Formula 1: Should Refueling Make a Comeback?

refueling williams

After years of being the norm, in-race refueling was banned for the 2010 Formula 1 season. Around the same time, the global economic crisis had finally reached F1, and the refueling ban- along with an emphasis on hybrid and KERS technology– was meant to help F1 teams cut costs and make the sport, itself, appear more relevant to carmakers and casual fans alike.

Even so, refueling is back on the ballot along with a host of other proposed changes to the sport for 2017 and beyond, prompting some team owners to make their opinions on the matter known publicly. Most notably, Claire Williams, who came out strongly against the measure just a few hours ago. “I am very much against refuelling,” said the Williams team boss. “The manufacturers have spent hundreds of millions on these hybrid power units, which are relevant to the road and the debate about energy efficiency. I think to go back to a gas-guzzling F1 is entirely the wrong message.”

Keepers of the “bring back refueling” fire would, likely, point out that smaller fuel tanks wouldn’t become necessary- only possible. Further, on tracks with longer-than-average pit time deltas, the cars equipped with larger tanks may have a tactical advantage, making fuel efficiency a key part of a winning race strategy. That said, no discussion of the Formula 1 rules regarding refueling would be complete without this …


Benetton Refueling Fire


… which, along with scenes featuring the tragic death of Ayrton Senna and the mad rush of the crowd swarming Nigel Mansell’s Williams after his triumphant drive at the British Grand Prix, has to be one of the most iconic Formula 1 images of the 1990s.

Certainly, however, not everything about refueling in racing is bad. Craig Woollard, over at the Last Word on Sports, points out that refueling has created some of the most dramatic moments and victories in both the World Endurance Championship and in IndyCar. “Whilst some seem unhappy that drivers are not able to push as hard as they were ten years ago because of saving fuel and tyres …” he write, “bringing back refueling would not quash the former, otherwise there would be absolutely no lifting and coasting in IndyCar or in the World Endurance Championship, both series where refueling takes place.”

Woollard, however, doesn’t seem sold on refueling. Not necessarily because he wants F1 to foster an environmentally friendly image or because of the costs and risks involved, but because it will make the series boring. “The main bugbear with F1 refueling is that it moves all of the overtaking on the track into the pit lane, which is not what we need to see,” he says, justifiably. “There were many complaints last season that the races were being determined via the Mercedes pit wall, and refueling would only make that sort of thing much worse.”

What do you guys think? Is all the hybrid tech and Formula E-derived power boosting essential if F1 wants to keep calling itself the pinnacle of motorsport, or should the sport just push for faster and faster lap times and more challenging cars, regardless of how they get there? Let us know what you think in the comments section, below. Enjoy!


Sources | Images: Autoweek, Last Word on Sports | BBC.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.