Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 2009

Little appetite for return of “predictable” refuelling pit stops in 2021

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Bringing back refuelling would add little to the spectacle of F1 according to senior technical figures from two of the sport’s leading teams.

Teams have been banned from refuelling during races since the end of 2009. However as RaceFans revealed last week proposed technical changes for 2021 could lead to an increase in F1 cars’ fuel consumption. This would mean cars having to carry more fuel at the start of races which would have a negative effect on their performance.

Allowing teams to refuel during races would reduce the increase in fuel weight. But this would make strategies more predictable according to Mercedes technical director James Allison.

“It’s to be assessed carefully but the refuelling strategies are more predictable and allow less variation in the race and less surprise in the race than non-refuelling strategies,” said Allison during today’s FIA press conference in Baku.

“Once you put a chunk of fuel in your car you have to stop on the lap where you run out, or a lap or two before. Everyone knows when that is going [to be] and it just stops the surprise undercut or the chance overcut that comes with the current regs.”

Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan was also sceptical about the benefit of bringing back refuelling.

“We looked at it a while ago and from memory of the simulation work done within Red Bull, I suspect all the teams’ strategies would converge on the same thing, because you no longer have an ever-decreasing car weight, you reset every time,” he said.

Driver murals, Baku City Circuit, 2018
Azerbaijan GP practice in pictures
“You‘ll pick the quickest way to do the race, the pit stops get a little bit longer, and if we all sit there doing the same thing then what we have done is to put a big valve in the side of the car.”

Monaghan also suggested it would be possible to accommodate the changes to the regulations without allowing the race starting weights to rise.

“You could up the fuel flow rate to the engine and not give us any more fuel flow for the race, in which case your off-the-line weight doesn’t actually change but will never attain the qualifying fuel flow rate,” he said in response to question from RaceFans.

“So, as James had said, we don’t have refuelling at the moment, we could, but if that’s not in then you are correct in that the potential is for the car weight to go up off the line.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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29 comments on “Little appetite for return of “predictable” refuelling pit stops in 2021”

  1. I would agree refueling is a pour idea…

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      27th April 2018, 17:41

      Diesel be very boring races…

      1. Supposedly some were burning heavier oil than diesel.

  2. @rpiian

    Ba dum, tish!

    Last time we had re-fueling it was an absolute disaster. Whole races would go by with literally no racing happening on the track. It is a relief that at least from what this article says people involved in the sport seem clued up on that.

  3. I agree much with Allison here regarding the surprise of refuelling. Moreover, with current cars using much less fuel than those in the last decade, the difference between one- and two-stoppers would be smaller than what it was around the last refuelling era.

    I remember when the starting weights were published in 2009 and that made the situation even worse as everyone knew how much fuel other teams had at the start.

  4. A man was recently hospitalised as the result of a pit stop error. Fuel is dangerous if handled incorrectly, so refuelling shouldn’t be part of the race.

    1. I would suggest you give MotoGP a wide berth. @drycrust

      They ride motorbikes and at the last race one of the riders fell off and broke his wrist.

      1. Mickey's Miniature Grandpa
        27th April 2018, 20:46

        Perhaps a solution can be engineered to avoid this happening again. Stabilisers aka training wheels would solve the problem. After all, riders’ safety is paramount.

    2. @drycrust, as you note, we saw quite a lot of accidents during the refuelling era when mechanics were knocked over by the fuel hose from a car leaving the pits prematurely, not to mention the occasional fires (remember the pit lane fire during the penultimate race with refuelling in 2009?). Reintroducing refuelling would probably make things more dangerous for mechanics in the pit lane, which you would have thought would go against the recent complaints of those who claimed that they were concerned for the welfare of the mechanics and wanted a safer pit lane environment.

      1. Massa. 2008. Singapore. A blunder that ultimately cost him the championship.

    3. ja i’m not going to cross the road anymore, too dangerous what if a slip or something terrible like that?

  5. Of course we had back then, to my mind, possibly the greatest insult to race fans in F1 history, ‘fuel corrected qualifying’…

    I still can’t believe we had to out up with that. For any who don’t remember or were fortunate enough to not be watching at that time, the drivers had to qualify with differing fuel loads as they had to qualify their car with their own particular race fuel load depending on what fuel strategy they were running.

    This resulted in the almost unbelievable situation that in real terms we have no idea who had actually done the best lap in qualifying. I still struggle believe it actually happened, to be honest…

    1. I like how refueling was done back in the 90s i.e. each team/driver could start on whatever fuel load they wanted. This meant there was true unpredictability. Sure, the race pace would be a give away but it wouldn’t tell you what lap the first pit stop was coming. I feel like what they did in the 00s ruined refueling for everyone.

  6. In a vacuum I agree that refueling isn’t likely to add much. However if you combined it with the teams being able to run any tire compound, mixing compounds front to back and side to side, no parc ferme after qualifying, then it might help add some spice to the race.
    The first thing that should go is the mandatory requirement for teams to do ‘a’ or ‘b’ in regards to their strategy as I believe that leads to predictable and processional races. FREEDOM!!! (yelled with a slight Scottish accent).

    1. Oof, did not expect a TF2 reference here

  7. Yes, bringing in-race refuelling back would reduce the overall car weight, but at the same time, it’d be to the detriment of on-track overtaking as it was from 1994 to 2009 when it was part of the pit stops. The lap times, these days are faster than at any time during the refuelling era anyway and faster than ever for that matter as well. Yes, in race conditions it could make a difference lap time-wise as opposed to what has been the case since 2010 (starting the races with full or at least very close to full tanks), but nevertheless, lap times in the race aren’t the most important thing, so I don’t really mind them being regularly a lot slower in the races than in the qualifying sessions. In the end, the ultimate lap time one lap-pace-wise is what really matters concerning lap times.

  8. How much does the fuel tank weigh in current F1 cars? What would be the weight differential between a tank that holds 300 km worth of fuel versus 150 or something?

    1. @wsrgo I assume you mean ‘kg’ rather than ‘km’ (300 kg vs. 150 or something kg), LOL.

      1. @jerejj No, I think he means the amount of fuel needed to go 300km. Nothing wrong with what he said.

        1. @mashiat OK, that explains it. I wasn’t entirely sure initially what exactly he meant by this particular wording choice.

      2. @jerejj Yeah @mashiat put it right, I know 300 kg of fuel is obviously twice as much as 150 kg, I was asking if this scaling ratio entends to mileage as well, in terms of fuel tank size (and therefore weight).

  9. true, refueling would likely not add anything to the racing yet the pit-stop would be longer(and despite the fuel, actually safer) and it would allow fans to see what is going on. plus, the cars are a lot more exciting to watch. currently, they are big sleds at the beginning of a race and by the time they lighten up to levels as in practice the track is so littered with klag it makes little difference. they are still mostly slower than in FP3, which is currently along with qualifying the only exciting part of the weekend from a pure performance point of view. so funny, that the sentiment is largely negative to its return yet F1 is no longer a purists pursuit.

    1. Why would it be safer when, arguably, we saw more mechanics being knocked over by drivers leaving the pit box with the fuel hose still attached to the car? We’ve had a few mechanics fracturing their wrists when being knocked to the ground in that case, so how is that any better?

      As for the comment that “F1 is no longer a purists pursuit”, most would point out that the use of in race refuelling was abnormal when compared to how F1 usually operated – refuelling was normally banned for the majority of the history of the sport. Are you saying that, for more than 75% of the time, F1 was not a “purists pursuit” because it did not have refuelling?

      1. purism — insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures. the f1 cars of today are no longer pushing the limits as flat-out devil may care machines and are hardly spectacular during races. along with standardized parts, electronics and between saving engines, gearboxes, and fuel-flow limits — they are more like semi-spec sprint race endurance machines that travel from town to town to put on a show. adding the halo is yet another definitive move against the traditional DNA that has been in process since the 2006 season.

        1. They were very rarely pushing the limits, Flat out even with refueling.

          That is why the few races where 1-2 drivers did push flat out for a few stints or a full race (Hungary ’98, Suzuka ’00, France ’04) stand out above all of the others.

          For a majority of the other races drivers were not pushing flat out all race because that was very rarely the optimum way to go about racing. The same is true in Indycar which still has refueling, They don’t race flat out & there’s actually more fuel saving than we see in F1.

          1. maybe. yet the cars are not that exciting to watch in race trim anymore, even if they are achieving faster lap times – they do so in areas that do not translate visually. plus they do not break down now and they need to save the parts for the next several events. it has become even more of an endurance rally for sprint cars moving from stage to stage with only so many service points in between. wait, jean todt was a rally person before f1. hmmmmm. those are good races you referenced though you left out several more. France 1990 was a particular thriller, in fact every race at Paul Ricard was. hopefully, the track has not become antisceptic for this year’s race. The same goes for nearly every Monza, up until 2006. trouble was only purists could see what was happening and the sport began to change rules so that the rabble could more easily follow along too. how many people complain about Monza and Monaco being so boring yet any driver would rather prevail there then anywhere else. not only because of the prestige obviously but for the pure mental and physical challenge.

  10. An idea would be allowing Optional refuelling; in case a driver’s stategy is to rage through the circuit at full throttle, burning tyres and more fuel, he can opt for refuelling – at a cost. Cost could be – for example – delaying his pit exit by 1 sec per liter – or whatever.

    Not sure if this adds more to the gimmicky nature of F1 at the moment, or allows drivers to go all in; attack more and conserve less.

  11. The thing with refueling is that it doesn’t give teams more strategy options, If anything it gives them less.

    Pat Symmonds made the point a few years back that with refueling teams decided on a strategy on Saturday & are were then locked into it. If you put 20 laps of fuel in at the start you stop on lap 20 with little to no options to change it & once you decide the length of your 1st stint there’s only so much you can do for a 2nd/3rd.

    With no refueling strategy is more open & teams have many more options with drivers having far more input. You can decide on a strategy pre-race but there are many more variables that can force you to change on the fly & adopt a different approach which simply isn’t possible with refueling in the mix. Tyre wear can be better/worse than expected, One tyre compound can work better/worse than expected, What other teams do can force you to adapt your strategy & of course the way a driver drives will affect tyre wear which can also force changes to strategy.

    Refueling strategy is more planned while without it when your only concern in tyres strategy tends to be more fluid & reactive.

    The only problem with the way strategy has played out since refueling was banned is the regulations forcing you to run 2 compounds & to an extent the rule forcing the top 10 to start on the tyres they qualified on. If they opened things up & let teams/drivers do what they wanted in terms of what compounds they ran & if they even wanted to stop at all I think things would be more interesting.

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