APRIL 15, 1996
Teams mutter about refueling
PEDRO DINIZ's fire in Argentina has once again raised the question of the dangers of refueling in Formula 1 racing.
Refueling was agreed by the teams in July 1993 at a crisis meeting in Reilingen, Germany. It formed part of a package of rule changes including the banning of electronic systems. The rules were confirmed by the FIA in October of that year and while some team owners were quick to express their worries, the FIA had little sympathy with the teams because they had voted for the change.
Even before the 1994 season began, McLaren had a fuel spillage while testing the refueling system at its factory in Woking. In July 1994, F1 had its first major fire when Jos Verstappen's Benetton was engulfed in flames at Hockenheim. The team was blamed for having tampered with the equipment - a charge which Benetton later admitted. In May last year, Bertrand Gachot's Pacific suffered a small fire in Barcelona as a result of the refueling valve sticking open. In July there was a major fuel spillage in the Benetton pits in Hungary but luckily the fuel was not ignited. A month later in Spa, Eddie Irvine's Jordan went up in flames when fuel leaked during a stop. The Diniz incident in Argentina was therefore the fifth major refueling-related incident. When one considers that in the same period there have been over 1500 refueling stops undertaken in races, the incident rate has been tiny.
To date Ferrari has been blamed for keeping refueling as the Italians wanted refueling in order to keep the thirsty Ferrari V12s competitive. Now that Ferrari has switched to V10 engines it seems they are no longer opposed to a change. This does not mean there will be a change as there is still a strong feeling that refueling adds a new dimension to the F1 show and should be continued. Other ideas such as compulsory tire stops and two part races have been discussed to get rid of the safety questions related to refueling.
Even if all the teams do agree to ban refueling, it cannot be done until the start of next year because it will need the cars to be completely redesigned, as none of them currently have big enough fuel tanks to run race distances.
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