Claire Williams, Williams, Baku, 2019

Reintroducing refuelling would “take F1 10 steps backwards” – Williams

2019 F1 season

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Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams has spoken out against the possible return of refuelling during Formula 1 races, saying it would be “10 steps backwards” for the sport.

FIA president Jean Todt has proposed reintroducing refuelling, which was banned 10 years ago, in response to concerns from drivers who believe new regulations for 2021 will further increase the weight of cars. Williams agrees the cars are in danger of becoming too heavy.

“The weight issue is something that we have debated for many an hour,” she told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “And it’s something I do think needs to be addressed.

“We need to find ways in which we take the weight out, not just to improve racing [and] improve the cars for the drivers to drive, but also if we don’t do it through the regulations then teams will try and do it themselves. And the bigger teams are able to dial out weight because it’s incredibly expensive dialling out weight [from] your Formula 1 car.

“The smaller teams, you’re figuring out your aero first and how your tyres work, the weight is the third thing on the list. You can’t do all three simultaneously if you’re operating on a small budget.”

Failing to address the weight problem could mean the front-running teams “can dial out that weight a whole lot quicker” she said. “And then we’re just going to have the same issues that we’re all complaining about now, and that is the same order, the same results on a Sunday afternoon.”

Allowing teams to refuel their cars during the races would allow them to reduce their starting weights. But Williams believes it would present the wrong image about the fuel efficiency gains the sport has made under the V6 hybrid turbo engine regulations.

“One of the conversations obviously on the table at the moment is refuelling,” she said. “I don’t see how that does not completely contradict and take us 10 steps backwards from what we are looking at trying to promote this sport and the virtues of F1 from an environmental perspective.”

How is Williams moving forward from its difficult start to 2019? Read RaceFans’ full exclusive interview with Claire Williams in today’s RacingLines column

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57 comments on “Reintroducing refuelling would “take F1 10 steps backwards” – Williams”

  1. Anything Claire thinks, do the opposite….. Cant she just quiet her job and get out of F1 plz.

    1. I think your comment is disrespectful. You don’t seem to realise this is an important Health and Safety issue. It also detracts from the racing.

    2. Valinor I think you are just purposely trolling, you can’t stand to see a successful woman in a position of authority.

      1. Don’t feed the trolls @drycrust @johnrkh

        1. @phylyp Yes you are correct.

        2. Yes, you’re correct. Unfortunately it was such a distasteful troll that I felt I should respond.

      2. Haha seems like you are the one trolling making it a gender issue.
        Maybe follow F1 a bit more indept and you’ll see she is not the one for the job.
        I dont need to be respectful. People like her destroy the sport.

      3. Lol so now pointing out that a woman is doing bad is misogyny and trolling? Read slowly dear special snow flake…. she is bad, Monisha did better with less resources…

    3. I think what Valinor says is valid for any team principal, f1 should listen to their feedback and do the opposite, I’m sure that some team principals in less advantageous positions would want f1 to do the opposite they say as the pu manufacturers hold their votes.
      Saying that refuelling us taking f1 backwards it’s pocking up the #1 fallacy in f1, that is that refuelling is bad and multiply it by 10x.

      1. Refueling is not just bad for f1, it is horrible. That is no fallicy.

        1. @megatron don’t worry, this dude seems to have forgotten how rubbish the refuelling era was, and that somehow refuelling fires are less bad than other types of pitlane accident.

          I’m really not sure how old @peartree is, but they really need to get over this.

          Refuelling is bad. The end.

          1. I watch IndyCar. They’re apparently smarter than F1, as pit lane fires are very rare. Veach at Indy this year was the closest they’ve come in awhile, and that was pretty mild– he simply drove out of the pit, and let the gas burn off the outside of his car.

            They also have an interlock which keeps the driver from driving off while the hose is attached.

        2. It is, however, a fallacy. F1 has this bad habit of deciding something is “bad”, and it’s bad for the rest of eternity, with no appeal, no reason, no common sense.

          Examples include ground effects, any form of dynamic suspension (which is idiotic, because suspension by nature, has to be dynamic), and refueling.

    4. Yep….each year car get better and good technology……..refueling will be safe

  2. Japanese Sports Car Championship, which is a huge Motorsport event in Asia, only allows teams to use the fuel from a fuel station closest to the race track. Teams are known to get fuel samples months before the race and tune their engines accordingly. This allows refueling during race while the teams don’t have to air freight heavy loads of fuel to the events. If we are talking environmentally friendly message there are ways of making refueling work.

  3. @Valinor She’s not wrong though.

    The refuelling era was rubbish: prone to accidents and didn’t make the racing better IMO.
    Too much rose-tinted glasses going on here.

    1. Exactly right! I think people forget how much a snorefest refuelling was and why they got rid of re-fueling in the first place + introduction of higher degradation tires.

      There were races whereby once the first pitstops were complete, you could easily predict the podium just by the order they came out of the pits after the first stop. Whereas now, tires degrade or don’t always hold up so differing strategies are possible. There is also a bigger variance in lap times as a result which actually gives more opportunities to overtake than what it was before.

      It’s like people say how good the racing was back a long time ago when really there were plenty of races where the leader won by over a minute or there was nothing happening at the front.

      1. Yes, but to compare refueling between 2000 and 2009, against refueling in 2021, without considering all the other changes that have been made to the structure of F1, is equally silly.

        Don’t publish the fuel loads, don’t make them qualify on race-fuel load, keep the three tire choices (and require two) with relatively high degradation, and you’d see a very different race.

        Of course, having watched the 2008 season recently, refueling wasn’t really the deciding factor. It was the racing, usually in the wet (Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Brazil, to name a few).

        1. In 2000 to 2009 they used about 70 gallons of fuel per race, in 2019 they use less than 32. Refueling will not do anything positive for F1.

          1. Other than shaving 50-60 kg off the car, and creating a need for more pitstops, you’re absolutely right.

    2. +1
      Seems that most people have forgotten that one of the reasons for banning refuelling was to promote overtaking on track rather than in the pits.
      The main advantage of reintroducing refuelling that I can see is the ability to play ‘flambéed Verstappen’ again. ;)

      1. The reason they banned refuelling in 2010 was to cut costs. It was the ONLY reason, not to improve the racing. Get your facts straight.

      2. And yet, the undercut / overcut is still the most popular strategy for overtaking a closely matched opponent.

        So that was a fail.

    3. For as long as F1 has a lot of pit stops, passing will always be done in the pits.

      Hungary was a perfect example. Once Hamilton couldn’t get past on track, he pitted. Verstappen couldn’t cover him because the undercut was too strong, and later in the race Hamilton breezed past on the straight. It was predictable and (for me) boring.

      Refuelling lead to the races being based on pit stops. There are differences in fuel vs tyres due to timings and flexibility, but it’s fundamentally the same thing. If you have a lot of pit stops, races will be based around them.

      Obviously at the moment there are problems with the cars making it worse, but once that’s sorted in 2021 it would be nice to do away with masses of pit stops and keep the action on the track.

      1. Totally agreed. No fuel stops, no tire changes(or at least tires that can be pushed hard the entire race), smaller, narrower, shorter, lighter cars with cleaner aero. Reverse wdc grid races and watch the beautiful battles ensue. Every pass should be done ON TRACK. People want the drivers to have more input, that is the way to have it.

    4. @nvherman The worst pit lane incidents aince 94 occurred after the refuelling ban. A camera man got hit by a wheel in spain, he was severly hurt, and the ferrari mechanic broke his leg due to another wheel. There were some pretty bad seasons during the refuelling era but refuelling was not the problem as racing has remained unchanged same pit-in try to undercut or overcut. Refuelling was banned so Massa would lose a championship on a botched pitstop singapore 08, for example, top teams only care about themselves. Having no refuelling also means the end of strategy and the beggining of using b teams strategically like Ocon at Monaco 2018.

      1. @peartree I point you to:

        1994 German Grand Prix with Benetton/Jos Verstappen
        2008 Singapore Grand Prix with Ferrari/Felipe Massa
        2009 Brazilian Grand Prix with McLaren/Heikki Kovalainen and Ferrari/Kimi Raikkonen.

        Any accident that involves spilled fuel igniting is worse than a cameraman (who shouldn’t really have been where he was anyway, in that he did not have to be) being hit by a wheel. Broken limbs tend to repair better than burn scars.

        It did not improve strategy at all, everyone did the same boring two stopper. You couldn’t suddenly decide to stay out if you didn’t have the fuel in the tank.

        1. @nvherman Wheels coming off is much worse than a fire, as everyone wears protective clothing in the pit lane. However, it’s hard to protect yourself from a flying wheel. Luckily unsafe releases are punished severely nowadays, and as a result we see far fewer dangerous situations than at the beginning of the no-refueling era.

        2. @nvherman, he seems to be more intent on twisting history to fit some of the strange conspiracy theories that he has cooked up, such that no matter how many dangerous incidents that you point to that involved mechanics being injured during refuelling accidents, he will ignore them.

          After all, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix was not even the first time that season that a mechanic had been injured in a refuelling accident by Ferrari – you could also add Raikkonen running over a mechanic in the 2008 European Grand Prix in Valencia, where the mechanic had a broken bone in his foot because of that accident. You also don’t really have to go that much further back to find similar incidents either, such as Albers knocking over several mechanics in the 2007 French Grand Prix during another refuelling accident.

          I would also point out that there are actually examples of mechanics being more badly injured during the refuelling era as well. In 1996, a mechanic called David Lowe was refuelling Verstappen’s car during the San Marino Grand Prix when Verstappen drove off, with Lowe being knocked to the ground and then dragged underneath the car. Asides from dislocating his shoulder, the accident tore 17 ligaments in his left shoulder and left arm – it would take him over two years to finally recover from those injuries.

          Equally, you highlight 1994 and that refuelling fire, but that was just one of many over the years – Irvine had a similarly dramatic fire in 1995 at the Belgian Grand Prix that also briefly engulfed most of his car in flames as well, and of course there was Schumacher in the 2003 Austrian Grand Prix – that was only a flash fire, but Todt later admitted it could have actually been a lot worse (he later admitted he feared it could have caused a small explosion).

          When you look rationally at the situation and start looking back at those seasons, you start to notice that accidents due to refuelling occurred on a much more frequent basis than they do now, and a number of mechanics suffered from quite serious injuries during that period.

  4. Will be not lose the spectacle of these sub 3s pit stops if fuelling becomes a factor? Wheels done easily in time, even with a previously costly tricky wheel?

    In Hungary there were at least 4 “bad” pitstops that cost drivers. With added seconds for fuel, they would all probably have worked out fine.

    1. @eurobrun – in my opinion, instead of crews messing up the wheels, they’re now likely to mess up the fuelling, which brings with it its own set of risks. The risk inherent in a pitstop (to people, to car’s race positions) doesn’t reduce, it just moves elsewhere.

      1. @phylyp Yes, that is what happened when refuelling was banned in the 1st place. However, the incidents have been much more serious during the “wheel era” I recall that camera man that almost died in spain, not to mention all the near misses with loose wheels.
        I watch super formula and they have refuelling the championship is better for it, f1 should follow their ruleset.

        1. @peartree – yes, yes & yes. all this moaning about health & safety, omg it’s auto racing!!! what’s next?? tellytubbies on the grid. plus, did they not watch the Hungarian grand prix. what’s the difference, lewis passed max because of a pit stop? it took several laps, so it was exciting but still a pass from a pit stop & on a different strategy. the stats lie about re-fueling in the first place. the real reason in that era for lack of action was that the cars were constantly slowed year on year by the FIA through reducing their cornering speed & the teams made up the time lost from greater top speeds & aero. resulting in a car that could not follow another closely & even if it could was unable to race through the corners and set up a pass. this is where the excitement evaporated. by limiting surface aero & allowing ground effects again, re-fueling will create lighter, faster cars that are more exciting to watch and add anpther stratgy variable to spice up the action… two great examples of that being; super formula & indy car (not as exciting, for me, but their races are close).

  5. This may sound stupid but the only refueling allowed should be to recharge batteries. Maybe that’ll speed up battery charging technology trickling down to road cars.

    1. It takes minutes to hours to recharge batteries. It would be a lot easier to simply make the batteries removable, so that the teams could swap them out for fresh news ones.

  6. Flammable fuel either gravity fed or under pressure, volatile vapours in immediate proximity to red or white hot components with the possibility of human, mechanical or technological error. What could possibly go wrong. I admit to looking back through rose coloured glasses , funny thing is they only see the good things. F1 has evolved for the better. I do miss the spectacle from the good old days at times. But the price of going backwards is too high and not what F1 is about. Let’s go forward with all speed and safety.

    1. @jjohn A broken leg, flying wheels and a lucky to be alive camera man, showcase that pitstops have become more dangerous not less.

      1. @peartree. Absolutely. My fingers weren’t working well enough for correct punctuation. And by the cost I meant human cost.
        (And the fingers are a good example of “rose coloured, good old days” where you kept your head tucked down , fingers frozen to the steering wheel, requiring Marshall’s/crew to prise them open and off long after you came to rest either upside down or right way up)
        I think I really just meant to say F1 is about today and tomorrow not yesterday.

    2. Did you forget the dangers that the rechargeable batteries pose? It’s easy to cherry pick things in order to further an argument.

  7. I think this topic is linked to the tires/tyres. What is missing is flat out racing. They think refueling might see lighter cars go faster, while actually it are the tires preventing full out racing. For years now. Apparently not an easy fix for Pirelli

    1. it is actually an impossible fix for Pirelli, simply because they are not the cause.

      Pirelli are briefed to provide tyres that promote multiple stops and ideally varying strategies. it is the teams who then figure out that by going slower they can go back to one-stopping. that is why there is no flat out racing: Teams rather go 19 seconds slower than they could than invest 20 seconds for a pit stop.

    2. I see your point, but to a certain extent flat-out racing takes away overtaking opportunities. Nowadays differences in tire wear cause speed differentials, which may lead to on-track battles. Last week’s Hungarian Grand Prix was a good example of that.

  8. Maybe if the rest of the field took 10 steps back Claire’s team might be competitive?

  9. Indycar has been doing refueling for decades without a major incident. I literally can’t remember the last time I saw someone depart with their fuel rig still attached, let alone a splash fire or other dangerous fault. If they can do it with (guessing) 1/10th the resources of F1, then the latter are more than capable of doing it safely. Mandate simple gravity-fed rigs with standardized couplings and it won’t even be that expensive.

    The sub-two-second pitstops will vanish, yes. Indycar’s almost always end up being 7.5 to 8.5 seconds because that’s how long it takes the standardized rig to refuel the car. But, because the most recent aero kits use the floor to generate more down force, we’re still getting great on-track action because overtaking is possible. It is impossible to predict who will win simply on pitstop strategy alone.

    2021 F1 is liberating the undertray, which will lead to easier overtaking. If refueling is required to make the cars lighter, then do it. No driver worth their salt will ignore an opportunity to overtake on the track if that’s possible, pit strategy or no.

    1. The difference is that Indycar needs refueling because it’s impossible for them to run the ovals & longer races on one tank of fuel without having stupidly large sized tank. F1 doesn’t have that problem & have been able to run races on one tank of fuel since the early 1960s (Maybe late 50s) which is when refueling first went away as it became unnecessary.

      As i’ve said in the past the only reason refueling was brought back in 1994 is because Bernie wanted to try & spice things up after 2 seasons of Williams domination. Every team apart from Ferrari was against it & the only reason Ferrari were in favor is because they stood to benefit from it given how the V12 engines they were running at the time used more fuel & so required a larger tank. After they switched to a V10 in 1996 they actually fell in-line with other teams against refueling with them all believing it was a detriment to the racing, They tried to ban it a few times over the years but Bernie kept blocking it & Max kept backing him up.

      When the teams became more unified through FOTA in 2009 & with Max/The FIA weakened by scandal teams unanimously voted to ban refueling & Bernie decided it was in everyone’s interest not to try & fight it. However in 2015 & 2016 he again tried to have it reintroduced although was blocked by teams both times. The teams also did a study into the effect refueling would have on strategy & racing which they presented to the FIA who at that time looked at it & agreed with the findings so dropped the idea.

      There are many in the paddock who are bemused that it’s come up again now given how it was pretty much universally shot down twice just 3-4 years ago.

      1. @gt-racer When racing is bad, fans like to see the return of in-race refueling. It may lead to even less (DRS-assisted) overtaking, but if the drivers can push harder, then maybe that’s a decent trade-off. Right now most races are pretty straightforward 1-stop races as well, and they are usually decided before the first corner. I’m not saying F1 is bad, but it’s far from great and there is a lot of room for improvement. The return of the ground effect may actually solve a lot of issues.

      2. @gt-racer, there are actually examples of some teams managing to complete an entire race distance on a single tank of fuel in the early 1950s, particularly those with low revving large displacement engines (such as the Talbot Lago T26C, which was designed for dual use as an F1 car and sportscar endurance racing).

        I believe that some have suggested that the call for refuelling is not only causing bemusement, but that Todt’s decision to suddenly throw refuelling into the mixture is actually having a detrimental impact on the negotiations over the 2021 regulations. By pushing for refuelling to be reintroduced, Todt has now thrown much of the technical regulations – which were supposed to have been more or less settled by now – into flux, and there’s a risk that they could end up even further behind schedule now.

  10. The real problem with re-fueling and tires is that the FIA mandate that a team must refuel once or a team must use at least two of the three tires on offer. The mandate is problem as ultimately all teams will do the math and come up with the same pit stop formula. If the teams have options both in terms of refueling and tires we’d probably see much more variety in pit stop strategies and again, possibly in how the grid is made up.

    1. @velocityboy Tires yes but refueling no.

      If one team decides to refuel then they all will because the weight benefit of running half tanks will be so great that teams that opt not to refuel will be at a massive disadvantage.

      Often forgot but refueling wasn’t actually mandatory from 1994; It was just necessary even though most of the teams were actually against it’s introduction & didn’t want to do it.

  11. “I don’t see how that does not completely contradict and take us 10 steps backwards from what we are looking at trying to promote this sport and the virtues of F1 from an environmental perspective.”

    What environmental perspective? A sport that burns 100l of petrol for driving 300km in circle for a net 0 km distance traveled from the start, uses air freight to go to races.

    F1 is about driving fast and racing hard. Engines are wonderfully efficient, that is the environmental part. But engines are wonderfully efficient not to be environmentally significant, but to be most powerful for each drop of fuel used.

    We should celebrate Performance extracted and not any kind of Eco narrative.

    With refueling returning F1 cars would be more efficient or faster for the same amount of fuel used. There for giving us more performance to admire for same fuel used. And more performance and entertainment for more fuel used. Either way good for us.

    Reducing fuel mass in the car by 40-60kg is the best weight reduction they can do right now. But overall cars are greatly to big, especially in length. Mercedes is like an S-Class, nothing like a tiny go-kart.

    1. +100 — she doesn’t know what she is saying, most of the time. there is far too much going on all around for her to comprehend. it’s clear — williams in last place, that says it all. and the buck always stops with the team principal. ask ron dennis, maurizio arrivebene, eric boullier, monisha whatshername, and so on…

  12. Moving the rest of F1 “10 steps backwards” would still leave them about 5sec clear of Williams.


  13. Refuelling isn’t ever coming back. It is only ever proposed by teams to have it as a kind of leverage, to be able to say “See, we are relinquishing our refuelling-proposal, now the others should give us something as well.”
    Any team that states it wants refuelling back should not have any say about future F1-rules anymore.

    1. @crammond The refueling proposal isn’t coming from the teams, It’s been put forward by Jean Todt & is something most of the teams are against just as they were the last time it was pushed through against there will in 1993 (As Keith covered in his 1994 retrospective).

      See my post above for some more details.

    2. it’s happening again. doesn’t matter what anyone says to the contrary. the FIA have done the maths & know it’s the way forward.

  14. david stewart
    7th August 2019, 21:08

    To be fair, Claire knows a lot about going ten steps backwards.

  15. If anything, remove the mandatory pitstop to allow drivers to have even more strategy options.

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