F1 teams likely to oppose refueling return

BY Adam Cooper • January 16, 2016

F1 teams are set to oppose the return of refueling after it was added to the agenda for next week's F1 Strategy Group and Commission meetings in Geneva - despite the idea having already been thrown out in 2015.

A return to refueling was first tabled at a meeting of the F1 Strategy Group on May 14 last year. The subject was then discussed when the team managers met the FIA's Charlie Whiting in Montreal on June 4. They presented evidence that refueling was bad for the show, and that there had been more overtaking after it was abandoned.

Following the Montreal meeting, Whiting reported his findings back to the FIA, and the refueling idea was quietly dropped at the next Strategy Group meeting on July 1.

It's not clear exactly how or why the refueling idea has resurfaced, but presumably it has come from discussions between Bernie Ecclestone and Todt, given that teams had made their views clear last year.

Williams chief technical officer Pat Symonds underlined on Saturday that the negative impact on racing is a major concern.

“I think there are two aspects to it,” said Symonds. “One, it's very expensive, and two probably more importantly it takes away from the spectacle of the racing, and the uncertainty of the racing.

“I think what it leads to is deterministic racing. What I mean by that is that at the moment we can determine a strategy, and then we take a more tactical view as we get into the race. In other words, we determine our pit stops based on what our tires are doing, which won't necessarily be what we've predicted, and what's happening with our competitors around us.

“The minute you've got refueling, it becomes deterministic. If you put in fuel to get to lap 24, you stop on lap 24. You obviously can't go further than that, and if you stop earlier than that, the penalty is way too high. So you tend to get these races when you're stopping when you don't really want to.

“If we think back a few years to when we had refueling, or perhaps to when we got rid of refueling, we saw much better racing afterwards. So I think it's a very retrograde step. I guess the plus said is yes the cars will go a little bit faster because they will be lighter, but I challenge anyone to really determine the lap time of a car while looking at it. During second practice for example when we start off running on light fuel and finish running on heavy fuel, you don't really see the difference.”

Symonds admitted that there there was also a safety aspect if high speed refueling was required to keep pit stop times short: “The faster you refuel the more danger you may put into it. I don't want to overplay that, because it's perfectly possible to refuel fast and safe.”

Meanwhile, team boss Claire Williams said that refueling is not compatible with the efficient technology that the car makers want to promote.

“We've just spent - or the manufacturers have just spent - hundreds and hundreds of millions on these new hybrid power units,” she said at the Autosport show, “that are much more relevant to the road industry, much more relevant to the energy efficient conversations that we need to have in society now.

“To bring back refueling and to make F1 again appear as a gas guzzling sport just completely steps all over that message. So I am very anti it.”

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