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Friday, April 2, 2010

Non-refuelling change for Formula 1

The new no-refueling rule was introduced late in the season, too late in fact for the Virgin team. You need a fuel tank that will take you to the end of the race, simple as that.

Virgin did not meet that challenge for the Australian race, as I write pre-race 2 of the season.

So whats the implications of no-refueling? Advantages and disadvantages? Does it lead to a more exciting race?

F1 Safety
No-refueling, from a safety point of view is a good thing, if you consider the stress it puts the pit-crew and driver to get the car out of the pit.

Previous accidents can be seen to result mainly from human error, often with the driver taking off too early with the refuelling nozzle device still attached or the lollipop-guy, trying to get the car out as soon as the refueling device is removed.

It only takes a snag of the coupling device in the nozzle to cause an accident.

Another aspect to consider is, due to the lower accident risks with no-refueling during a race, is the issue of financially insuring the driver and team, re- paying out compensations after an accident.

If not via lower premiums, just the removal of a potential race hazard alone, must do something in terms of improving the insurance risk statistics.

Will no-refueling be good for a more interesting F1 race?
During a race, the race-car gets lighter as the fuel is used up. The handling of the car changes, generally, gradually improving the lap time.

This change is noticeable, but because it is gradual, the driver can maintain a steady control over the changing car handling.

Obviously, with no-refuelling this gradual change is better for the driver handling-

The race lap-times may be slower than previous F1 seasons, in the early stages of the race, but will return to normal lap-times towards the end of the race.

Does less-demanding car dynamics mean a less interesting race?
I think so; Previously, with refuelling, the cars weight-gain has often thrown the driver off his stride.

It leads for a more interesting race from that aspect and shows true driver skill. As Michael Schumacher, AKA The Rain-Man has often demonstrated in previous years.

Breaking in the wet, with a suddenly heavier car, sorts the men-from-the-boys.

Obviously. changing environmental conditions and constant and sudden changing car dynamics make a race less predictable, so this decision to go with no-refueling has not been done for that reason! It was the same with Tyre manufacture and types in previous years.
(see the Wiki ).

Harping back to past era's for a minute, there were more diverse tyre types and manufacturers like Bridgestone, Continental AG, Dunlop, Englebert, Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli.

Now it seems just to be Bridgestone only. Because since the 2007 season Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier to Formula One via contract agreement with the FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) and with the final withdrawal of Michelin Tyres.

Now, if that does not level-off the playing field for a somewhat less interesting and more predictable race, then I don't know what else does!

Yes, they are professional drivers, but under pressure, watching their race position, timing their fuel-stop, getting out of the pits as planned, the having to think... 'Heavier-car' as they approach the rear of another car - possibly in the wet, or a corner, chicane or other obstacle, like other cars heavy breaking to avoid collision etc, is part of the skill that drivers develop.

An obvious main skill the Rain-Man has for instance!

Of course, all this constant evaluation is often too much to think about:- and then we have crashes, where people get injured or even killed in years gone by!

So, I conclude for this reason alone, non-refueling is a great idea! I do feel though that if there is much more interference regulating all the cars to run the same tyres, the same aerodynamics, the same engine etc, then of course you are just left with one unpredictable element, the human element. Human error or skill.

One of my favourite sayings, I don't know where I heard it, is:- "The most dangerous part of a moving car, is the nut behind the wheel!"

Drive Safe: Keep the shiny-side up and the dirty-side down!

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