The FIA has announced that refuelling is set to return to Formula 1 for the 2017 season in a bid to make races more exciting and improve the ‘show’ of the sport.
Representatives from a number of F1 teams met with FIA president Jean Todt and F1 Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone at Biggin Hill in England on Thursday, and agreed to change the technical regulations for the 2017 season.
The biggest change will be the return of refuelling, which was last used in F1 back in 2009. This is likely to tie in with a more durable compound of tire that allows drivers to push throughout the race, with the main variation being fuel load.
For 2016, the Strategy Group plans to allow teams a free choice of tire compound across the course of the race weekend instead of being restricted to the two that are selected by supplier Pirelli and deemed most suitable for the race.
“The Strategy Group members have debated a number of levers aimed at improving the show,” a statement from the FIA reads. “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: 5 to 6 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
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 5th engine to be used during the 2015 season has been rejected.
At the Spanish Grand Prix, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery told MotorSportsTalk that the Italian company would not allow a free choice of tires in the future.
“No, we’re not going to be doing that, it would be a no,” Hembery said. “You can’t because you’d have some idiots making decisions to run things to try and get performance.
“If it was 50 degrees like today and they were on super-softs, you’d have a car sat in the garage with either no tires left or tires breaking on the track.
“It will never be the team that chose the wrong tires, it will be Pirelli’s fault. We can’t have that, but we’re always willing to look for change if change is needed.”
Pirelli’s current F1 contract runs until the end of the 2016 season, but Michelin has expressed an interest in entering the sport if the regulations were changed to fit its approach.
The push for more aggressive and quicker cars has been gathering steam in recent months, with Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene leading the charge. Unquestionably, quicker and cooler looking cars would be positive steps for the sport.
However, the biggest talking point coming out of this meeting will undoubtedly be the return of refuelling. This will result in slower pit stops, given that the sport has become accustomed to sub-three-second stops since the refuelling ban, and will also increase the safety risk in the pit lane.
The decisions will also raise further questions about the legitimacy of the Strategy Group, given that it features just six of the ten teams, excluding Sauber, Lotus, Manor and Toro Rosso.