Much has been blamed for the current malaise in Formula One, with a lack of overtaking high on the list of faults, but, even as the powers that be ponder the future technical direction of the sport, a few of those involved most intimately insist that some things must not change.

Asked during Thursday's FIA press conference whether the sport would be better off without pit-stops for refuelling and tyre changes - as has been suggested by the soon-to-retire David Coulthard - three of the four drivers present admitted that the interruptions still presented the best opportunity for change during races.

"We see now that most of the overtaking taking place at the pit-stops so, without them, we probably will be running behind each other more, nothing really happening," world champion Kimi Raikkonen pointed out, before addressing a second concern - one that was particularly relevant to him.

The Ferrari driver had been hoping to gain places on his final stop during the European Grand Prix in Valencia two weeks ago, but a misjudgement when attempting to leave his stall saw the Finn drag his refueller to the floor, resulting in a broken toe and heavy bruising.

"Sometimes people get hurt in the pit-stops," Raikkonen admitted, "but that's part of racing. It hasn't been too bad."

Coulthard claimed, in a recent column for British F1 broadcaster ITV, that tactical pit-stops had removed some of the onus previously placed on drivers to preserve their cars through the entire race distance.

"From my point of view, a bigger drawback of refuelling is that it detracts from the racing by turning the grand prix into a series of low-fuel sprints between pit-stops," DC wrote, "In the days when you carried your entire race fuel load on board the car, there was a much bigger role for the driver in managing the tyres and brakes. These days, in dry conditions, you very rarely see anyone win from further back than the second row of the grid, because race pace largely mirrors qualifying pace."

The current 15-year history of refuelling stops in Formula One has also provided some of the sport's most visually dramatic - and dangerous - moments, with Jos Verstappen's Hockenheim inferno being repeated, thankfully on a smaller scale, over the years. But the drivers still wouldn't do away with them in the current climate.

"Hopefully, we will see more overtaking next year with the new regulations but, until we've had a couple of races, we don't know," said Nick Heidfeld, who proved at Silverstone that passing was still possible on the track when conditions allow, "As we all know, overtaking is so difficult that I think it would be a good idea to keep the pit-stops to at least see some."

Rookie Kazuki Nakajima, whose 2007 GP2 season showed that he was capable of manufacturing opportunities to gain position, shared the opinions of his veteran colleagues.

"In my opinion, it's better to keep the pit-stops because, at the moment, that's the thing which makes the difference between other drivers," he suggested, "[It means] we have a bit of choice for strategy and, sometimes, it makes the racing more interesting."

Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, picked up on the fact that it was a soon-to-depart driver making the suggestion that pit-stops - a tactical ploy adopted by almost every series in the world to some extent - be scrapped.

"I think when we are about to retire, we [will be] looking for more interesting races as well, because we will be in a position to watch the races," he smiled, "Honestly, in the car, the races are pretty interesting, and you are pretty busy. As Nick said, next year there should be more overtaking so, hopefully, by the time we are retiring, the racing [will be] more interesting...."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment