The verdict on latest plans from Formula 1 Strategy Group

Formula 1's Strategy Group sprang a surprise when it announced the return of refuelling as the headline change in its plan for a 2017 revamp

The verdict on latest plans from Formula 1 Strategy Group

AUTOSPORT's F1 reporters give their take on the proposals and whether the ideas put forward are really what grand prix racing needs.

1) Why bring back refuelling?

IAN PARKES (@ianparkesF1): It's obviously to inject an extra degree of unpredictability back into the proceedings. At present, in a tyre-only pitstop era, we know the compounds available ahead of a race; at any given moment we can see on which rubber a driver is running, and for the most part, we know how long it will last and when he will likely have to pit again.

Refuelling throws in that element of the unknown, such as how much fuel is in the car at the start, and when a driver pits, how much has he taken on board.

And who can forget such remarkable moments as Felipe Massa pulling out of his Ferrari pit too early in the 2008 Singapore GP with the fuel hose still attached to his car?

Before you all start writing in banging on about safety, of course, you are right. If refuelling is to return both safety and cost are of paramount importance these days, particularly if the teams are aiming for the same sub-three second stop as they do at present when they are only replacing tyres.

More fuel and new tyres in less than three seconds? Now that would be pretty remarkable.

BEN ANDERSON (@benandersonauto): This is a strange idea. The current Formula 1 regulations are about fuel efficiency. I know the Strategy Group has been explicit about retaining the maximum fuel limit for each race, but in terms of the spectacle, watching cars pit to take on fuel during grands prix will send out mixed messages to fans.

F1 revamp plans: The full details

Practically, it will help in the drive to make current F1 cars faster, because teams will be able to run them lighter for each stint.

This is where the reintroduction of refuelling makes some practical sense. There is concern among stakeholders that F1 cars are too slow, and refuelling fits with the drive to reduce laptimes by "five to six seconds".

However, it will make pitstops inherently more dangerous too, so I'm surprised the FIA is in favour of this.

LAWRENCE BARRETTO (@lawrobarretto): With Mercedes enjoying a dominant season last year and keeping itself on top of the pile so far this season, you can see why some measures may be introduced to spice up the show.

Refuelling will certainly add a new dimension as not only will cars be lighter and thus quicker, teams will also have more strategy options to play with during the race.

But I can't help but feel that it is a knee-jerk reaction, just like it was in 1994 when F1 last brought back refuelling in response to Williams's dominance in 1992/93.

Refuelling was banned from 2010 onwards with the aim of cutting the costs of transporting refuelling equipment around the world.

That cost will now return along with the inherent danger that pitstops inevitably bring. In an era where cost-cutting and greater safety is being pursued, is that really the way Formula 1 should be going?

2) Is free tyre compound choice a good idea?

BEN ANDERSON: I agree with Pirelli's Paul Hembery on this one. At a glance, opening up the choice of tyre compounds to teams for each race weekend looks exciting. But then you realise they will all simply work out the fastest option for each circuit in advance and converge to the same solution.

Pirelli will still have to produce tyres for a wide range of tracks and conditions - as it does now - so there won't be the subtle competitive variation to this 'free' choice that people might expect.

The super-soft tyre would always be the fastest choice, for example, but it wouldn't last five minutes in the heat of Malaysia so there would be no point in picking it. Similarly, you would never use the hard tyre anywhere unless you had to.

The only way this works to make the racing better is if the teams don't know in advance what tyres they are using for each event.

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff on Strategy Group plans

Introduce specific compounds for each track, but keep their technical makeup secret, then let teams work out what to do once they get up and running.

The more information you take away from them, the better the racing usually is.

LAWRENCE BARRETTO: In theory, yes because it would allow teams to choose two from a selection of four compounds that could bring variety and mix up the field.

It also opens the door for a team further down the field to gamble on a compound in the hope of making a big gain because it can't challenge the frontrunners on outright pace.

But ultimately, it feels like a bit of a gimmick.

And the teams have access to a huge amount of data, a lot of which Pirelli uses to make its own choices, so it won't take long for them to converge on the same compounds.

Many people in the paddock feel that drivers spend too much time managing their tyres rather than being able to push them to the limit so perhaps that's the problem F1's rulemakers should be focusing on.

IAN PARKES: I have to go with the expert on this one and if Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery tells you a free choice of tyres would be "reckless" and compromise safety, as he did to AUTOSPORT last week in Spain, then you have to take his word for it.

Sure, teams being allowed to pick two of the four dry-compound tyres from the four currently available would add a little extra spice and further unpredictability to the show, and any improvement to the show is a good thing, right? Not in this instance.

Let's face it, none of the frontrunners would dare sway from Pirelli's data, which nine times out of 10 accurately predicts the right rubber for any given circuit.

The only variables would be a midfield team looking to make a headline qualifying performance, or one of those at the rear resorting to a desperate super-soft call to clinch a Q2 spot.

If you really want to make a difference give the teams at least another compound, maybe two, to choose from. That would keep the teams and the fans guessing.

3) Are the Strategy Group's proposals what F1 needs or do they miss the point?

LAWRENCE BARRETTO: After Ferrari and Red Bull produced futuristic images of what F1 cars could look like in the future, the news that more aggressive looks are being pursued is a good thing.

We need to return to an era where youngsters want to put posters of F1 up on their walls because the cars are cool.

Similarly, the prospect of lighter and noisier cars that are five to six seconds quicker is exciting for drivers and fans alike. This is Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport after all.

But the decision to allow free choice of tyres will have little impact on the show in the long term while a return to refuelling makes it feel like the sport is going backwards.

And most importantly, none of those measures have addressed the biggest problem: the high cost of running a Formula 1 team. If anything, they will push costs up.

IAN PARKES: It is a step in the right direction at least. There has been too much negativity of late for it to be continually ignored.

Something had to give at some point, and the Strategy Group - for all the criticism directed at it in recent times - would appear to have said 'enough is enough, let's finally take bold action'.

If F1 can truly achieve laps five to six seconds quicker than at present, and with cars that look more aggressive, with the reintroduction of refuelling, who is not going to be captivated by that?

But at what cost to the independent teams? There were some intriguing ideas in the FIA statement on behalf of the Strategy Group, with undoubtedly a positive edge to it.

But what was missing, because they knew it would detract from the message they were trying to send out, was the threat of third cars and customer cars.

Uncertain future for F1's independent teams

Forget budget caps, major cost savings, the prospect of a more equitable share of the revenues for the smaller teams, such talks are over.

The independents, instead of looking to a more positive 2017 should all the proposed changes come into force, are facing an uncertain future.

Let's embrace the Strategy Group's ideas for now, but be mindful of the fact the customer car story has only just started, and there may be tough times ahead for some.

BEN ANDERSON: The Strategy Group is representative of specific interests, so can it really be trusted to come up with a true vision for the common good? What research has it done into what fans really want?

Looking at the measures themselves, I would say there is a mixed bag. Looking beyond tyres and fuel, who wouldn't want to see faster, louder, more aggressive-looking cars?

There are easy (and cheap) ways of improving the format for each grand prix, so "further investigation" seems a good idea to me.

The disappointing element - once again - is the lack of agreement over revenue distribution and costs. Supposedly there is a "comprehensive proposal to ensure the sustainability of the sport", but we need to see what that actually means before jumping for joy or tearing our hair out

It's also confusing to see a push to have stability in the current engine rules (welcome from a costs perspective) concurrent to a drive to alter those engines to make them more powerful and louder.

Perhaps this means the fuel flow limit (rather than the fuel allowance) is going to be lifted? But that would surely have a knock-on effect on reliability, and therefore costs.

shares
comments
How much has McLaren improved?
Previous article

How much has McLaren improved?

Next article

Gene Haas has 'no regrets' over setting up American Formula 1 team

Gene Haas has 'no regrets' over setting up American Formula 1 team
The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline Plus

The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline

In the hands of Ayrton Senna the actively suspended 99T would be the last F1 race-winning Lotus but, as STUART CODLING reveals, it was a complicated machine that caused more problems than it solved

Formula 1
Feb 5, 2023
How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1 Plus

How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

Formula 1’s transformation into a global sport meant the gradual extinction for a small team determined to stay true to its low-budget roots. But Tyrrell would eventually be reborn as a world-beating outfit again, explains MAURICE HAMILTON, albeit in different colours…

Formula 1
Feb 4, 2023
Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver Plus

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Many doubted Lewis Hamilton’s move from McLaren to Mercedes for the 2013 Formula 1 season. But the journey he’s been on since has taken the Briton to new heights - and to a further six world championship titles

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era Plus

Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

OPINION: With teams outside the top three having struggled in Formula 1 in recent seasons, the rules changes introduced in 2022 should have more of an impact this season. How well Haas does, as the poster child for the kind of team that F1 wanted to be able to challenge at the front, is crucial

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff Plus

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

OPINION: Although the central building blocks for Mercedes’ recent, long-lasting Formula 1 success were installed before he joined the team, Toto Wolff has been instrumental in ensuring it maximised its finally-realised potential after years of underachievement. The 10-year anniversary of Wolff joining Mercedes marks the perfect time to assess his work

Formula 1
Feb 1, 2023
The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate Plus

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Alpine’s signing of Pierre Gasly alongside Esteban Ocon revives memories of a famous all-French line-up, albeit in the red of Ferrari, for BEN EDWARDS. Can the former AlphaTauri man's arrival help the French team on its path back to winning ways in a tribute act to the Prancing Horse's title-winning 1983?

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021? Plus

How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021?

OPINION: A system to score all the grands prix from the past two seasons produces some interesting results and sets a standard that 2023 should surely exceed

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022? Plus

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who was the fastest driver in 2022? Everyone has an opinion, but what does the stopwatch say? Obviously, differing car performance has an effect on ultimate laptime – but it’s the relative speed of each car/driver package that’s fascinating and enlightening says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Formula 1
Jan 30, 2023