Shortly after this issue of Motor Sport closed for press, leading representatives of Formula One’s chief trade suppliers were due to meet to discuss the future of Grand Prix racing. One topic scheduled for debate was that of fuel, following calls to have the specification of racing petrol more tightly controlled.
It might be argued that the adoption of less volatile liquids could pave the way for the reintroduction of mid-race refuelling, a concept against which we argued strongly in last month’s Matters of Moment, and of which we are pleased to see that the leading F1 representatives disapproved when they met to discuss the future of the sport in Italy on June 4. We hope that that particular idea is quickly forgotten altogether: combustible fuels of any nature represent an unacceptable hazard in the pit lane, particularly when being handled during a mid-race stop, a high-pressure situation in which the human fallibility factor has also to be considered.
Tighter fuel controls are certainly required, and FISA only needs to look at the difference the adoption of control fuel has made to this year’s European F3000 Championship to appreciate the benefits. In the first two rounds of that series, the quality of the racing has been better (ie closer, and more exciting) than it was at any time during a largely processional 1991, which unquestionably increases the series’ worth as a proving ground for tomorrow’s F1 graduates. Plus, of course, the fuel is much cheaper and those who work within the frequently cramped confines of the pit lane are no longer subjected to the vile olfactory assault of the potions that prevailed for much of last season. Remember the chilling sight of F1 refuelling crews wearing gas masks at Kyalami?
We aren’t suggesting that control fuel needs to be enforced in F1, where there is, generally, more money available (£20 per gallon for last year’s F3000 juice was bad news for many a budget that was already stretched to capacity) and free thinking should not be discouraged (competition, after all, is believed to improve the breed). However, in the present climate — both financial and ecological — it is in the sport’s long-term interests that such technical innovation is contained within a tighter set of parameters.