F1 Refuelling back on the agenda

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Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Charlie

On this day… 2nd August

1994

For this season, the FIA had banned a swath of electronic driver aids because they believed the car was perceived as more ‘important’ than the driver. F1 was losing its ‘heroes’.

Gone were power brakes, traction control systems, ABS and active suspension and this clearly hurt most a dominant Williams F1 team whose gadgetry at the time was the class of the field.

Also, the decision was made to bring back refuelling last seen over a decade earlier.

The 1994 season will of course always be remembered for the dark days of the Imola weekend, but both racing and off track politics were full of drama and controversy throughout that year.

At the opening round in Brazil, Michael Schumacher and Benetton were accused of cheating following a previously unseen lightening pit stop which saw the young German overtake Senna in the pits. Michael won the race and Ayrton spun off track and into retirement.

The German Grand Prix was at Hockenheim that year and it too became one of those races etched on F1 fans memories. Gerhard Burger claimed Ferrari’s first pole position in 4 years and his team mate Jean Alesi was number 2.

The attrition rate on lap 1 was high with 11 retirements from 26 starters and this was not to be a great weekend for Benetton. After making an initial challenge to Gerhard Berger, Michael Schumacher fell away with engine problems. Then came a moment many had feared when refuelling was re-introduced.

The 2nd Benetton driver, Jos Verstappen, came into the pits and while being refuelled, some was sprayed onto the baking hot bodywork of the car. This ignited in a blinding flash and Verstappen’s car was engulfed in a ball of flames.

The Dutchman escaped the incident almost unharmed, except for burns around his eyes as his visor had been raised during the stop. No other crew members or any persons were injured severely or killed.

The iconic image of a uniformed Benetton crew man engulfed in flames, graces the cover of former Benetton team member Steve Matchett’s second book The Mechanic’s Tale. Matchett was the rear jack operator at the incident.

Slow motion replays showed atomized gasoline spewing from the refuelling nozzle, something that was not suppose to happen under the fuel rig’s design. Post-race investigation by the FIA discovered a team member removed a fuel filter.

Despite being summoned beofre the World Motorsport Council, Benetton escaped sanction.

Re-fuelling in Formula One has divided fans over the decades. There was an attempt to bring it back again for 2017, but Jean Todt was overruled by the teams.

Here’s a passionate 14 point presentation on why the new re-fuelling ban (for 2010) will prove to be great. See how you rate the perceived benefits from those watching F1 in 2009. F1F

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6 responses to “F1 Refuelling back on the agenda

  1. Thanks Charlie, never seen that picture of Jos Vercrashen before. I wonder if he regales his son with his F1 was for “real men” back in the day.

  2. Brilliant piece Charlie, that was a very lucky escape for Joss, if you watch it in real time it looks nothing but in the slow motion and photos its a totally different animal. Any driver that faces those risks deserves my respect.

  3. Uhh, I do remember those misplaced hopes we had when refueling was banned. The hopes of ‘going back to the 80s’, back to real racing with slick tyres and better engines. Unfortunately, all those hopes were engulfed just like another Benetton.

    I think refueling ban was a good idea, the problem was that other things did not happen to complement that and bring back flat out racing with loads of overtaking.

    Let’s see what 2017 brings!

  4. I have one of the original photos of that inferno here, reminding me how dangerous motorsport can be. Got it from my buddy, who is the biggest Jos Verstappen fan I have ever come across. Fortunately for me his wife isn’t and she hated that picture so much. 😆

  5. If we’re going to do refueling, let’s do it via pods or some other sealed vessel that can be interchanged into the car instead of this hose and spray-and-pray crap. But ultimately, while I thought I was going to miss refueling,I don’t. I rather like these 2.XX second pit stops.

  6. Also, who was it drove out of the pit stop with the fuel hose still connected until it broke in two? I’m on the BAD IDEA side of this argument.

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