Worst. Rule Change. Ever.

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OK, so this has probably been done before but I was on holiday last week so I’m only just catching up with what stands out as quite possibly the stupidest idea the FIA has come up with in a very long time. I refer, of course, to double points for the final race of the season.

As far as dumb ideas go, this one ranks up there with the very worst. Eleven years ago the FIA proposed that drivers would race every car on the grid in 2003, and once a rotation had been done they’d be able to pick with which team they would complete the season, having the right to choose their rides on the basis of championship position at that time. Stupid, right? Thankfully that one didn’t see the light of day.

Aggregate qualifying was introduced in 2005. It lasted precisely five races.

We’ve had other crazy ideas, usually suggested by Bernard Charles. Sprinklers, the medal system… multiple route circuits including overtaking lanes.

The issue is that this double points thing isn’t a suggestion. And it hasn’t been thrown into the mix to ruffle a few feathers as most of Bernie’s ideas have. This thing’s a reality. Unless common sense is found in the next 80-odd days.

Let’s take a look at the final race of 2013 and ask what would have changed had double points been awarded. Well, in the drivers’ championship all would have remained pretty similar. Vettel would have won with 422 points, Alonso would still have been second and Webber third. It’s actually only at the very edge of the top ten where we see a shift. Sergio Perez would have had a points haul of 16 points to Nico Hulkenberg’s 8, pushing the Mexican into tenth and relegating Hulkenberg down to 11th.

It’s in the constructors’ championship that it gets really interesting though, as it is Ferrari, and not Mercedes, who would have finished the season in second, beating Merc by 3 points.

Frankly, I think we’re going to encounter enough problems in 2014 without throwing this ludicrous situation into the mix. Most worrying of all is that the new Strategy Group actually OK’d all of this. But of course it had to be approved unanimously by the F1 Commission, under the terms of the operation of this new group… did it not? Well, no it didn’t actually.

“These changes are immediately applicable, given the mandate assigned to the FIA President at the last World Motor Sport Council meeting, held on 4 December in Paris,” the FIA said in a statement. Democratic process at its finest, that.

Of course there were fears, as soon as the Strategy Group was announced, that rules could be manipulated and misrepresentation on the group lead to dangerous and unwanted changes. Jon Noble was reporting such from as far back as October. These fears seem to have come to fruition earlier than anticipated.

So why has the change been made? The FIA claims it is “to maximise focus on the championship until the end of the campaign.” But would it have stopped Vettel from winning his fourth crown in India? No. Would it have stopped Red Bull from taking its fourth crown before season’s end? No. Would it have stopped certain teams from shifting their focus to 2014 from mid-season? No.

The fact that some teams were forced to shift focus away from 2013 after a mid-season tyre construction shift that was entirely of the FIA’s making for not having its house in order in the first place, apparently hasn’t registered either.

So what’s the point in all this?

At its least harmful it devalues 18 of the 19 races to the point that any one of the 18 promoters might, quite reasonably, take umbrage to this shift and question why they should pay such a high sanctioning fee to host their race. If its value is now at 50%, surely so too should be their sanctioning fee? I can imagine Bernie’s phone has been ringing non-stop since the announcement.

But at its worst, far beyond considerations of finance and fees, this rule change threatens to devalue the entire championship. The entire sport.

If you want to start handing out more points, how about points for pole or fastest lap? How about a point for each position gained from lights to flag? Frankly I rather like the last option. But is it all not a tad unnecessary?

Eleven years ago, when the FIA last announced a raft of pretty bonkers suggestions for rule changes I, as a very young jobbing journo, wrote an article for Joe Saward on GrandPrix.com. It centred on the musical legend of the crossroads, and why Formula 1 could learn from it. In it, I wrote the following…

If [the sport] chooses to stand at this crossroads and sell the soul of Formula 1 to a commercial devil in return for a quick fix of fleeting glory, then the sport, as the musical legends of the myth, will pay for a few short glorious years with it’s life.

The very fact that these laughable ideas have been tabled should give cause for concern (not least for the attention they are dragging away from the very real problems facing F1.)

As the sport nears the crossroads it is the privileged few who will decide the fate of the game and when they arrive at this fabled junction they will have two choices. They can wait until midnight, play their song and sell the soul of the sport for an easy fix. Things will be good for a while but a sport with no soul, like a person, is living on borrowed time.

Or they can sit down, weigh up all the options available to them and, use hundreds of years of combined knowledge, and sort out the mess – with no gimmicks.

Eleven years ago. Eleven years.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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27 thoughts on “Worst. Rule Change. Ever.

    • If it’s the same for everyone, why is that guy’s fifth place (in Abu Dhabi) worth more than my second place at Spa? Why is that other guy’s third place worth more than victory at Monaco?

      We could award a 1000 points for winning the Abu Dhabi GP and really drag the season out to the last race. Well, it’d be the same for everyone wouldn’t it?

      But it’s not the same for everyone – you can’t just consider the one race in isolation. Abu Dhabi doesn’t entail twice the effort of any where else (with miles of forgiving run-off, it requires a lot less!)

  1. Very good as usual, Mr. Buxton. This exceeds the laughable championship that is Napcar, with its arbitrary points reset near the end of the season. So winning at Yas Marina is suddenly worth more than winning at Spa or Monza or even Monaco. So much for tradition.

    This from the same group that brought you cost-containment by requiring all new “power units” … yeah, that will keep costs down!

  2. When I first heard the news about double points at Abu Dhabi, my reaction was “How lame is this” and you are dead right Will. It completely takes the value away from the 18 out of the 19 races the teams and drivers will have to participate in 2014. Yes, it will be a different form of racing but if F1 has to change itself, it’s now. There’s simply no point for gimmicks in this sport, DRS is artificial but when it comes to ERS, it takes away the soul of the sport and becomes a corporate playground for the rich. I do want F1 to evolve itself but the way they are going about this with these rule changes can harm the growth and potential of F1 in the future and leave it a dying corpse.

  3. It all comes down to TV rights doesn’t it? Broadcasters are complaining that people are turning off the season early because too often Brazil not a relevant race, devaluing all the money they pay for rights for the whole season and making it harder to sell advertising. This points system makes it more likely that the fight will go to Brazil, making the broadcasters happy. But its an annoying rule.

  4. Given the uproar over the new doubling of the last race I would like to propose the following points system for the 2014 Formula 1 season.

    =========================================
    Aus/Mal/Bah/Chi : 25 | 18 | 15 | 12 | 10 | 8 | 6 | 4 | 2 | 1
    Spn/Mon/Can : 30 | 21 | 18 | 14.5| 12 | 9.5 | 7.5 | 4.5| 2 | 1
    Ast/Eng/Ger : 35 | 25 | 21 | 18 | 14 | 11 | 8 | 5 | 2.5| 1.5
    Hun/Bel/Ita : 40 | 29 | 24 | 20.5| 16 | 12.5| 9.5 | 6 | 3 | 1.5
    Sng/Jap/Rus : 45 | 32 | 27 | 22.5| 18 | 14 | 10.5| 6.5| 3.5| 2
    USA/Brz/Abu : 50 | 36 | 30 | 24 | 20 | 16 | 12 | 8 | 4 | 2
    =========================================

    A gradual increase in points that works towards a doubled points award for the last race.

    Reasons I think this would be better: * no one race is singled out as being more valuable in points * the gradual increase would encourage teams to keep development going until later in the season! * eliminates the possibility of a jackpot of points in the last race * crazy math for the broadcasters

    • I don’t think that would work either, it should be back to the days when 1st got 10 all the way down to 6th for 1pt. There were some really great battles with that scoring system. Hakkinen v Schumacher and Villeneuve in ’97. That system would devalue it further to the point where the sport becomes inequal. Bring back the old scoring system and modernise the regulations so that everyone can compete on a level playing field.

      • with the graduated points system (above) it would give the championship back to the driver… to explain, lets take the first four races. Its the new season, everyone finally gets to see everyone else’s new car and the tricks they are using… A good drive with a crappy car at the beginning of the season would have a chance to catch up to the driver of the awesome care (usually Red Bull). This system would definitely help Ferrari because they always seem to be slow out of the gate lately :-)

  5. Quite a number of Bernies proposed rule changes are rubbish, a change at the top I think is long overdue, but is this rule going to be as disastrous as we think? It does potentially make the final race a last chance of those that wouldn’t have normally had any chance at all to climb up the rankings. I don’t believe at all that this devalues the previous rounds, as all points are still crucial to the championship effort all the way down the board (look at what 10th meant to Marussia for instance). It wont make any odds to years that are dominated, but consider that NO rule changes will make a difference to that event.

    Point for fastest lap, YES. They did it in the 50’s, and its never been done since, it makes the fastest lap more than “just a trophy”, and quite a number of drivers usually get the fastest lap, not just the front runners.

    What about making Qually an average over the 3 sessions? You might get pole in Q3, but if someone else has consistently done better over the previous 2 sessions, then they will get Pole instead. That would stop Q1 being a “throw away” session for the front runners, makes every session worth fighting for.

  6. Nail.On.Head. As usual Will (especially in the case of the 2013 tyre debacle), as a ‘fan’ of the sport let alone someone that follows it’s every movements with a fine tooth comb I feel cheated by the decision. I’m also extremely confused as I assume the rule will only apply to the 2014 Championship?… Why you say? Well from 2015 the supposed Strategy Group that allowed this silly rule to slide by has also come to the conclusion that Formula One must run under a budget cap. Now I have no problem with this, policing it however may be somewhat more of a problem! However the two are diametrically opposed, you can’t insinuate that teams continue development throughout a season to take advantage of the double points on offer without spending money and staying in line with said budget cap…

    As I have said across several platforms now, IF the points system needs revising, do it at the core ie levy a differing format at the GP’s than we have now, especially as the skewed points arrangement was brought in to allow for the increased grid (which has since been reduced by 2 cars).
    The other option could be to put more emphasis on qualifying as many teams now don’t setup their cars for optimum performance knowing how it will handicap them throughout the race. Perhaps 10 for pole, 5 for 2nd and 2 for 3rd? especially seeing as it’s only the top 3 drivers of the top 10 that’s only reward for being placed there is more post session interviews.

    Where does it end also comes to mind, if the FIA and the Strategy Group are content with applying double points at the seasons closing races then perhaps we end up with other Championship rounds being worth double? or even worse still teams/drivers playing a joker throughout the season.

    As I wanted to know if I was the only one feeling aggrieved by the situation I also decided to run a petition, which I know isn’t something that would have an effect on the FIA but is interesting to see an opinion from a relatively small proportion of F1 fans within my circle: http://t.co/WqxRoPzO7w

  7. So gimmicky. Each race needs to stand on its own. The fact that they add up the points at the end of the season to declare a Champion is just recognition of a driver’s exceptional performance over the course of the year. The excitement of any racing series should be the entertainment of watching drivers race as hard as they can; dancing on the edge of control. Cheapening some of the races to keep a Championship artificially close respects no driver, manufacturer, or fan. FIA needs to remember it’s in the racing business and not the entertainment business. Take care of the racing and the rest takes care of itself.

  8. Surprised that they didn’t just adapt a version of NASCAR’s Chase format. Jimmy Johnson and Chad Knaus could show up and give teams tips on how to work the system…

    I think that giving extra points for the starting grid would make qualifying even more important. And giving the driver who advances positions the most should get bonus points-this would give a reward to someone who qualifies badly but races his heart out.

    F1 is dying. They promote cost cutting while causing engine costs to skyrocket. They discourage innovation in favor of cars that look alike and are so ugly they make a Dallara DW12 look pretty. Drivers get rides less on talent and more on how big of a check they can write. Fans pay exorbitant ticket prices, promoters are losing money, teams are losing money…Eventually Bernie will have his wish-races in only Asia and the Middle East with no fans in the stands and only four teams to worry about.

  9. I can see the desire for making each race count, and for keeping excitement and drama through the season. Double points for one race though, does not solve the problem and is clearly not well thought out.

    I’m sure there are better ways that could address the issue, for example, you could assign races to groups and award bonus points for how racers did in those groups, that way each race contributes to the bonus, and it’s not settled until the last race, but without making any given race be more valuable.

    A simple grouping for example could be “1/2st half of season” vs “2nd half of season”, a more complex grouping could be something like “all europe races”, “all americas races”, and “all asia/australia races”. For next season then, the penultimate race in Brazil would also be deciding the “americas group”, and the final race would be deciding the “asia group”. With these bonus points perhaps influencing the championship as well.

    Assuming of course that you’re convinced that we need more points in order to make the end of the season exciting.

  10. I thought it was an April Fools joke when I saw the news.
    When a team like Lotus need to hire Maldonado over Hulkenberg due to the money he can bring to the team over talent, I think there are far more serious issues in F1. So why waste time on designated driver numbers for their career and double points at the final race.
    There are far more fundamental issues with F1

  11. Pingback: Formula 1 News | Formula One | Formula 1

  12. Agree with you Will, but I actually like that 2003 idea of drivers driving every car on the gird. Driver rotation was a concept I had in my mind even before this idea came up…there may be issues involved with this…but the concept is great. Drivers will need to adjust their styles to suit each car, and we’d have a clear idea of the talent scale of drivers – how Schumacher would drag a Minardi to higher than it ever was possible.

    One of the reasons people don’t like this is that they don’t like radical change. I understand…it will appear to be idiotic at the beginning but when thinking with a cool mind you’ll know that driver rotation is the only way we’ll know if a driver is performing well because he has the BEST car of because he had the MOST TALENT… Imagine driver swapping in 2013. We’ll get a measure of how good the Red Bull really is, or is it only Vettel who is able to take the Red Bull to championship heights and victories? Right now that’s the unanswered question – is Vettel winning because of the car and team alone or will he be impressive in other machines too…!

    • Driver rotation seems to me to be a very interesting and appealing suggestion.

      Would add a lot of liquidity to the driver market, premium salaries would require a lot more justification, middle market drivers would have genuine opportunities to demonstrate their abilities. Practice sessions would be a whole lot busier and races much less predictable. Separate testing would have to be done by the teams, meaning young drivers getting their chance to pound out lots of F1 laps.

      It would certainly bring into better definition the distinction between great teams and great drivers, which has always been a little too obscure and hazy. People building and engineering great cars would be recognized quickly and have drivers competing for those seats, and great drivers would be recognized and have teams competing aggressively for their affection. And this would happen dynamically every year, an annual referendum on excellence.

      Driver fans would have a chance to appreciate cars other than the one their favourite is wedded to. Team fans have an opportunity to take greater interest in more F1 drivers. Race fans would have stories and battles developing throughout the field, not endure qualifying order processions, as mismatched talents look to find their respective level.

      As a sporting addition, certainly seems to have more going for it than sprinklers or double points.

  13. I think points for fastest lap is not good as,if it is allowed,then mid-field or lower field teams like Marussia/Caterham/TR would pit on the penultimate/final lap and put on the option tyres,get the fastest lap.
    And pole position is itself an advantage as it gives higher starting position and more chances of leading a race..

    I like the idea of giving points to every driver who gains position in the race..But I would want it to be like- 1 point for each place gained for the drivers eliminated in Q1 , 2 points for each place gained for those eliminated in Q2 and 3 points for each places gained for those who participated in Q3..
    It ensures that a car which qualifyes at P21/P22(Marussia/Caterham) , and may finish as high as P15/P16,due to crashes of other drivers’, won’t get as much points as a driver who finishes on podium from a position,say P8/P9…

  14. Thanks for the post Will.

    I guess you’ve read Joe Saward’s view on double points? I tend to agree with him, perhaps for different reasons, but principally the sport is dynamic, double points for the final race of the year is simply another change, teams, drivers everyone will adapt.

    Surely the ability to drop 2 bad races results from a season’s tally is equally illogical and yet it was accepted as the norm in the mid 80’s.

    As you pointed out the rule was approved by the strategy group, my take is that the double points allocation is part of a bigger picture. 2015 should see the introduction of a seasonal budget cap, increasing the value of the last race / races will deter teams from allocating budget out of one season into the next. Which would make a budget cap easier to monitor. I think the strategy group may actually doing exactly what is said on the tin and developing a longer term strategy for the sport.

    I’m sure NBC, SKY and other broadcasters are quite satisfied with the change too, I doubt having pretty much every place in the WCC and most places in the WDC decided before the final races did much for their viewing figures.

    Yes for the committed fan they changes may be seen to sully the history or prestige of the sport, but one could argue so did seatbelts & allowing energy drink companies to own teams! F1 is a business, a business built on exposure and a business dependant on the casual fan. The sport needs drama and is competing for viewers in an increasingly tight market.

    I support double points for the final race, my only wish is that the race itself was in Brazil not Abu Dhabi.

    Thank you for a great season of commentary with GP2 & GP3, hope to hear you again in 2014! I noticed in the sporting regulations for 2014 there was no mention of the podium interviews in the podium procedure. Do you know if this will continue for next season?

    From all of hear in an office in Switzerland, it’s a very warm good bye 

  15. Having points for positions gained would totally devalue pole. What would be the point of going for it, to score no more than 25 (assuming of course that the driver wins from pole) when they could save all their tires start from the pit lane, (thus starting 22nd),finish say 6th (8 points + 16 places gained), and earning 1 less point then the person who won from pole?

    Are you then going to deduct points if they lost places? So the pole sitter is Grosjeaned out of the race in turn one, and loses 21 points?

  16. Put real value back into a World Championship point again… 9-6-4-3-2-1 and let the placings outside the top six decide the rest of the standings.

  17. Will,
    I don’t have Twitter or facebook but I thought I would throw this out there.

    Why doesn’t NBCSPORTS replay the season races like speed tv did years before. Kept my off-season interesting. Or keep an online archive like BBC iPlayer… Just saying.

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