Motor Racing: Refuelling to add spice and element of danger

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FORMULA ONE presents its new attraction here on Sunday, fearing it may have created a monster, writes Derick Allsop. Refuelling, reintroduced after an 11-year ban for safety reasons, was seen as an obvious and relatively simple gimmick to spice up the show, but the prospects of more pit- lane excitement and changing places are being balanced by the dangers, cost and sheer inconvenience.

Huge tanks are having to be transported around the world and then wheeled into position to provide mid-race services. It will take up to 10 seconds to feed 100 litres of petrol into a car, roughly doubling the time of a normal pit stop for fresh tyres.

Two firemen will be at the ready alongside the fuel attendant. They and the other 16 employed on wheel-change duty will wear flameproof outfits. Already, in testing, there have been spillages and other problems with the nozzles. In the intense pressure of a racing situation, mistakes seem inevitable.

Ayrton Senna, now of Williams-Renault and the championship favourite, said: 'I think there is no doubt refuelling will make the racing more exciting. The racing will be faster, because the cars will carry less fuel in the early part of the grand prix, and there will be lots of changes in position.'

Williams' technical director, Patrick Head, said: 'Nobody thought the Titanic would go down, but look what happened. Ninety-five per cent of plane crashes are through human error, and the chances are that human beings will make a mistake, sooner or later, in circumstances such as these.'

Active suspension, traction control, anti-lock braking and pit-to-car telemetry have been banned this year in an attempt to reduce costs and hand the car back to the driver.