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Following Thursday’s meeting of team managers to discuss the return of refuelling, it was unanimously agreed to scrap the idea as there was no evidence that it would improve the ‘show’. However the vote is facing opposition from Ferrari head honcho Sergio Marchionne.
He argues that it’s early to dismiss the idea completely and suggest that the matter be looked at in more details by the Strategy Working Group, of which he is a member, rather than just accepting the finds so lightly.
Speaking at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix the Ferrari boss commented,
“It is interesting because I am not sure what the findings are actually saying,”
“Refuelling by itself has no value other than the fact it adds variability to the race. Fuel loads, how many times you refuel, when you refuel, they are all things that are important.
“There are some people that argue that you can come up with a deterministic model that will make everyone refuel at the same time, which is absolute hogwash.
“Especially if you combine that with a higher degree of freedom on the choice of tyres, which I think is probably a lot more important than the refuelling strategy.”
The freedom of tyres Sergio is talking about refers to a recent proposal from Force India, carried unanimously through the F1 strategy group, that teams can select their own two compounds for each race from the four Pirelli offer each year.
At present Pirelli make this selection, only making available the two they believe to suit the purposes for each event given the amount of degradation.
TJ13 has been consistently critical of Pirelli this season for providing tyres that are too conservative. This allows the majority of the teams to stop just once or twice and is not fulfilling the brief of forcing two to three pit stops as the norm.
It must be said that Sergio Marchionne’s previous comments pre-supposes Pirelli will play ball and deliver the teams the tyre choice they have agreed upon. The Italian manufacturer can make life difficult over this issue should they wish, and the F1 commission has yet to ratify it.
Marchionne recognises the importance of Pirelli’s co-operation. “I think there is a willingness on behalf of Pirelli to provide that flexibility to the teams which will create additional variability and will make the sport interesting to watch.
“It is not just a question of the quality of the drivers. It is the combination of the technical choices that the team make and the way in which they drive.”
However, Marchionne appears to be suggesting, there has yet to be a proper examination of the impact the refuelling proposal could have ‘in the round’.
“If the findings are such that it provides zero additional spectacle value, in the sense of creating something that the sport fans want, then I think we should stay away. I haven’t seen the evidence.
The Ferrari chairman then rubbishes the evidence gathered that demonstrates refuelling greatly reduces on track over taking.
“We keep on hearing noises about what kitchen-concocted studies have yielded. I understand them. The question is you have to find out the impact of the combination of refuelling, tyre changes and variety of other changes are going to have on the sport.”
At this time Marchionne and Ferrari appear to stand alone on the matter of refuelling.
Christian Horner was adamant this weekend.
“When we discussed it in the Strategy Group it didn’t have a lot of support but we agreed to explore it, discuss it, and analyse it properly.
“The feedback was negative 100 per cent. It was too expensive, not safe enough. It was detrimental to the races and the strategies.
“So it will go back to the Strategy Group and my opinion is it should not happen. I am not keen for getting refuelling back to F1.”
We may then ask, why Marchionne is going it alone over refuelling. This is a man who doesn’t fight battles he can’t win.
The clue is in the Italian’s concluding comments. “Singularly it [refuelling] may not be the answer, but combined with other things it might be. So I am totally open.”
The gulf between Mercedes and Ferrari (and the others) was once again reinforced this weekend, when the first non-Silver Arrow across the finish line was over 40 seconds down the road.
Marchionne recognises ‘the rest’ are going to need some help in overturning the Brackley teams’ dominance in Formula One.
Big teams not only dominate Formula One because they spend more money on R&D and manufacturing, but because they build a vast resource to analyse and predict the variables.
Sergio has change managed the odd one or two processes in his time – some would say rather successfully. He recognises if you throw enough variables into the mix, the calculations and models used to predict outcomes become unreliable and need to be worked ground up once again.
Refuelling adds another layer of unpredictability to Formula One racing, and with Mercedes lead over the field – that can only be a good thing from Maranello’s perspective.