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. While it is true that refuelling did not stop low fuel qualifying, the return to proper qualifying is a welcome consequnce for me.

    I notice that some posters have said that we already have low fuel qualifying in Q1 & Q2 where we got to see the best times, however this is not the case. The only purpose of Q1 & Q2 for the top teams is to get through into the next session not to set the quickest lap times. There have been many occasions when a driver knows he has set a quick enough time to get in the next session so he does not go out to set a quicker time to save a set of tyres and the car, so the driver at the top of the timesheets in Q2 is not necessarily the quickest on the day.

    I am not sure if my memory is entirely accurate regarding this example, but in Hungary 2008 when Ferrari and McLaren enjoyed a significant car advantage I think Massa went out for an extra run in Q1 or Q2 when he didn’t need to. Then in the race when his engine failed three laps from the end I remember wondering if he hadn’t made that extra run if he would have made the finish.

    Some have also claimed that because drivers will still have to make a pit stop due to the two compound rule, which I personally do not agree with, we will still have passing in the pits. But it will be different scenario to how it has been with refuelling.

    Now teams pretty much know within a few laps when other teams will be stopping, and if one driver is stopping later those extra laps he stays out he will be faster because he has the lighter car.

    With no refuelling drivers will only come in when they need to change tyres so teams will not know when their rivals will stop, and the cars should be quicker after a pit stop not before it as the weight of the car will not have increased but they will have fresh tyres, so staying out longer won’t be as much an advantage unless you didn’t have to stop again.

    • bernification said on 18th December 2009, 15:33

      Some have also claimed that because drivers will still have to make a pit stop due to the two compound rule, which I personally do not agree with, we will still have passing in the pits. But it will be different scenario to how it has been with refuelling.

      How? Can you explain?

      Will the car stop? Will time elapse? Will the car resume?

      So how exactly will it be different?

      • Sorry, I tried to explain what I meant in the last couple of paragraphs in my post but I am not the best at getting across what I mean.

        With refuelling unless a driver has completely ruined his tyres staying out longer is usually the best strategy, as after their rivals stop they will have a lighter and therefore quicker car than the driver who stopped first.

        So if two drivers were close on the track but the second driver was stopping a few laps later, as teams usually know when everyone is due to stop, the usual strategy would be for the second driver not try to overtake on track but to follow and then put in some quick laps before his own stop to gain the place.

        With no refuelling under the current rules drivers will only have to make one stop to as they have to use both tyre compounds, although obviously drivers will usually probably have to make more than one stop depending on tyre wear at different races.

        Teams will now not know when other drivers will make a stop, although they may try to guess from looking at the lap times. As the stop will be only tyres and not for fuel the car should be quicker after its stop rather than before, so if a driver tried the same tactic of stopping later to get past the car in front, unless something like traffic has been a factor, he will probably find that the other car has in fact increased its lead.

        Teams and drivers will have to judge when is the best time to change tyres based on the wear rates and when their rivals will stop, and then work out if making any extra stops for new tyres will be quicker than staying out trying to preserve the tyres, so the pit stop strategy will probably be more likely to change during the race with no refuelling than it is with refuelling.

        I don’t know if I have managed to explain myself any better this time or not, or if anyone else understands what I mean and can put it better.

  2. I’m still going to stick with Martin Brundle in that the refuelling ban is a bad idea, but I’m happy if next years racing proves me wrong.

    However I must say that I sometimes despair at F1 fans. We always comment from our armchairs and think we know better, much like many of the stewards who have no racing experience and caused us such grief.

    We will never attain a perfect set of racing rules, but hopefully over time we will get closer to a fairer system. Banning refuelling is sweating the small stuff where there are far more important things concentrate on…

  3. theRoswellite said on 18th December 2009, 16:04

    Considering the number and content of the above submissions I’d say there is some question as to the effect the refueling ban will have on the “quality” of the show.

    One thing is certain. Removing fuel, especially in the form of a high pressure refueling rig, from the pit environment is a real increase in safety, especially for the pit crew and other individuals within the pit environs. Any situation in which fuel, people, heat, and machinery are combined in a limited space, and operations are conducted under stress and at high speed, has the potential for catastrophe at a significant level.

    Also, fueling errors have resulted in drivers having their races, and eventually seasons, ruined…just ask Felipe.

    I would certainly rather see the race outcome decided on the track…by the drivers…than by the lollipop guy!

    • bernification said on 18th December 2009, 16:47

      Have any pit lane injuries been attributable to the transfer of fuel?

      No. The system has been safe for years (and only really had any problems when teams messed with the fuel rate and/or filters).

      All the incidents have been to do with human error- drivers stopping in the wrong place, leaving to early etc..

      I’m sure if there were significant deficiencies with the system it would have been re-designed.

      All of the ‘dangerous aspects’ of a stop- the human element- will still be present.

      As they should be.

  4. antonyob said on 18th December 2009, 16:06

    the fuel isnt held under high pressure the only pressure on the fuel is gravity. a fairly necessary force.

    • bernification said on 18th December 2009, 16:49

      I don’t think that fuel would flow at 15-20 liters a second (is that what it is?) through a hose of such a cross section were it not under high pressure anthonyob.

  5. Owen G said on 18th December 2009, 20:19

    Banning refuelling won’t lead to a massive improvement in the quality of racing but it will cut out a couple of annoying things as far as I’m concerned. Namely fuel adjusted qualifying and passing in the pits. That’s good enough for me.

    There may still be passing in the pits but it won’t be as guaranteed as before with differing fuel loads. Now it’ll be a more even fight between cold tyres and worn tyres. So if one driver stays out 3 laps longer there’s no guarantee those 3 laps plus in/out laps will be quicker than the guy who pitted.

  6. Owen G said on 18th December 2009, 20:20

    Also, can a pro-refueller put up some pro points of keeping refuelling rather than just disagreeing with the pro points of banning it?

  7. Martin B said on 18th December 2009, 20:33

    Refuelling was brought in to add interest to processional races. I don’t know what’s different now. The fastest guys will get to the front and start pulling away from the pack. End of interest in race.

    What about making refuelling optional? Anyone got any idea whether we would get a mix of strategies, or would everyone use their compulsory tyre pitstop to refuel? Maybe force refuellers to qualify on race fuel, while non-refuellers can qualify on minimum fuel. Anything to shake things up a bit.

    • Essentially refuelling was optional under the old rules, if a team thought it would be quicker over a race distance they could have designed a car that could last the whole race on one tank of fuel or at the minimum do a one stopper to refuel when they had to change tyre compounds.

      It is like the double decker diffusers, they aren’t compulsory but the advantage they give means teams had to have them on their cars or risk being left behind.

  8. Uncle said on 19th December 2009, 0:26

    This will only work with a corresponding change to the aero rules. With too much aero grip, there wont be much overtaking, and without pitstops, we’ll see a lot of processional races…..

  9. Ram20 said on 19th December 2009, 1:53

    This all falls into the hands of Lewis Hamilton!
    F1 Sporting group is making it too easy for him. The fabled “kind to tyres” won’t apply next year TRUST ME on that. This view is also backed up by Alonso and Hamilton the two fastest guys on the grid.

  10. Kris H said on 19th December 2009, 5:23

    Looking at a slightly more machro-type picture, I like the ban on refueling because it introduces some different strategy options for the team and some different driving techniques required, that some of the people in F1 have never been involved in before.

    Take the whole general feel of a Grand Prix and give it a big mix-up and them see who still is brilliant. Probably the same guys as before but it’ll be more interesting to watch. F1 has never been about the quanity of passes, but the quality of them – this has been one of Bernie’s big theories over the years and I happen to agree.

  11. Racing is Racing whether pit stops or not…

    even though i like the extra dynamic and spectacle of refuelling, its generally wasteful and expensive and lets face it really dangerous.

    i hope that fuel saving becomes a feautre now which can only be good for ecology and the planet.

    i remember races were no less exciting before refuelling… bringing costs down is going to help and getting mosely out of the way is going to help even more!!

    lets see a grand new era of F1 and hopefully soon get rid of th ancient internal combustion engines and go for something genuinely high tech.

  12. PeriSoft said on 19th December 2009, 19:36

    “nay-sayers who insist it will lead to the fastest car always starting from pole position…”

    Horrors! The fastest car on pole position – next thing you’ll be telling me that the fastest car and driver will be winning the races, too! How terrible for the ‘show’…

    *disgust*

  13. Ronman said on 21st December 2009, 11:11

    The best decision reached by F1 in years…

    next stop: running a race on one set of tires.
    the stop after that: running a whole weekend on two sets of Tires.

  14. My concern regarding the refueling ban is that the added pressure on pitcrews to perform quick changes may result in more errors in the pits and more races being decided by variations in pit times rather than on the race track.

    Previously the fact that refueling took longer than tyre changes meant that all pitstop times were fairly close together and thus not the decisive factors on who took the podium (except in the rare cases when a crew made a bad error). I think we can expect more mistakes and more time differences from stop to stop and these might even be more decisive than accumulated lap times. I hope I am wrong though… and I am happy that racers will no longer have a good package and strategy spoiled by a fuel rig issue.

  15. Rhys said on 4th March 2010, 14:44

    I think the refuelling ban will definitely freshen up the strategic battle, particularly with the two compound rule staying. Strategy got a bit predictable in the last few years, as the teams all had the same data and had a good idea of what everyone else would be doing, so hopefully that’ll change.

    But I’m not convinced it will improve overtaking. There’s a lot said about drivers “waiting for the pit stops”, but we’ve seen plenty of occasions where a driver is losing huge amounts of time behind slower cars and still not overtaking.

    I think a lot of people look back to the “golden era” before refuelling, i.e. the 1980s and early ’90s, but we’re not going to see that kind of racing again without drastic changes. The track layouts are very different now, the aerodynamics of the cars discourage overtaking, and the cars are generally much closer in performance.

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