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.