For anyone comparing Formula One and IndyCar one huge difference stands out immediately and it is refuelling. The American Racing series events are in effect a series of sprints as the teams and drivers calculate how to slice up the race distance into the most efficient segments.
Formula One is more like a marathon and at times feels like it as the spectators hit “the wall” of tedium following the only round of pit stops around one third race distance.
Refuelling makes racing less predictable
F1 banned refuelling for good from 2010 onwards having done so for a decade previously between 1984 and 1994. Since then the “to refuel or not to refuel” debate occasionally rears its head in F1 circles and usually when the car designs mean the racing has become too predictable.
Yet it is highly unlikely Formula One will ever return to refuelling given the reasons it was abandoned in the first place.
It was considered hazardous to the drivers and the cost of hauling the refuelling rigs around the world was also prohibitive.
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New cars improve overtaking
To make the racing less predictable, the FIA revolutionised the F1 car design regulations for 2022 with the return of ground effect downforce being allowed once again. The idea was to make it easier for the cars to follow and overtake yet as NASCAR and IndyCar prove year in an year out, multiple pit stops per race increase the jeopardy and prevent processional racing.
Most of the responsibility for the tedium lies with the F1 team strategists whose first thought each race is to ‘de-risk’ a bad outcome.
With the cars becoming more difficult to overtake again this year, the strategists are once again returning to the safety of the track position is King rule of thumb.
Strategists opt for track position
This leads to a pit stop strategy that minimises the number of the times the team stop their cars thus they retain track position which it is difficult to lose.
The best races are those where different teams run different pit stop strategies. This creates significant offsets between the tyre wear on different cars and makes overtaking possible.
As an aside, the track position is King rule of thumb probably cost Sergio Perez a better shot at winning the race last time out in Miami. Because the Mexican was on pole position the theory is he should start on the softer medium tyre to retain track position advantage from those around him.
Had he started on the harder tyre it may have allowed those on the mediums to overtake him off the start or during the first lap.
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Counter strategy worked in Miami
Yet common sense and all other things being equal would suggest that when the F1 car oil at its heaviest the better tyre to run would be the one that is more durable. Then when the car is lighter run the faster less durable tyre and get more laps performance from it.
And this is the very reason that two drivers in particular finished way ahead of where they started in Miami.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton started on the hard tyre in P9 and P13 respectively, yet by the chequered flag had made up way more positions than anyone starting on the medium tyre.
But try getting the strategists to go out on a limb and give Checo the hard tyre just simply isn’t going to happen.
Make the teams stop twice each GP
The same is true of pit stops. The fewer the stops, the less can go wrong and track position is generally protected better.
Even though refuelling isn’t an option to up the number of pit stops per race, F1 could change its rules to force the teams to stop their cars more often. This creating the IndyCar style series of sprint races within a race.
Karun Chandhok tweeted during the recent Miami race, “Another race that underlines my crusade since 2016 that we need a single line added to the sporting rules to say:”
“’All 3 tyre compounds must be used during a race that’s not declared wet at any stage.’ The cream will always rise, but it would be more exciting to watch!”
More stops, more flat out racing
Whether its necessary to prescribe the teams use one of each of the dry compounds during the race is questionable, but forcing them to make two stops would work.
The drivers hate having to eek out tyre life and drive within themselves, so knowing they are making two stops each race would reduce this greatly and improve the flat out racing.
The current one stop strategies are ruining those races in 2023 and could easily be prevented by a single line change in the F1 Sporting regulations.
I disagree with Chandhok, & if anything, removing the two-compound rule altogether would be even better.
Refuelling was detrimental to on-track overtaking & limited strategic flexibility, so reintroducing it would be unwelcome.
The advice from Pirelli was for a medium/ hard strategy. 20 drivers choose to follow this. So why say that this is what cost Sergio the win?. Max had the same data same Pirelli advice and choose to go against this. Did this give Max the win? Its simplification of many factors that contributed to winning the race. Hindsight is not helpfull and ignores the decisive manner in which Max lined up and overtook other cars. Had it not worked the media would have crucified him for not following “Pirelli advice”. Lewis started on hard allowing him to go long but how dud he struggle to overtake Haas,Alpine, Ferrari. Clearly its more that tyre strategy at play.
Make them use a 3 compounds within a certain amount of laps, every other acing over a longer distance refules without any problems so why not F1 , could have permanent fueling rigs at all tracks ,no need to lug them around then, simples