Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2021

Sprint qualifying “made me think about refuelling” – Leclerc

2021 British Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says racing a lighter car and moving the qualifying session to Friday were the best features of Formula 1’s new ‘sprint’ format.

Today’s race was run to one-third of a grand prix distance which meant the cars carried around 70 kilograms less fuel. Leclerc said it was much more enjoyable to drive a lighter car.

“It is a big, big difference,” he said. “It’s very nice, I prefer to drive in those conditions.”

Leclerc said it made him wonder if F1 should reconsider allowing teams to refuel their cars during races to keep the weight down. Refuelling was outlawed at the end of the 2009 season.

“It makes me think about the refuelling a little bit because it just feels very, very good,” he said. “And I think for racing, also for those tyres they are in a much better window and it makes us push a lot more.”

He was also pleased by the change to Friday’s schedule, which saw qualifying take place after just one hour of practice.

“I enjoyed it. I mean, sprint qualifying is cool, you get to push for 17 laps straight. But I think what I enjoy the most is mostly the Friday change. Having the qualifying on Friday makes it a lot more exciting for us drivers.”

Formula 1 intends to hold two more sprint qualifying events after this weekend’s round, after which it will decide whether to hold more next year. Leclerc said he isn’t sure whether the format should be rolled out more widely.

“I think it’s still quite early to take a decision now because we’ve only done one,” he said. “We haven’t even done the main race tomorrow, even though it won’t change my opinion.

“But we’ve got to wait on other tracks, will it make sense to increase the number, or not? So let’s wait and see.”

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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...

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28 comments on “Sprint qualifying “made me think about refuelling” – Leclerc”

  1. Yes, the difference in starting fuel loads versus actual races was noticeable, especially on lap 1.
    Acceleration and cornering, like thunder or lightning.
    I’m still opposed to in-race refuelling reintroduction.
    More preferably lower maximum capacity allowance, although a small decrease wouldn’t change the world.

  2. I have enjoyed the weekend so far. I think this has a lot more potential than the ridiculous format they tested in 2016. For sure, there is many people moaning and grumbling that it just isn’t F1 but this has a future in the sport. Maybe a few tweaks here and there but this could lead to a more entertaining format.

  3. Leclerc is right. This was 17 laps of pure racing and reminds me of the refuelling era minus the bad tyre’s we have now.
    I don’t know if refuelling must come back but i am certain that tomorrow grand prix will be far less exciting than what we saw today.

    1. Not aged well this comment lol

  4. The direct logical observation is: “The cars are better when they are ligher” and NOT: “The cars are better when they have less fuel”.
    A lighter car can be obtained with all kinds of means.

    1. It doesn’t matter whether the car weighs 600 kilos or 750, a lighter fuel load will always change the handling characteristics of the car for the better

      Reply moderated
    2. Not really. Cars have a weight limit.

      Reply moderated
  5. Refueling never should have left the sport. The more variables the better.

    1. Agree, I followed during the schumacher era and it was more interesting imo.

    2. I agree. Not like passing on the pits ever stopped, just got replaced by undercutting on these pirellis. Super formula shows refuelling was a positive not a negative.

      1. @peartree Super Formula doesn’t have refuelling anymore, so apparently a negative, after all.

        1. Super Formula doesn’t anymore, but did until recently.
          Indycar still does. And it works a treat.

        2. @jerejj and it is worse now because of it.

    3. @jblank @esploratore1 @peartree I don’t agree, I was glad it was banned & wouldn’t want to see it return, I always felt it made the racing worse Took a lot of the driver input out of things & limited strategy options rather than opened them up.

      I like the more reactive strategy we get when it’s just down to tyres, How you have more options in terms of making a stint longer/shorter & of course switching compounds & switching from a 1 stop to 2 or something all of which tends to keep other teams/drivers guessing.

      With refueling strategy is more pre-determined & once you start the race your locked into that strategy with no real options to change it. Other teams can better read what your doing so it’s more predictable. You don’t have the option to extend a stint & it’s not really viable to pit early. Drivers also have far less input, When it’s just tyres they can manage them more & extend the stint or push to pit early if wear is worse & they simply don’t have that level of input with fuel strategy.

      And then you also have the overtaking stats. On-Track overtaking halved from 1993>1994, Remained at historical lows throughout the refueling era & then went back to where they were when refueling was banned in 2010. The teams as well as the FIA & FOM also looked into the stats a few years ago & also concluded that refueling would have a detrimental effect on the racing as well as strategy which is a part of why they ended up not bringing it back (The other part been costs & safety as refueling was both expensive & dangerous).

      I think it’s a moot point anyway as I don’t think it’s going to come back anyway. Why bring back bore-fueling when they are already using half the fuel they were then because of how efficient the engines are with the focus moving more towards efficiency & hybrid/electrification. Refueling goes against that & against good racing!

      1. The non-refuelling era hasn’t made racing any exciting either. In fact, it makes the cars look more lumbering in the initial part of the race.

        The recent overtaking stats with DRS and degrading tyres are simply misleading. It has been more of a bore-fest than watching drivers push flat out for 300 kms on low fuel.

        I remember Schumi winning a race with 4 stops only on pace. Also, Trulli trains with low fuel qualifying were a thing. Will never see such strategy variation with tyre-only stops.

        Wouldn’t mind if they limit the fuel tank to 50 kg or less for the next PU formula. They could do standardised refuelling at a slower rate or if the electrical component becomes significant, they could do a quick recharge instead of refuelling.

        Either way, I enjoyed the refuelling era much more because it produced more variations, though less overtaking as every one was always on the limit.

        1. @f1g33k DRS didn’t exist yet in 2010 nor had Pirelli returned. Overtaking immediately doubled after refuelling got banned without any other meaningful changes.

          1. It is not as straightforward though is it, to compare different seasons.

            The transition between 2009 to 2010 was pretty big in terms of the constructors with BMW and Toyota leaving F1, Renault selling off to Genii Capital, Brawn transforming to Mercedes with a skeletal staff and Toro Rosso being forced to make their own chassis. It certainly skewed the order and certainly contributed to the competitiveness of the field.

            The tyre rules had also changed in terms of narrower front tyres, lesser sets and having to start with same the same tyres used in qualification. The pure numbers cannot be attributed to only refuelling, though as I mentioned previously, there is bound to be less overtaking when everyone is pushing throughout the race instead of managing more of the fuel and tyres.

          2. @jerejj the first year of a rule spreads the field and overtaking numbers almost always decrease. I agree with @f1g33k there are many factors, I loved the action in 09 Brawn was dominant early on and then it felt like anyone could win a race, williams almost won a race Lewis won, Raikkonen won, toyota started on pole, rb won, force india almost won, Alonso looked like winning at hungary. 2010 had more overtakes because the field spread was tighter, then some teams had the f duct, 2010 had a much better championship but it was super dull as well, there was tension but you can’t consider both mclaren getting ahead of rb in turkey overtakes, drama and tension do not equate to racing. Rb would underfuel and then manage fuel weight from the lead, mclaren had a chunk more power than rb and ferrari were consistent, the pits were crucial even without refuelling.

      2. @roger-ayles you certainly cannot change your strategy with a tank full of fuel. You cannot subtract something and claim you end up with more. The negatives associated with refuelling never left, they got replaced with pitting for tyres. The positives are gone. Top teams wanted to get rid of refuelling because it added an unknown and a risk of ruinning their own race. Teams betting on rain would start heavy on fuel, teams betting on high deg could go light, teams betting on sc periods. the problem with refuelling had nothing to do with refuelling but cars not being able to race each other. the other problem is safety and arguably today’s pitstops are more dangerous than they used to be. A camera man almlst died having being hit by a wheel, a ferrari mechanic got a leg broken and there have been a few ankles gone as well, cars rejoining unsafely and loose wheels are way too common today.

  6. The cars looked clearly more enjoyable and agile from the start line today. Apart from refueling having become unnecessary and possibly slower, I think we have seen quite enough refueling related accidents in Formula One. I do support the motion of having lighter (and smaller) cars. I was very disappointed to see the 2022 spec model was just as big, if not bigger, as the current cars – and also weighting more.

    1. Yes I agree IVAYLO with this.

      I feel sure that if they really made the effort, they could have made the post 2022 cars lighter and shorter than the current models. There just is no interest in doing this it seems despite many or most of drivers indicating this would be better.

      I just don’t understand the stance of F1 on this as it was a real opportunity.

  7. I can’t even remember how many years I’ve been saying that they should enable refuelling.
    The cars are currently often 5+ seconds slower per lap in the race compared with qualifying, carrying all that fuel and trying to minimise the effects of all that extra mass.

    If they can start with half the fuel (or less) they can easily make up enough time to offset an extra pitstop or two throughout the race. It’s really a no-brainer.
    And the increase in strategic options – so much better.

    I know some think that refuelling takes racing off the track and puts it in the pit lane – but where is the racing on the track now? These cars are rubbish at racing each other anyway, so it wouldn’t be taking anything away.
    F1 cars have long been rubbish at racing each other on the track, even back in the 90’s. Don’t confuse the cause of the bad racing by blaming it on refuelling.
    And if the next set of cars are better at racing, then it’s even more wins all round – they could race in both places.

    1. @S Refuelling would only limit strategic options.

      1. Nonsense @jerejj. I truly don’t see how anyone comes to that conclusion.
        There a thousand more strategic options available that teams can choose prior to and during the race. They can always pit with half a tank still in the car if they wish.
        The simple fact alone that they can make up the track time for an extra pit stop simply by running lighter is telling enough.

      2. That’s just not true. Refuelling only limits the first stop strategy in terms of the maximum laps you can do (but not the minimum). Right now there are two possible strategies only: Pit first to undercut, and stay on the same types til the end because the rival pitted first to undercut.

        Whoever says refuelling limits strategy should watch again Magny-Cours 2004.

        Reply moderated
        1. Talking about strategy variables now: I much prefer this year’s Barcelona or Paul Ricard decisions to Magny-Cours 2004. In two cases, the driver had to make a pass for the lead while seventeen years ago Schumacher just overtook Alonso in the round of pit stops.

  8. Yes, bring back re-fueling. Since F1/FIA able to make better safety now, i’m sure they can make re-fueling safer than before.

    Bring back tyre manufacturer “war”. F1 wanted more teams into F1, bu why not tyre maker?

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