Fixing the F1 points problem

Michael Lamonato Columnist

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    Now that’s it’s January 2014, we can finally, officially, brush away the stale taste of 2013 and replace it with the cautious optimism of a shiny and new 19-race Championship.

    Forget about all that Sebastian Vettel domination stuff, this year’s a clean slate – just like we said this time last year, right?

    But controversy is never far from Formula One, with the FIA’s promise of a double-points award for the final round of this season already causing much duress amongst drivers, teams and fans alike.

    The idea has been well covered. The official rationale for double points during Round 19 in Abu Dhabi is to prolong interest in the season should any one driver run away with the Championship early on.

    Opposed to the method, however, is almost everyone.

    Few inside the sport are publicly supportive, and the vast majority is rejecting it. Bernie Ecclestone has since admitted a number of the teams formally rejected the plan.

    Whether it be because it represents yet another ‘artificial’ component to the sport, or simply because it means a win in Abu Dhabi is, bafflingly, twice as valuable as one at Spa or Monaco, fans and teams are seemingly united in their disapproval.

    And to think, Bernie wanted double points for the last three rounds!

    But not so fast – if the goal really is to elongate a Championship poised to wrap up prematurely, then surely Bernie has a point.

    Double points at the finale could potentially create an upset. Double points in the final few Grands Prix, on the other hand, creates a sustained opportunity to overhaul a runaway Champion-to-be.

    Yes, it’s still gimmicky, but surely the best way to avoid a sudden table-turning of the Championship at the very last round is to reward continuous development, knowing that those last few rounds are worth as much as the entire middle stint of the season.

    The problem with this, of course, is that a big enough lead would negate this plan.

    If Sebastian Vettel finds himself with a 100-point advantage at these new bonus rounds, a solid series of points-management races would still be enough for him to take the title without much effort.

    How might we going about fixing that?

    As loathe as Formula One is to borrow an idea from another series, the answer may lie with that sport of sports – NASCAR.

    Experts at turning in more than one direction they mightn’t be, but when it comes to engineering tight title finishes, the Americans might be able to teach us a thing or two.

    The NASCAR “Chase for the Cup” is a sub-series within the season encompassing the final ten rounds of the year.

    After the first 750 rounds (approximately), when just ten races remain, the top ten drivers by points are separated from the rest and seeded into a league of title contenders.

    Each driver’s points total is reset to a base of 2,000, plus three points per race win. Racing for the remainder of the season then proceeds as normal.

    Not bad, hey?

    There would be some obvious issues with the implementation of such a programme in Formula One.

    Wins in any given season are usually divided amongst but a handful of drivers, meaning most of the rest of the top 10 would be left on equal points, so I’ve created a modified rule:

    P01 = points x 100%
    P02 = P01 x 98%
    P03 = P01 x 97%
    P04 = P01 x 96%
    P05 = P01 x 95%
    P06 = P01 x 94%
    P07 = P01 x 93%
    P08 = P01 x 92%
    P09 = P01 x 91%
    P10 = P01 x 90%

    Each driver from second to tenth would a receive a decreasing percentage of the points accrued by the leading driver, likely decreasing the gap between each one, but still respecting the points tally’s reflection of a driver’s consistency over the course of the season.

    In addition, the F1 Chase for the Championship would take place in the final five rounds of the season, taking into account Formula One’s smaller 19-race schedule.

    Gimmicky? Sure. Artificial? Definitely.

    An improvement on the FIA and Bernie’s proposals? Certainly.

    Each round is worth an equal number of points to every other. Consistency is recognised throughout the season, rather than weighting in favour of the fast finishers.

    Best of all, however – and here’s what I really like about this system – it gives teams a reason to continue to work on the current season’s car rather than abandon early.

    Now, should one of its drivers make it into the top 10 before the final five rounds, he could well be in with a genuine shot at the Championship.

    F1’s Chase for the Championship. It has a ring to it, wouldn’t you say?

    Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelLamonato

    Michael Lamonato
    Michael Lamonato

    Michael is one-third of F1 podcast Box of Neutrals, as heard weekly on ABC Grandstand Digital nationwide. Though he's been part of the F1's travelling press room since 2012, people seem more interested in the time he was sick in a kart — but don't ask about that, follow him on Twitter instead @MichaelLamonato.