Refuelling set to return to F1 as cars made more exciting for 2017
Mid-race fuel stops, wider tyres, more engine noise for 2017 all voted for by F1's Strategy Group; Free choice of slick tyres proposed for 2016; But no fifth engine for teams this season
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/06/15 4:35pm
Formula 1 is set to unexpectedly reintroduce mid-race refuelling as part of a package of changes to make the cars faster and more dramatic from 2017.
Following Thursday’s crunch meeting of F1’s Strategy Group, the FIA revealed the sport’s leading powerbrokers had voted for a suite of rule changes for 2017 aimed at increasing the sport's 'wow' factor. The proposals now have to be ratified by the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council.
The headline plan is for the return of refuelling during races, something which was a central part of F1 for two decades before being banned on cost and safety grounds five years ago. Drivers have since had to complete grand prix distances on one tank of fuel, meaning the cars are significantly slower at the start of races. With tyres also having been made to wear faster, it has prompted complaints that F1 has effectively become 'endurance' racing.
Criticism over the pace of the current-generation cars has been rife among fans since F1’s turbo engines were introduced last year and the FIA has confirmed that measures will be taken to make them “five to six seconds faster” from 2017. This will be achieved by "aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tyres and reduction of car weight”, with the look of the cars themselves to be made more aggressive.
Despite long-running criticism from Bernie Ecclestone, the current V6 hybrid technology will remain in place “in consideration of the investments of the manufacturers involved” and to ensure the sport remains attractive for prospective new engine makers.
However, for 2017 the engine rev limit will be increased, with 1000 brake horsepower previously mooted, and the noise of the power units enhanced.
Meanwhile, in a move which could spice up race weekend strategy from as early as next season, the Strategy Group has adopted a proposal first floated by Force India to allow teams a free choice over which two of Pirelli’s four dry tyre compounds they use at each grand prix in 2016.
Under the current regulations, the tyre manufacturer selects which two slick compounds it brings to a race with all teams then forced to use the same ones.
In addition to the concrete proposals, the Strategy Group discussed a number of other potential changes for the future but which still require further consideration. These include “a global reflection” on the format of race weekends, measures to make starts only controlled by the driver, and ways to cut costs in the sport.
“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,” an FIA statement read.
“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.”
Initial reports after Thursday’s meeting suggested that the big teams had been charged with conducting feasibility studies over the possible introduction of customer cars onto the grid.
In more immediate news, however, the Strategy Group as expected voted against the proposal to increase the penalty-free limit for engines from four to five for this season.
While the proposals for 2016 and 2017 have received the required majority support within the Strategy Group – which comprises the leading six teams, the FIA and Ecclestone’s Formula One Management – they still have to clear two further governance hurdles before they are ratified and enshrined in the rulebook.
The F1 Commission – which also includes the remaining four teams in addition to race promoters – have to agree on the changes before the World Motor Sport Council rubber stamps the plans. The FIA hopes to put the proposals before the two bodies “as soon as possible for implementation”.
Analysing the proposed changes on Sky Sports News HQ, pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz said: “It’s a return to the past really. Refuelling went five years ago and the reason it went was because they wanted to save the cost of transporting the big refuelling rigs around the world. They also wanted to make the sport safer.
“Sometimes you saw these very quick pitstops as they were refuelling the cars and sometimes there was a mistake and the driver would go off with the fuel hose still attached to the car. There were good reasons why they got rid of refuelling several years ago, so it seems quite confused to me as to why they are bringing refuelling back.
“That one is the headline which I’m not sure is going to result in a solid rule change.”
Mid-race fuel stops were scrapped after the 2009 season having previously been reintroduced into the sport after a decade's absence in 1994.
The plans at a glance
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 laptimes 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
For further consideration
A global reflection on race weekend format
Measures to make starts only activated by the driver without any outside assistance