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

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?

tj13 142

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.

Revs for thought

Dane Hansen


About dphansen24

I am an avid freelance Formula 1 writer and blogger. My writings are diverse and range from historical insights, to thorough and exciting analysis of the modern era and the topics that come with it. I am also able to take in requests from readers that wish to gain vision into particular stories. All are welcome. I encourage constructive criticism and conversation in comments or via email. My passion for the world’s fastest show consumes my daily efforts and I am always enthused to write about the sport I love most. Even as a pundit, I too have a curiosity and am always ready to learn more about an ever expanding sport.

Posted on January 24, 2016, in Currents News, Original Pieces and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: