MAY 6, 1996
Another refueling near-miss
THE Arrows team had a near-miss at Imola when Jos Verstappen was waved out of his pit during a refueling stop with the refueling gear still attached to the car. The hose was ripped away from the refueling machine, and around four liters of fuel was spilled. Luckily this was not ignited. Unfortunately the team's refueler David Lowe was dragged with the car and suffered a dislocated shoulder.
The F1 refueling machines do not have self-sealing connections which will snap in such cases, sealing in the fuel. They do, however, have a dead man's handle which shuts down the flow of fuel if a button is released. In the case of the Arrows incident the hose broke between the dead man's handle and the refueling machine. This meant that the 10 liters of fuel which were inside the hose did not flow back out of the hose, but the small amount of fuel left in the pipes between the pressurized tank and dead man's handle did escape.
We understand that it could have been considerably worse if the refueling operation had not been completed, although such an incident is less likely because the car was being waved away because the signaler thought the operation was over and that the hose had been disconnected.
The FIA will carry out an investigation into the incident in the next few days with technicians from the French company Intertechnique, which designed the refueling machines. Video evidence, however, shows quite clearly that the cause of the accident was that simply that the signaler made a mistake.
We believe that the FIA has investigated including a number of self-sealing connectors into the system, but decided that the equipment would then become too heavy to use effectively. It would also be enormously expensive. The decision, therefore, was taken to adopt the current system, as it was decided that teams were unlikely to wave cars away with the refueling equipment still attached.
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