Refueling? It’s a Great Idea (Five of Them Actually)

TheJudge13 contributor Dane Hansen, reveals the positives of an otherwise estranged regulation for Formula One.

Jos Verstappen in 1994, Felipe Massa in 2008 and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen a year later in Brazil. All three drivers have had their share of pit stop horrors. Both Jos and Kimi  were engulfed in burning high-octane fuel while Felipe miss-timed his release in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix to take the fuel hose and two mechanics along with him on exit. All exciting, but dangerous.

After being completely shut down by teams last year, Jean Todt has once again put forward the notion of refueling. And it’s a great idea. Why? Let me indulge you.

In 2009, Formula One took on a full revolution, with a return to slick tyres and tighter rules on aero design, making the cars look more streamlined. Then, the following season refueling was banned. From the get-go it looked like this was what F1 had been waiting for – raw excitement. No thoughts of DRS or KERS systems even crossed our minds in 2010 (aside from McLaren’s F-Duct). Would teams finish the race? How much fuel can a driver afford to start the race with? These were questions fans would ask as they drooled over potential race outcomes. Gradually the sport shifted its scope into the realm of sustainability, and in 2014 we had the flop renaissance of the turbo era.

Since 2009, Formula One and its fans at large have been bludgeoned by the damaging plague of dominance. Brawn 2009, Red Bull 2010 to 2013 and Mercedes to present. Year in year out, each season we have been greeted with mediocre looking cars, and lately, they are accompanied by the lazy drone of 1.6 turbo ‘power units’. We don’t even use words like “engine” these days. But one we do is “excitement“, and we want it back!

Though it had its dangers, contemporary F1 thrived during its refueling days, and it would probably do the same for present Formula One. The naughties provided us with fantastic racing and is arguably the last decade where Formula One drivers were seen as gladiators and true heroes. Although Michael Schumacher pulled Ferrari out of its ‘successless’ doldrums, the era was mighty, and the sport’s quickest. Lewis Hamilton’s 2015 fastest  lap clocked 1:30. 945 whilst eleven years earlier, Shumi put a lap record of 1:24. 125, as if the Mercedes W07 was strolling around Albert Park taking in the sights and surroundings; if only Lewis could have stopped for a picture too.

Say Formula One returned to using the refueling rules of yesteryear, what could we expect?

via: f1fanatic.co.uk

via: f1fanatic.co.uk

Firstly; cars would once again become smaller and more nimble. The models of the 2000’s were small, but packed a punch, and although drifting onto another topic here, this could see the reinvention of beautiful car design – another talking point. 

Second; comes speed. A lighter car is a faster car. Refueling would mean minimising fuel loads versus track style and tyre compounds available, and inevitably how each car will handle at its optimum, creating a race that has a multitude of possible outcomes.

Third; comes speed again. Cars will be able run at lighter weights more consistently, instead of coaxing the car for a race’s first quarter until lighter loads permit a faster lap (that said, the current and future tyre selection from Pirelli might not even allow that). Fans will be able to appreciate cars at their quickest throughout the weekend instead of qualifying simulations on Friday and the last three minutes of Q3 comes Saturday.

Don’t we deserve to see the fastest cars with the best drivers? If not, modern Formula One has only developed clever drivers, not necessarily the fastest. Barring Alain Prost, should we not leave professors as engineers and mechanics in the garage?

Fourth; is the unpredictability of qualifying. Cars that might not have been the quickest still had a shot at pole. Setting a fast lap on Saturday was determined by how heavily laden a car was with fuel, and come Sunday lights out, a driver would start with the race with unchanged so-called “left overs” of fuel from qualifying.

Fifth; There have been complaints about how the FIA, teams and tyre suppliers want to spice up the sport once more. They seemingly add token rules to help cost capping and have added an extra tyre compound for this year. These stipulations come fine-print that is leaning towards hieroglyphics explaining quantum physics. And that’s just tough for the average fan to understand. After all, we can’t all be F1 fanatics. Adding the refueling to the mix is like adding one more spoon full of sugar to make sure your tea is just sweet enough. It’s a dynamic that fans would welcome, just because it adds unpredictability and is easily understood.

A sixth bonus point is safety. Outlawed some six years ago, refueling was a term synonymous with Formula One. Hair-raising and dangerous. Yes, very dangerous. But fans have been bamboozled by the many rules changes from the FIA and equally surprised by the praising of some major teams. So do we forget that rule makers and engineers are among the most esteemed in their field, and concerns for safety would be dealt with promptly. For instance, after a car is disconnected from its lifeline, that being the fuel hose, and the jacks that prop it up, drivers must wait a mandatory second before their release from the pit box. That way the hose cannot be torn from its fuel bank, prompting a second green light allowing the car to be released safely. There are many ways to combat issues of safety. Let’s not forget that Formula One is full of clever guys that relish these challenges, and are bountiful in their success of their solutions.

As if to be the fuel of sport, fans and audiences need to be won back by the thrill of racing. Yet teams have distanced themselves from the prospect of a return, and its unlikely that cars will be refueled. Ted Kravitz believes that an engine change is more likely to be on the agenda for 2017 rather than F1’s latest commission on fuel. Reintroduction or not, Formula One needs to be refueled with excitement, one way or another.

45 responses to “Refueling? It’s a Great Idea (Five of Them Actually)

  1. If you love ‘real passing’ in the pitlane, then you’ll love refuelling.

    Times don’t matter to me. Wide angled slow looking camera shots do. Not even 10 secs a lap won’t fix that.

    • Totally agree.
      The only way i would back refuelling though is if it was done purely for lap time and drivers pushing the car, not for strategy options. With a 100kg fuel limit they could all have the same small fuel tank size, something like 25 or 33kg, This would ensure that all cars are on the same strategy and in the same pit stop window. This would minimize pitlane overtaking and ensure that it has to be done on track. Give them soft reasonably high deg tyres and short stints on low fuel.

    • I loved watching geniuses like Ross Brawn work magic with strategy. It’s no coincidence that the excitement of F1 was gone by the time he exited.

  2. ‘The naughties provided us with fantastic racing’. Wow, this is quite the contradiction if you then talk about the Red Bull/Mercedes as a ‘damaging plague’ because as I recall racing was both dull and predictable with NO passing whatsover on track. Our memories cloud us, in that the cars were indeed faster to watch and onboard a lot more exciting. But passing was done in the pits. Traction control ruled all and if Schumi was not on pole and won the race it was a rare occassion. I am sorry but refueling is just a bad idea. I dont get why F1 all throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s was done without refueling and gave us fast, beautiful cars without the gimmicks. It will only add cost, danger and more expense towards what will only become a calculated variable such as tyres are now. Just let them pack as much fuel as they want and a minimum to ensure they can go full throttle with tyres that can handle it and F1 is already back on track. I don’t see why this push from Todt is not just another gimmick that people think contributes to exciting racing, whilst in reality it never did. Drivers will simply drive their own deltas even more, ensuring more dull ‘battles’ and the field being out of sync.

    • Actually Brabham refuelling began in earnest in 1982, and by ’83 was the norm. This was born out of pure performance, and not by the FIA to orchestrate a show.

      • I stand corrected there. Did the FIA not ban it from 85 onwards or something though? Could be wrong.

  3. Worst idea ever. Hated qualifying with different levels of fuel, will reduce the level of overtaking and will damage the sport.

    • +1
      I remember watching in horror as Steve Matchett was totally engulfed in flames at Hockenheim and thought it very crass of the safety merchants in F1 that it wasn’t banned sooner.
      No pitstops add to the excitement of racing in my view.

    • Your idea is a bad idea, period! I guess we can never have exciting races like the 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix again?

      • Let’s all stand up and cheer, refuelling gave us an exciting race in 1998….😏😏😏….. We’ve had exciting races without refuelling too…. So you pick your poison

        • I could list dozens of other races that were just as exciting too, but they were all BLH (Before Lewis Hamilton). You might not have ever seen or heard about any of these races before your lord and savior arrived a Melbourne in 2007?
          I don’t see any talk in the Indy, IMSA or other major categories of racing about fueling not being safe.

  4. –Since 2009, Formula One and its fans at large have been bludgeoned by the damaging plague of dominance.

    *laughs* What, you mean unlike 1984-1991 (McLaren, 7 years out of 8), 1992-1997 (all Williams or Benetton), or 2000-2004 (Ferrari, 5 years running). Were those golden years (Lauda, Prost, Senna, Mansell, Schumacher) or another dark time of dominance?

    Granted in 2006-2010 we had five different teams winning in five years but that was very much the exception so far as recent F1 is concerned!

  5. You only have to look at cliptheapex.com/overtaking to see the impact of refuelling. Between 1994 and 2009 the number of overtakes dropped to about 10 overtakes per GP. After the ban on refuelling it more than doubled in 2010 and rose skyhigh in 2011 with the introduction of DRS and fast degrading tyres to 60 per GP. Even with the current Mercedes domination the number is still above 30 overtakes. Refuelling will certainly let that number drop again, while I am sure that the current regulations will result in an increase for next year because I think teams will become more competitive than the previous two years.

    • Refuelling will increase the speed differential between cars and increase overtaking on track with the current cars. End of story.
      Argument that say it didn’t work back in 19 tickety boo, don’t understand what was going on or what influences overtaking.
      The aero and durable tyres were the mainreason for the lack of overtaking.
      The reduction in aero, Drs, and fast wearing tyres have increased overtaking.

      Refuelling will do the same.

      The rules and cars are very different to back in 19 tickety boo.

      It will also improve the show and introduce some more variability providing better racing.

      • The racing in the early 2000s was the worst I have ever seen,. you arequite wrong and insulting as well.

        • Yes early 2000s had the highest downforce levels in f1 history and super durable bridgestones.
          Exactly what I said caused little overtaking.
          Nothing to do with refuelling.
          Also what I said.

  6. “… contemporary F1 thrived during its refueling days”, “…The naughties provided us with fantastic racing”. F1 during most of the refuelling years in the naughties were only fantastic for anyone who was a fan of either Michael Schumacher or Ferrari.

    1. The only way we’ll see “beautiful” cars again is if the most aerodynamically efficient design happens to also be beautiful.
    2. Faster cars don’t create races that have a multitude of possible outcomes. The dominant car designs will still consistently lead the races.
    3. I’d argue that fans would like to see a car that works well on a heavy fuel load pulling away at the beginning of a race and then caught by a different car that works better once the fuel load lightens. Cars that are all optimised for light fuel loads are going to just have “sprints” between refuelling stops and once again the best design will just romp away from the other cars.
    4. During the refuelling years in the naughties, low fuel qualifying was rarely unpredictable. Michael Schumacher would invariably qualify on pole and then pull away from the field once the race started. Great for his fans, dull for everyone else.
    5. You’re an F1 fan and you believe that it will improve F1. I’m an F1 fan and I think it’ll make the racing worse, not just because of safety, but because I believe it will lead to less overtaking on track and more processional racing. Please don’t assume that the majority of fans agree with you. Personally I have no idea what most fans will think.
    6. Refuelling can never be made 100% safe.

    “Don’t we deserve to see the fastest cars with the best drivers?” I’d imagine that the F1 teams up and down the pitlane would argue that they’ve already got the best drivers anyway. If you’re suggesting that the current fuel saving requirements are causing the best drivers to go slower than they’d wish to then I wouldn’t argue with you, however refuelling wouldn’t fix that. Instead that particular problem could be fixed by increasing the amount of fuel permitted.

  7. F1 should add this rule from next season;

    “During qualifying and the race, all technical communication between the pits/garage and car/driver is prohibited.”

    By all means have a hard-drive in the car which records data in real-time, but it can’t be accessed until after the cars have left parc ferme.

    Build a “retire car now” set of safeguards into the system. Other than that, the drivers have a digital display in their steering wheels, employ a traffic light warning system (green > good, amber > caution, red > danger) on all serviceable information (ie: brake temperatures), which it should then be a part of a drivers skill-set to either solve or drive around.

    • Totally agree with this. I’d still let the teams communicate with the driver about where other cars are, gaps etc, but at least they couldn’t “coach” the drivers if they had no telemetry to work off.

      Then also get rid of DRS, and keep the 100kg fuel limit, but remove the fuel flow limits, so you can see guys going flat out at the start of the GP and then saving at the end, and having guys save at the start and going flat out at the end. If the team didn’t have this information it’d be totally up to the driver to make these decisions, and we wouldn’t hear the complaining over the radio about being allowed to turn up the engine

  8. On the refuelling front, I’d have this rule;

    “Refuelling is non-mandatory.” And leave it at that. Leave it up to the teams.

    Where F1 goes wrong IMO is in laying down definitives. “You must do this, you musn’t do that.” All that does is put everybody in the same boat, and then whoever has the most money to throw under those definitive set of circumstances invariably wins.

    What really needs to be implemented are what I like to call “framework regulations.” Give the teams the bare bones from which to work, take away their computers in quali and the race, and that will give you the exciting and strategic racing.

    • Exactly! You’re on the right track here! Refueling might not be the be all and end all, but it shows how desperate we are.

      And on a side note, if we want F1 to be great again, we need better tracks. Before any regulation changes we need better, less sterile tracks. Why not build a track that tests drivers instead of changing cars?

      • Here’s an “outside the box” suggestion on the race tracks front.

        Rip up the racing line, replace with a less grippy asphalt.

  9. Refuelling may bring the odd fluke result but what it mainly did was remove the need to attempt a pass on the track.

    Sure, Mika Salo limping the Tyrell around to the points in Monaco without needing to refuel was a good result for a minnor team, but in the main it did little for the sport.

    You can even put the counter argument that as the ‘working range’ of the car was reduced – due to less weight variation – the car was easier to set up and drivers didn’t need to adapt during the race itself.

    I’m afraid the only thing that is going to improve the show is making overtaking easier on the track. Without gimmicks as well. The engines have nothing to do with this – as long as they are reliable it would be just as hard to pass in the current cars with a DFV as with the current powerplants.

    The cars are simply too aero dependent. They take too much energy out of the airflow and leave too much wake behind them. A following car simply can’t make as good use of the air as the car it is following so they can never run at the same pace.

    But even then, if you removed all aero completely you’d still lose out in some ways. Drivers like Perez put in stunning drives keeping faster cars behind them on older tyres. They can only do that because running in front has the aero advantage. Remove that and the faster cars will always make their way through and as reliability (Honda / Renault excepted) is so good these days you’d simply end up with the top teams going in two by two.

    • Exactly! You’re on the right track here! Refueling might not be the be all and end all, but it shows how desperate we are.

      And on a side note, if we want F1 to be great again, we need better tracks. Before any regulation changes we need better, less sterile tracks. Why not build a track that tests drivers instead of changing cars?

      • Tracks cost a lot more to change than the cars do (considering the teams will build a new car each year anyway). And unless a track is financially viable (for those money grabbing people at CVC) it’s not going to stay on the F1 calendar regardless of how good it is. The circuit in Turkey is pretty good, but is it used for much racing these days?

        Still on the subject of the tracks, it worries me that F1 cars are going to get wider in the near future, as this will reduce the amount of overtaking & wheel to wheel racing on narrower circuits such as Monaco.

      • I loved the era of F1 racing when “kitty litter” was _the_ runoff area. This was really interesting because the drivers needed to be extra careful. Those run-off areas also created quite a bit of unpredictability, if a car got in there, it finished the race. But in our time, we have mile long paved run off areas. The racers aren’t afraid to do something stupid because if they end up heading into the run off, often the worst thing happens is they lose position.

  10. During the years of refuelling the amount of on track action also heavily reduced and in many cases F1 become nothing more than a sprint race. Pit strategy did become the primary source of passing.

    F1 today needs spicing up, but, with on track racing action and not a system that will create a wider canyon in the between the racing and the action…

  11. Races are won and lost in pit stops now. if the pit stop extends by 5/10secs what is the difference? if the teams choose to go light at the start they are faster and slower later which mixes up the field. that combined with a degree of latitude in tyre compound surely can’t be worse that the last two seasons.

  12. From what i can gather the engines will be mandated to run for an extended lifetime now as they will be supplied at a cheaper rate to customers. that appears to be the current drift, meaning no independent suppliers will be allowed. if so then it is simply a compounding of the disaster that allows the manufacturers to decide who is competitive and who isn’t. an extremely sad day for ardent fans who wish to see some real racing.

  13. Let me start off by saying that what I’m about to suggest is not ideal in any way, shape or form. But, considering it look’s as if the FIA are about to wilt to the manufacturers and so bye-bye goes the hope of a competitive, independent engine, we need some way of “re-balancing” the performance difference between the “big teams” and the “small teams.” The best way to do this, IMO, is through the sporting regulations, so I propose the following;

    1.) The “small teams” get an extra set or 2 of tyres to use across the weekend (so 14-15), or;

    2.) DRS (which I hate) be implemented in a different way, so that you can now use it to attack and defend, DRS zones gotten rid of, and a driver gets a certain number of DRS deployments to use per race (attack and defend) based on their qualifying position.

    So for example, you could multiply their grid position by 3 to get the number of DRS deployments (to attack and defend) available to them throughout the race, so pole = 3, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 9, 4th = 12 etc. Or some other variation.

    Once again, let me say I don’t particularly like either, but at the same time, something needs to be done to level the playing field more, and it doesn’t seem that Jean is going to be particularly forthcoming in that regard.

    • I personally also hand an idea of how to make DRS a bit less gimmiky by just giving each driver a limited number of DRS uses per race. I think they should be the same throughout the track personally, but that is just me. The person behind should not get an advantage just because he is behind. And I guess it could be argued that it makes up for the disadvantage of being behind the wake of the car ahead, but the car ahead in some way earned that advantage imo.

      Either way, I always feel that the regulations are too restricting in the wrong ways always. They attempt to restrict creative thinking or options in the guise of safety, but never restrict cost spending.

      For the fuel, I feel it would make things a lot simpler and create less worry about fuel saving in drivers if all drivers were forced to start with the same fuel level. But this could cause drivers to try to waste fuel to bring down the weight, which would make the push for economical design out the window, but I still feel that driving economically is taking away from some of the racing. I get the idea of having an economical engine, but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice racing for the sake of saving fuel. I thing there should be a balance.

  14. I’d probably lose interest in F1 entirely if refuelling was introduced. It made for some pretty boring races overall. Let’s work on increasing mechanical grip and either reducing the dirty air produced by the cars or changing the aero rules so dirty air is not such a large factor. Makes much more sense then refuelling, particularly in this day and age where the engines are running at high power levels and using less fuel.

  15. Don’t forget the time that Christiaan Albers earned himself a contract dismissal by taking out the whole fuel assembly when he went too soon on the loud pedal in the pits, similar to how Massa did it ;-P

    (That event eventually allowed Sutil to enter the Spyker/ForceIndia team and introduced the F1 fans, and F1 TV producers, with with the beautiful miss Becks)

    • Impossible to forget, however, Adrian Sutil was the teammate of Albers since Melbourne already.
      I think it was Sakon Yamamoto who replaced Albers,

      It was all more a question of sponsorship/money and the dismal situation Spyker Cars found itself in, The pitlane incident wasn’t the cause of his sacking nor did it speed up the process.

      • It was actually Markus Winkelhock who replaced him and even led the race in the Spyker at the Nurburgring.

  16. Safety has gone beyond a joke now, today’s drivers are extremely soft and precious because of rule makers and electronics making the sport easy enough for a girl guide to drive a modern F1 car and not get so much as a blister on her pinky finger.
    Other than one incredibly unlucky, terribly tragic turn of events in the pouring rain at Suzuka a couple of seasons ago, we haven’t seen a death or terrible fire in F1 for decades.
    With drug and alcohol fuelled violence at it’s highest level since the dark ages, it is now MUCH safer to race a Formula 1 car than going to a nightclub or bar! How ridiculous is that?
    What’s more, a racing driver lives with the fear that, (barring an incredibly large chunk of good luck), if he crashes the car and the fuel bladder ruptures, a fire is almost inevitable … every single time he drives the car!

    Think of refuelling fires this way … what is the ratio of the amount of refuelling stops over an entire season – to pitlane fires caused solely by refuelling … almost negligible!
    Most of the fires are from human error, such as impatient drivers dropping the clutch too soon due to bad communication between the engineers, jack men or the refuellers. Not the actual act of putting fuel in the car or via mechanical malfunctions. BTW, there are 100 or more ways of a car catching fire. If a driver is scared of being burned there’s a simple answer … don’t drive a high performance car which burns extremely flammable liquid at 350 kmh plus.
    AND, on the other hand, don’t take home a huge pay packet which could kick start a 3rd world country’s economy for driving the car at a lesser level because you are scared!

    Surely the hundreds of brilliant F1 engineers with direct access to unbelievably precise computer aided manufacturing methods can come up with something ‘fail-safe’ in this day and age.
    Maybe even a totally automated process similar to mid-air aircraft refuelling, to do away with human handling and therefore dangerous mistakes.
    Unfortunately, due to cost cutting, a lot of those engineers are sitting around playing Tetris and Poker too much anyway. Get them onto problem-solving and creating something like that. The FIA has tied their collective hands behind their backs and won’t allow them to use their brains 24-7, due to the lack of REAL TESTING and garage lockouts to allow them more time to sleep and recharge.
    I’m sure the average Joe with a high interest mortgage and 3 kids who works up to 80 hours per week, in 2 mind numbingly boring mundane jobs, in the backstreets of an industrial estate in sh!tsville would love to be paid megabux to travel the world and have watertight rules which state that he MUST NOT WORK for ‘X amount’ of time over a weekend, Summer break, Easter and Christmas!

    F1 is a TEAM SPORT, where teams fight tooth and nail for the all-important Constructor’s Title. The entire team should be involved during a race. Not just the driver, his engineer, two jack handlers and four guys with rattle guns to undo and replace ONE NUT on each wheel. The rest are a waste of space. We could easily do away with 8 of those pitlane mechanics who fill more space in the ‘pit box’ than the damn car does. Sure, it would make the stops 20 secs long … but there’s absolutely no difference at all to the race if the teams are set the same task with less guys to complete it.
    WOW … There’s a few million pennies saved each year on wages, travel, accommodation, food etc etc already!

    At present we have too many unnecessary ‘sub 3 sec’ pitstops, solely to do a mandatory stops for tyres, which in some instances could actually have lasted for the entire race at some tracks.
    This creates nothing more than a chance for the driver’s to catch their breath and an opportunity for one wheel-changing mechanic or a 50 cent rattle gun o-ring to cokup and create a so-called “false pass”.
    There’s also the FACT that, due to team orders being reinstated in the 10 foot thick FIA rule book, certain teams with driver biased agendas occasionally use pitstops to change the order of their own drivers, there’s another “false pass”!

    IMHO, refuelling definitely adds spice because it involves another chance for a mechanic or a refuelling rig component to cokup. It also allows mathematical boffins to create a calculated ‘window’ to pit at a certain time, in a bid to place the car in a particular position on-track and avoid traffic … or … make a monumental cokup and drop them back into a bad position which stuffs up the rest of their race. A-la-Hamilton and Merc at Monaco!!!
    Again, “false pass”!!!
    Whichever way you judge it, it’s all hypothetical, because it involves bucket loads of luck and sometimes flawed human judgement … THAT’S MOTOR RACING!

    Arguments about safety have been around since a certain ‘pint-sized tartan-clad scotsman’ started his crusade to stop his comrades dying every second week. That’s a good thing because it’s kept everyone on their toes and has woken the motor racing fraternity up enough to get us to where we are now … safety first!
    Unfortunately, it’s gone so far as to make F1 boring and predictable.
    The lack of entertainment in F1 needs to change pronto, it’s why there is all this talk of a crisis and immediate need for change … such as refuelling.
    As it stands, the show is already a total farce, refuelling CAN’T make it any worse!!!

  17. Daft idea. Refuelling takes away the possibility to outclass each other by chosing the best setup for changing fuel loads (weight). And a full or empty fuel load will not change the speed of an F1 car dramtically. The tactical game played by the Ross Brawns of this world was only interesting by the real die hard fans, the average viewer I guess has difficulty connecting to this.

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