Lewis Hamilton has warned governing body the FIA that the ban on refuelling in F1 2010 will leave drivers 'sitting on a serious time bomb which could go off at any time' – but the 2008 world champion admitted that 'we all know it is a dangerous sport' and 'that is the risk we take'.
Refuelling was re-introduced into the top flight back in 1994, meaning Williams veteran Rubens Barrichello and the returning Michael Schumacher are the only drivers in the current field to have previously raced without it. The decision to outlaw it again from 2010 was made with the goal of re-injecting some excitement into the racing, with some of the more opaque tactical element henceforth removed from play.
Whilst refuelling during pit-stops has always been hazardous in itself – just ask Jos Verstappen or Gianmaria Bruni, for example – Hamilton contends that with the doubling in size of fuel tanks to carry 240 litres rather than 120 litres as has in general been the maximum in recent years, the danger element in the event of a collision has similarly been multiplied.
“We are sitting on a huge rocket,” the 25-year-old told British newspaper the News of the World
. “You are sitting on a serious time bomb which could go off at any time, but we all know F1 is a dangerous sport. That is the risk we take, and as a racing driver, that doesn't worry me.
“They won't stop as quickly and it will be a lot heavier on brakes, but the cars are built to withstand difficult forces. I will get in the car and I will go flat-out, and if it happens, it happens.”
Those sentiments were broadly echoed by Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes team-mate, compatriot and title-winning successor Jenson Button, who agreed that cars will now be harder to handle and control – particularly in the early stages of grands prix, when fuel loads are at their heaviest – and will not slow down as effectively as before, likely leading to a heftier impact should a driver fly off the circuit and into the tyre barriers.
“Eighty kilograms of fuel could do some damage,” opined the Frome-born ace, “so it doesn't matter if it's 80kg or 160kg. The way the system works – with a cut-off valve – it shouldn't be a problem, but the car is so heavy now. It is a lot more difficult with the brakes. I have driven it in the simulator, and it is tough on brakes.”