More predictable than Luca calling out for re-fueling to be reintroduced, after we see yet another Ferrari run out of petrol 2 laps prematurely. ( I’m sure that this was introduced to stop them making fools of themselves again).

    As for the ‘it will mean we will know who was fastest by quali?’- surely that negates the race? And fastest lap?

    The beauty of previously NOT knowing (didn’t like the publishing weights cr*p) fuel loads was guessing who had gone light or who had put in a storming drive.
    I liked to have my suspicions confirmed that Renault hadn’t turned their dog of a drive into a monster in 2 weeks when Alonso pitted after the spotting lap, or guessing that one team mate had outqualified his team mate even with a heavier fuel load.

    All that is gone.

    Re-fueling was introduced to add more variables into the design process and add freedom to strategy.

    I look forward to viewing a series of spec engines racing on set fuel.

    Most interesting. When the ovals?

  2. I somehow think instead of trying to save fuel when stuck behind someone teams will just save tyres instead.

  3. Juan Pablo Heidfeld said on 17th December 2009, 16:32

    This article helps to define JPM’s raw talent, which could also show some suprises next season…

  4. ILoveVettel said on 17th December 2009, 18:10

    I am very disappointed that refueling is gone next year. So, I don’t agree with most of the points you mentioned:

    Point 1: The qualifying was very very interesting this year I think.. Q1 and Q2 were flat out where as Q3 was about strategy.. It had its fair share of excitement..

    Point 2: As I mentioned earlier, Q1 and Q2 were still flat out.. In addition to that, drivers did not know what strategy the others were on… So, they had to give more than 100% to ensure their strategy work.. This year Saturday practice will give a fair indication of qualyfying…

    Point 3 &4 : The race strategy always was a big reason that fascinated me… Specially in those circuits where overtaking is very difficult, only strategy was the only thing that would spice up races… Now, we have to for a safety car to spice up those races…

    Point 5: Though I agree with you on this point but it does not help the audience much…

    Point 6: I think the reason why the drivers did not follow each other closely is mainly tire degradation than fuel saving.. This year without refueling, this problem will only increase…

    Point 7: I am not sure how the race strategy would be more interesting.. There were two parts of race strategy, tyre and fuel.. Now 50% is gone.

    Point 8. Though I have to agree with you on this point, the same thing might happen for tyre changes.. So, I can’t say it would be 100% fair..

    Point 9. Though its true for race strategy, the problem will remain for drivers not getting equal equipments. But overall I think this would be a positive.

    Point 10. I am not very convinced on this one.. Will see how it turns out.

    Point 11. I don’t think the pit stops would be more exciting. It will just take less time..

    Point 12. How many races have been ruined by fuel rig? I think very few.. And the chance of this human error also made the races more exciting..

    Point 13. Though it will improve safety, but we did not have any major accidents with refueling.. So, I don’t think it will make that much of a difference…

    Point 14: Overtaking was always important.. But with refueling gone, I fear most of the races will be processional…

    Having said all this I hope I my worries are proved wrong.. Though the only hope I can see is the news teams being off the pace an d the rookie drivers make mistakes while being lapped :D

    • maestrointhesky said on 17th December 2009, 23:19

      Initially I was sceptical of the refuelling ban but I have to say, I’m more convinced than ever this is the right thing to do.

      Surely saving fuel behind a slower car means that you’d be carrying excess fuel/weight at the end of the race when you don’t need it. This to me says puts emphasis on doing everything you can to make the pass as soon as possible as this will also mean you won’t be destroying your font tyres if you can get out of the turbulent air of the car in front . There’s also risk of getting caught and passed by the chasing pack – this is a race of course! I suppose you could gamble on putting less fuel in than a full race distance on some of the street circuits on the premise there will be a high probability of a safety car enabling you to save fuel for the laps you’re behind it. If this didn’t happen though, you would be forced to slow down to make race distance or risk the Ferrari style splutter to a halt of old. Whether the pass can be made is another question but my view is that a driver has more pressure progress and is therefore more, and not less likely to try and pass on the track as there will be uncertainty that their competitor will pit at all. This, coupled with a premium on finishing first should lead to more paint swapping incidents at least, and…….. favour the racers dare I say it!

  5. I agree w/ Keith on this, that there are more benefits in the refuelling-ban decision than drawbacks.

    Is the 2-tyre-type-per-race policy still in place for 2010 ?

  6. F1Yankee said on 17th December 2009, 19:28

    wow, keith. you really put the wood to refuelling!

  7. Obster said on 17th December 2009, 20:26

    OK-points 6 (flat out racing) and 7 (Strategy)not valid. See A.Prost in the 80’s, who learned how to bury his fuel gauge in the red for the first portion of the race and coast in the second half while staying ahead of everybody else.
    Point 12 (Ruined races-and Championships, too Felipe!)certainly true…13 (safety), too.
    Point 14 (overtaking important), ehhhhhh….
    Great article, Keith-lots of food for thought!

  8. Agree with….. Oh wait., NOTHING.

    Banning refuelling in f1 in the present situation(s) that it’s in will dramatically decrease excitement in 2010. Just wait and see…

    Thank god we have some interesting driver line ups.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th December 2009, 22:39

      Can I ask why? I mean it seems pretty obvious to me that qualifying, for example, will be much more exciting without the unknown factor of fuel loads next year.

      • DASMAN said on 17th December 2009, 22:56

        But Keith, can you explain to me why you have tied the change in qualifying format to the ban on refueling? I would have thought these are separate changes not covered by the same rule change? Or am I mistaken?

        The way I see it is that there are some positives to the rule change, but also some negatives. I think we will have to see how it pans out, but I don’t think we can assume it will automatically make F1 better.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th December 2009, 9:47

          It is true that we could have refuelling with low-fuel qualifying. But because refuelling has been tied to race-fuel qualifying for several years, getting rid of refuelling now also means bringing back low-fuel qualifying, so I’ve included it in here.

          The governing body didn’t set out to bring back low-fuel qualifying, they set out to cut costs. Getting low-fuel qualifying back is a fortunate side-effect.

          • Antifia said on 18th December 2009, 15:17

            And what if they made the teams fill up their tanks before the qualifying, without allowing re-filling them after it? That would be interesting too – if you go for that extra lap to try and grap pole, you may find yourself having to control your pace during the race to save fuel…

      • But race fuel qualifying had the advantage of innovate grids. For example a Alonso would’ve never been able to pull out his BS pole at the Hungaroring. As the grid is still a decisive factor, these variations are more interesting. And before you counter with, ohhh, it’s gonna be so close, think: what if one team has THE breakthrough and goes to the absolute top. While an upsetting low-race fuel qualifying might shake up a grid and therefore manipulate the race, low-fuel qualifying closes this chance.

        Otherwise I concur with DASMAN, let’s wait and see. We shouldn’t put the refuelling ban in the realms of being the F1 Jesus but we shouldn’t claim it to be horrible before the first races. At least I won’t, I have enough things in F1 to be frustrated about, I don’t need myself to worry about this one as well.

      • bernification said on 18th December 2009, 15:26

        But Keith, this is your opinion.

        I see it completely the other way.
        It is known that neither will stop for fuel. How is that less predictable?

        There is nothing here to change the cars ability to overtake.

        The FIA had that opportunity and blew it by not upholding the protest against the diffusers (the banning of which could possibly have aided overtaking).

        But you have to hand it Mad Max.

        He has everyone talking about this rather that how he could manipulate the vote into getting his advocate (the weasly toad, sorry Todt) into the chair!

  9. maestrointhesky said on 17th December 2009, 23:31

    Surely saving fuel behind a slower car means that you’d be carrying excess fuel/weight at the end of the race when you don’t need it. This to me says puts emphasis on doing everything you can to make the pass as soon as possible as this will also mean you won’t be destroying your font tyres if you can get out of the turbulent air of the car in front . There’s also risk of getting caught and passed by the chasing pack – this is a race of course! I suppose you could gamble on putting less fuel in than a full race distance on some of the street circuits on the premise there will be a high probability of a safety car enabling you to save fuel for the laps you’re behind it. If this didn’t happen though, you would be forced to slow down to make race distance or risk the Ferrari style splutter to a halt of old. Whether the pass can be made is another question but my view is that a driver has more pressure progress and is therefore more, and not less likely to try and pass on the track as there will be uncertainty that their competitor will pit at all. This, coupled with a premium on finishing first should lead to more paint swapping incidents at least, and…….. favour the racers dare I say it!

  10. wasiF1 said on 18th December 2009, 1:51

    I don’t think ban on refuelling will improve overtaking.

  11. Keith negates many of his own points. He is as usual well written but he has argued poorly. There will still be pit stops, they will still primarily occur at ideal/predictable times, and thus the dreaded passing in the pits will continue. Also,anyway, Keith assumes that drivers now don’t pass because they are able but simply unwilling. There’s little evidence of that. Passing is hard and will remain so—and the risk of frying one’s tires to gain one spot may cut deeply against Excitement. Regarding strategy, there will simply be a replacement of some parameters for others, and these will be no less opague than the previous set.I will grant that qualifying will be better in some respects. And yes I remember well the world before 1994.

  12. Owen G said on 18th December 2009, 4:55

    I’d also like to read a post by someone putting up the counter arguments.

    Personally, I’m for the ban. But I’d like to hear points of view from the other side of the debate. The main ones seem to be that it was “interesting” to guess the fuel strategies after qualifying and that rubbish cars getting pole because they were on fumes somehow added to the excitement. Why not just have reverse grids or some other contrived way of getting poorer cars to the front?

    This is the pinnacle of motorsport, so if the fastest cars are at the front when it comes to the start of the race then what’s the problem?

  13. I’d also like to read a post by someone putting up the counter arguments.

    Well, despite I think fuel ban is an improvement, I will try to put something on the other side:

    1) Pit Stops will be less spectacular:

    Today, pit stops are quite a lot complex and very articulated with so many people involved. It’s great to watch all those people acting in one of the most sophisticated maneuvers one can see. We will miss that.

    2) Pit Stops will be far more predictable:

    From the moment pit stops will be related just to change tires, we will be able to predict far more accurately the timing for every driver. Today, timing is variable depending of fuel quantity, so give us some more excitement in guessing how much time will take the pit stop for each of them. On the other hand, that will take out one option for race strategy. So, race strategy will be less open than today.

    3) Keith has said, fuel ban will give us more exciting Qualifying:

    I’ll would not say qualifying with minimum fuel, is something brought because fuel ban during pit stops. That could be established independently.

    Not a long list, and because that, I think new rule will work better than previous one.

    O the other hand, I would like to see changes in tyre options also. I don’t like tyre manufacturer dictating all teams which compounds they have to use in each track.

    I see the benefits of restricting tyre options because costs, but at least let each team to determine what options they want to use in each track, hard-medium or medium-softs… Tyre manufacturer should not have to “impose”, just giving advise.

    That will give us new excitement seeing some teams struggling because wrong tyre strategy and other teams, performing much better because of having an extra advantage because they take some risks with tyre options.

  14. arulworld said on 18th December 2009, 6:46

    i agree,thats the right thing to do.

  15. antonyob said on 18th December 2009, 9:53

    god help the day that the pit stop “excitement” is a reason to watch F1 !

    best side of this is qualifying times will be an absolute measure of speed. The rest is conjecture.

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