The FIA have announced that refuelling is to return to Formula One in 2017. It is part of a range of measures aimed at making the sport more exciting.
The process of pumping highly flammable liquid into hot cars was last permitted in 2009. Precaution measures were of course taken, but they didn’t always work. The most famous incident occurred at Hockenheim at the 1994 German Grand Prix, when Michael Schumacher’s Benneton team mate Jos Verstappen was engulfed in flames.
The Dutch driver suffered minor burns to his face, but thankfully nobody was seriously hurt, and changes were made to the refuelling process after the incident. The teams agreed to halt the process as a cost saving initiative. The fuel rigs were big and expensive to transport around the globe. It did take away a key tactical feature of the race though. Fully fuelled cars can run for longer, but are slower. Pit stops used to be lengthy, risky affairs, but teams are so well drilled these that they pass by in a blink of an eye.
Team bosses are clearly worried that F1 is becoming a bit dull. Mercedes won all but three of the races in 2014 and have won 4 of the 5 rounds so far this season. The cars are no longer as fast as they were. Lewis Hamilton posted the quickest lap at the recent Spanish Grand Prix, but it was nearly 7 seconds slower that the Circuit record set by Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari 7 years ago. So it is good news that organisers have also agreed higher revving, louder and quicker engines. The problem with constant regulation changes are that they favour the big teams who can commit more resources to making the necessary adjustments. Would the sport become more competitive if the small and medium sized teams were allowed more time and the same car? Would it be better if F1 just settled on the same rules for a while?