Why refuelling would have made the Malaysian Grand Prix worse!

Apr. 4, 2010 - Sepang, Malaysia - Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 leads Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10. Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day.

Mclaren & Ferrari cut through the field in Malaysia

I don’t know about you but I though the Malaysian Grand Prix was a pretty good race overall. There was plenty to be talking about and most of it was concerning the way Ferrari and Mclaren made their way from the back of the grid.

Unfortunately the second half of the race wasn’t thrill a minute, in fact it was pretty static, but the die had already been cast in qualifying in that Redbull – clearly the fastest car in F1 at the moment was given a head start over its main rivals (Ferrari and Mclaren) by some nearly 20 places and that Vettle, who is faster than Webber most of the time got to the front by turn 1, eliminated most of the chance of an upset.

This meant that once the shuffle of the pit stops had played out, the drivers most likely to take the battle to the front were on compromised strategies and clearly on the back foot for the second half of the race, having had to punish their tyres early on.

I agree that there were situations which could have been potentially exciting but came to nothing – Hamilton on Sutil, Alonso on Massa and Alonso on Button are all examples. Hamilton not being able to pass a car that on the face of things was as fast as his and in Alonso’s case he had two problems. One being a crippling gearbox problem that limited his ability to drive in an aggressive manner, and the second being the fact he is yet to broach the problem of battling with his team-mate, who is clearly slower, but not slow enough for Alonso to put pressure on his team to let him by to attack the rest of the field.

So the net result on a race with good battling in the midfield but one that lacked real purpose up front, however this has led to the critics to start round 2 of their rule bashing campaign.  How quickly Melbourne has been forgotten.

I have listened to podcasts, read blogs and taken in tweets since Sepang, and most seem to state that Formula 1 is more processional since the ban of mid race refuelling.  But this is just utter rubbish in my opinion.

If you are a recent F1 fan and have always know F1 with refuelling then I have a level of understanding why you might be finding hard to let go of the  refuelling element, but many unhappy F1 fans claim to want the races to be entertaining and that refuelling achieved this.  Really?  Or did it over complicate and deceive many of us in to thinking otherwise?

No amount of  refuelling would have changed the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Redbull’s were head a shoulders faster than everyone else and would have won any how.  The Mercedes or Renault are not at race winning pace so don’t kid yourself in to thinking it would have been more interesting at the front.

On the contrary, refuelling would have made for an even more predictable race. The optimum strategy if you are a fast car starting at the back of the field is to carry more fuel and go longer than everyone else. Therefore we would have seen the Mclaren’s and Ferrari’s fuelled to the brim, hoping to slide up the order when everyone else in front of them pits.  This would have put the drivers in a situation where their car were heavier than many drivers in front and reduced their ability to be able to pass as many cars.  That  means that fans would have been deprived of most of the physical overtakes we saw on track and we would have been delivered them through stealth and fuel pit stops. Not my idea of a more entertaining race.

With refuelling we would have had “something” to look forward to in the last third of the race, breaking up the status quo, but would it have delivered any thing? Perhaps Force India would have stuffed up Sutil’s pit stop and deprived him of an excellent drive and beating  the Mclaren.  Or possibly Vettle might have suffered the same fate and handed Webber an undeserved win.  Would that have been the entertainment F1 fans wanted?

I feel the debate about refuelling gets confused with other issues that F1 certainly needs to address.  The fact cars cannot run as close as they used to does not promote the chance to pass each other. These are engineering issues that the Overtaking Working group needs to address.  Otherwise if you ask people such Martin Whitmarsh or Eddie Jordan for their opinion, you get ones based on entertainment, such as two mandatory tyre stops or heaven help – reversed grids! F1 doesn’t need any of those.

I think we praise the current rules for allowing actual racing in Melbourne and in Sepang, and perhaps we should be blaming the big teams for being as close to the Redbull’s as perhaps as they should be.

I am sure a lot of you readers will disagree with me, however for as long as I live I will believe F1 refuelling doesn’t make F1 more entertaining or exciting, if you want that, go watch Indycar or NASCAR.