Should We Give Up On The Refuelling Ban Already?

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIMarch 20, 2010

SAKIR, BAHRAIN - MARCH 14:  Michael Schumacher of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on March 14, 2010 in Sakir, Bahrain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Not since the one lap qualifying format has a rule change affected the sport of Formula 1 as much as the current ban on refuelling.

Many commented upon the bore war that was the Bahrain Grand Prix, in what presented nothing much more than a procession of cars. This was of course against the desired effect, which was to encourage the drivers to fight more for positions due to being all on the same fuel levels.

Grand Prix would no longer be won in the pits.

For a Formula 1 neutral, asides from the differential car capabilities, it also looked to provide us with the most equal driver line up that we would ever likely see.

The promise therefore made to us was that only tiny car differences would dictate the action, leaving more room for individual talents to shine through.

Yet the image represented in the first race of the season meant a negative reaction to the lack of overtaking was inevitable.

So is it right to question the rule change right from the offset? Or should we let the change be given a chance to prove itself?

From an optimistic point of view every rule change needs to be given the opportunity to spread its wings. We need to see whether it would truly be a detriment to the sport, or whether it could be developed into becoming a defining aspect that improves the sports spectatorship.

The issue in Bahrain appeared to be the lack of grip in the early stages that held back drivers from overtaking.

Felipe Massa commented in his blog that following someone closely and trying to overtake them meant that a driver lost more aerodynamic downforce. As a consequence it became increasingly difficult to attempt a move on the driver in front.

He did proclaim however that it is ‘too early to comment after just one race.’
This sentiment is echoed by Force India’s Vijay Mallya who criticised the knee jerk reaction given to the ban on refuelling. He proposed that we wait until events unfold at Australia and Malaysia before we ‘make an informed decision about whether we need to react to improve the Formula 1 show’.

It was obvious to anyone that the opening Grand Prix was not the most enticing. Any new spectators would have been perplexed at the admiration given to the sport. They would define it as just men driving around in circles for a large number of laps.

I can’t help but feel however, that part of the issue is psychological, and that the lack of grip resulting from the heavy fuel loads just needs to be acclimatised to by the drivers.

As the drivers gain in confidence, overtaking specialists such as Alonso and Massa will surely prosper. As they find their feet in the early race conditions they should excel in such conditions.

Drivers such as Jenson Button and Heikki Kovalainen may find this continually difficult; as such drivers are self confessed unaccomplished over takers. Button is better regarded now as a leader than as a follower.

I would like to believe that such drivers won’t complain about the ban on refuelling in future races. Jenson did after all show overtaking brilliance in Brazil last year. Yet the likelihood of him slipping back into denials of his inability to perform could undo this.

We must look forward to the next few races, in seeing how the drivers can adapt to the now controversial rule change. It can hopefully be utilised to eventually produce its desired occurrences and further enhance the role of competition in Formula 1.

It is my belief that demolishing a rule change after only one event would be a travesty and a complete waste of time. It would change the dynamics of the current season in an uncompromising fashion.

So if others can follow in the footsteps of Massa and see the light at the end of the tunnel, then the lack of competition can be overthrown once more.

Drivers could be left behind if they fail to attempt what is currently perceived as unachievable.