Formula One: Return of refuelling and other changes accepted by Strategy Group
A number of regulation changes have been approved by Formula One’s strategy group today that will be put into affect in the next two years.
The group that comprises of FIA head Jean Todt, F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone and representatives from Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Williams, Force India, Renault and Honda, agreed to a handful of changes that will aim to make the sport more exciting.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes announced today was the reintroduction of refuelling mid-race. Refuelling has been banned in Formula One since the start of the 2010 season. It had been banned on grounds of cost-cutting and safety; with Kimi Raikkonen demonstrating the danger in the penultimate race of the 2009 season after his Ferrari was briefly on fire when Heikki Kovalainen pulled the fuel hose with him out of the pits. The previous year saw a botched pit-stop for Felipe Massa rule the Brazilian out of the Singapore Grand Prix and ultimately the world championship victory.
The return of refuelling is part of a number of changes designed to make Formula One cars faster following criticism from some drivers. Fernando Alonso criticised the new car configurations last year and highlighted how in the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix; the fastest lap of the race was 9 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s pole time in 2011:
“Behind the wheel, when you drive nine seconds slower, you don’t enjoy as much as driving the fast car,” Fernando said, “As far as it is the same for everybody, and you compete against the others, you keep enjoying. But for drivers like me or Kimi [Raikkonen] or Jenson [Button] who drove another F1, it is not better or worse, but you will miss some of those cars.”
The strategy group are aiming to make Formula One cars 5 to 6 seconds quicker than they are currently by the start of the 2017 Formula One world championship. This target will also be aided by changes to aerodynamics, wider tyres and further weight reduction of cars. Further changes to be implemented for 2017 will be higher revving and louder engines and ‘more aggressive’ car designs.
One change was agreed to for next year’s season. For 2016, teams will be able to choose which two dry tyre compounds they will use for each race weekend. Currently, Pirelli choose which two of their four compounds will be used; a system that the Italian company were reluctant to change. Nevertheless, the parties present agreed to the change.
A proposal to allow teams to use a 5th engine unit this year as opposed to the current number of 4 was put forward but was denied by the teams on the grounds of cost. All changes highlighted above will need to be approved by the F1 Commission before they are set in stone.
Full FIA statement regarding new rule changes:
“The Formula One Strategy Group met yesterday in Biggin Hill to exchange views on the current challenges that F1 faces. Besides the statuary members of the group, representatives of the engine manufacturers were also invited.
The Strategy Group members have debated a number of levers aimed at improving the show. An initial series of measures has been voted:
Free choice of the two dry tyre compounds (out of four) that each team can use during the race weekend
Faster cars: five to six seconds drop in lap times through aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tyres and reduction of car weight
Reintroduction of refuelling (maintaining a maximum race fuel allowance)
Higher revving engines and increased noise
More aggressive looks
A few other measures have also been discussed but require further investigation before they can be implemented:
A global reflection on race weekend format
Measures to make starts only activated by the driver without any outside assistance
Furthermore, in light of the various scenarios presented by the independent consulting company mandated by the F1 Strategy Group, at the initiative of the FIA, to work on the reduction of costs and following a constructive exchange, a comprehensive proposal to ensure the sustainability of the sport has emerged. The Strategy Group member teams have committed to refine it in the next few weeks, in consultation with the other teams involved in the championship. On the engine side, it has been decided that stability of the rules should prevail in consideration of the investments of the manufacturers involved in the sport and to give visibility to potential new entrants. The allowance for a fifth engine to be used during the 2015 season has been rejected.
This constructive meeting between the FIA, FOM and the teams has allowed paving the way for the future of the championship. All parties agreed to work together with an intention to firm up these proposals and submit them to the approval of the F1 Commission and the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA as soon as possible for implementation.”