May 16, 2015 / 8:20 AM / 2 years ago

F1 refueling return depends on cost, says Wolff

Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff smiles in the garage during the second practice session of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi November 21, 2014.Caren Firouz

LONDON (Reuters) - The proposed return of refueling to Formula One in 2017 will only happen if it is affordable, according to Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.

The move, announced by the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Friday, has received a mixed reaction.

Some observers have questioned why something banned for cost reasons in 2010 was being reintroduced at a time when smaller teams are again feeling the pinch and seeking savings.

"Refueling was banned because of cost and because the pit stops were taking too long," Wolff told the BBC.

"But we want to re-explore it and see if we can make pit stops for fuel and tires happen in the same time it takes to change the tires now -- two to three seconds," added the Austrian.

"We have agreed to explore this avenue and the cost involved because it could be spectacular. If it's too expensive, we won't do it."

The main cost of refueling involves transporting heavy equipment around the world and the extra personnel required to handle it.

There are also safety considerations in pumping fuel into cars in a crowded pit lane in a matter of seconds, with the risk of flare-ups.

The Formula One Strategy Group, which includes the six top teams and FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management, also agreed other measures that will now go to the next stage of consideration.

They include making cars lighter, louder and considerably faster -- "the fastest car on the planet" according to Wolff -- as well as more aggressive-looking.

The FIA's Formula One commission, which includes all stakeholders, and the FIA's supreme body the World Motor Sport Council, must still approve the proposals.

"We have agreed to increase the width of the cars and tires, and have larger front and rear wings. We want to ban the driver-aid aspect of starts, so no pre-calibrated starts and have the drivers start using hand clutches," Wolff said of 2017 suggestions.

"For now, it will be an evolution of the current cars. But there is an appetite for more spectacular aero kit.

"We want to follow this up but at the moment we will go for evolution and that gives us six months to agree on a more spectacular design."

Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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