Constructors still working on refuelling

MOTOR RACING reports from Buenos Aires
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reports from Buenos Aires

As Formula One's teams took stock in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's grippingArgentinian Grand Prix, one of the most prevalent emotions was relief that, for the second race running, nobody had experienced problems with their refuelling equipment, following a number of scares in recent weeks.

Moments prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix, one team representative said: "We are not confident. Out of a number of dry-run tests back at base, we had problems in some 20 per cent." Another said: "They have changed the equipment to make it better for 1995, but so far we are in a worse situation."

In Argentina most hadliaised with the French manufacturer, Intertechnique, to alleviate a problem with the refuelling hose's nozzle, but all were still being cautious. "We have made a couple of modifications since Brazil to stop the system's locking mechanism being so sensitive," Ron Dennis, the McLaren managing director, said. "At the moment the system doesn't want to work as fast as we want it to."

Dennis has long been against refuelling, and added: "I think we need fast pit stops, otherwise they make no real contribution. With 15sec pit stops you might as well pull up the pillows and go to sleep. Pit stops are great - if there is no refuelling."

The Williams team has also had its problems, but its technical director, Patrick Head, long recognised as a voice ofreason, said: "The nozzle attaching to the car is much more complex than last year and the problem was that the first pieces of equipment were only received by us a few days before the first grand prix. I don't find any of this surprising because it is fairly complex equipment and nothing can be correct immediately. If it had been produced in January, everything would have been sorted out by now."

Reacting to a suggestion that races be run as two-heat petits prix, to avoid refuelling the current cars with their small tanks, Gerhard Berger, the world championship leader, said: "It would not be Formula One. Formula One means one race, 300 kilometres, one start - if it is possible! In 300km you can show your physical conditions, your strategy, your consistency and how you set up the car. I am very happy how it is now."

After the first two grands prix of 1995 - neither particularly conclusive - the Formula One circus now has a much needed opportunity to hone its cars and its equipment before the third, the San Marino Grand Prix at the end of the month. Though it must necessarily be tinged with sadness for the memories of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, who died during last year's meeting, the return to Imola is taken as the real start of the championship battle, when teams have had better opportunities to get things right after intensive testing.

And Imola should, of course, mark the return of Nigel Mansell alongside Mika Hkkinen at McLaren. Dennis is optimistic that the former champion's new car will be ready. "We are about a day ahead of schedule," he said in Buenos Aires. "Nigel will test at Silverstone the week after next, and he is raring to go."

Of his highly paid star, he added: "There is a little bit of self-mutilation there; that is how he motivates himself to perform. Perhaps he likes things to be a little bit more difficult than they are. Pain helps his process." Cynical observers suggest that signing Mansell is an indication that McLaren may share such traits.

At present Williams has a clear advantage; whether the mercurial Mansell can lift McLaren should shortly be seen.