The leaders are losers

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Barcelona, 2007, 2What do Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta and Andy Priaulx have in common?

Yes, they’re all talented British racing drivers. But they’re also all leading the championships they compete in – F1, DTM and WTCC respectively – despite not having won a race this year.

And all of those championships use the FIA’s much-criticised 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system. This is yet more evidence that the current system places far too much emphasis on consistent finishing than winning races.

Here are the championship placings of each driver and their nearest rivals, plus their numbers of top five placings (1sts-2nds-3rds-4ths-5ths):

F1 World Championship

After five rounds

=1. Fernando Alonso, 38 (2-1-1-0-5)
=1. Lewis Hamilton, 38 (0-4-1-0-0)
3. Felipe Massa, 33 (2-0-1-0-1)

World Touring Car Championship

After eight rounds

1. Andy Priaulx, 42 (0-3-1-0-2)
2. Augusto Farfus, 40 (2-1-1-0-1)
3. Jorg Muller, 31 (1-1-2-0-0)

German Touring Car Championship (DTM)

After three rounds

1. Paul di Resta, 16* (0-2-0-1-0)
=2. Mattias Ekstrom, 12 (1-0-0-0-0)
=2. Martin Tomcyzk, 12 (0-1-0-0-1)

*Half points were awarded at the third round, in which Ekstrom and Tomcyzk didn’t score.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Monte-Carlo, 2007Massa is particularly hard done by under the current points system. Under the last system he would only be one point behind Hamilton, rather than five.

This is a topic I keep returning to because it seems so fundamentally wrong to say that a second place – or any position – is worth some fraction of a victory.

In all these series the drivers are pacing themselves early in the season, content to ‘pick up good points’. Priaulx never once got alongside team mate Farfus in their battle for victory yesterday – but he might well have done had he known he was about to go 2-0 down to the Brazilian on wins.

I’ll throw the floor open to comments after one final thought: In 2003, Kimi Raikkonen was one sixth place finish away from winning the title with one win to Michael Schumacher’s six.

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10 comments on The leaders are losers

  1. This has been discussed over and over and the topic does not seem to go away :-)
    In my opinion, it is better to reward top 8 drivers with points than 6. This way more less every team has some remote chance of scoring points and therefore a motivation that comes with it. Even Super Aguri last year got very close with Sato finishing 10th in the last race.

    However the difference between 1st 2nd 3rd and the rest should be bigger. And perhaps also between the other places. 4 points difference between 1st and 2nd would probably make it worth some risk and fight. 14-10-7-5 perhaps for top 4.

    The point is to find some balamce between giving more for finishing higher, but not to bring about some sort of point inflation like for example in Moto GP where the points given are huge and basically every bike that makes it to finish (with average number of DNF) scores some points.

  2. Number 38 said on 5th June 2007, 21:33

    The current scoring system is PERFECT…….never to be changed again! There is VALUE in CONSISTANCY…….Fisi filled in enough 3rd 4th 5th points to save Renault last year. Hamilton and his string of 2nds has value
    this year. Giving a larger margin to a winner merely allows him to win two races early and he’s beyond reach for the rest of the season.

  3. I like FIA’s simplicity in comparison to the hundreds of points they give out in IRL, which I really don’t understand at all.

    The issue being contended I think is that the gap between the points ought to be bigger once you’re talking about drivers that made the podium, and the outcry I suppose is that perhaps a win should be worth 12 instead of 10.

    I’m not against the notion of attempting “most wins is champion, with most seconds, most thirds, etc. as tiebreakers” but it’s far more difficult to sort the whole field in this way. Does that mean the real outcry is that second place should not be awarded prize money of any kind? (eg. second place is first loser?)

    The actual number of points awarded in a scoring system isn’t as relevant as how many more points the winner gets than the other competitors. If we only give points to the podium finishers and make the scoring 3-2-1 or even 4-2-1 we can still have the same problem.

    Is the real debate “Is consistency more important than winning?”

  4. Number 38 said on 5th June 2007, 22:12

    Hi chunter……I too like the FIA simplicity but as I stated above CONSISTANCY does have VALUE and the NASCAR system values other feats also; points for fastest lap, points for pole, points for laps led, points for lap record, etc.
    Not a bad idea.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th June 2007, 22:18

    Giving a larger margin to a winner merely allows him to win two races early and he’s beyond reach for the rest of the season.

    Is the most important thing a championship scoring system can do to keep the title battle alive until the last rounds?

    That’s what the current system does and that kind of dodgy thinking leads to the kind of nonsense system they have in the NASCAR ‘Chase for the Cup’.

    I don’t agree. I think the most important thing a championship scoring system can do is give the title of champion to the most successful driver – not the one who cruised around all year picking up ‘safe seconds’.

    It’s perfectly possible for a driver to be champion without winning the most races (see the 2003 example above). Faced with that scenario it seems very weak to say, “Oh, he didn’t win the championship because the other guy scored more points.”

    Points don’t mean anything – that why all the different racing championships have so many different points systems. It’s simply not possible to ascribe some kind of numerical value to finishing first instead of fifth. Ranking drivers by their results makes perfect sense. More wins is better. Simple.

  6. I don’t like an overemphasis on winning because too often one type of car is superior to the others and the guy who is in it “cruises around all year”. In years like that, finishing second in another type of car is a real achievement. Take 1978, when the Lotus 79 was unbeatable: Andretti won the championship because his team mate, Peterson, had agreed that he would support Mario that year. Mario won five GPs; Carlos Reutemann won four (much more difficult in the Ferrari he was driving) yet he only came third in the championship.

    The only guys who get to cruise around are the ones in vastly superior cars – the rest work harder, risk more, and their reward is a few paltry points at the end of the day. Don’t begrudge them that.

    There’s a constructor’s championship to establish the best car – and it does so every year. Let the drivers fight their own battle with a points system that rewards consistency as well as luck in being in the year’s top car. It’s a rare event for the driver in the best car not to win anyway – at least the present system offers a chance to the guys who didn’t get that drive and have to drive at the limit for their points.

  7. Number 38 said on 6th June 2007, 7:31

    Keith Collantine asks:
    Is the most important thing a championship scoring system can do to keep the title battle alive until the last rounds?

    The answer is YES!

    On the other hand let’s look at this, no points for anyone we’ll just keep a tally of “WINS”.

    So far this season:
    Massa 2
    Alonso 2
    Kimi 1
    And that rookie twerp in the hot rod McLaren is a no-name! (instead of a co-leader) That’ll make everybody happy. Let’s have another look……Monaco: Alonso WINS and gets everything as winner, Hamilton is 1.7 seconds back and gets NOTHING !!! That’ll make everyone happy.
    All of us can hash this over for the remainng days of our lives and one thing will never change,
    CONSISTANCY has VALUE, all those who manage 2nds, 3rds 4ths on a regular basis deserve the credit for what they provide us,
    a close, competitive season.

  8. Robert McKay said on 6th June 2007, 15:19

    12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 is a potentially better system.

    BUT I think the way the scoring works at the moment isn’t too bad. Look, Hamilton hasn’t been off the podium. He hasn’t won a race, but he has finished second 4 times and third once. I think that’s pretty good. In your head is that worth more, less, or the same as Alonsos 2 wins, one second, one third and one fifth? Obviously a subjective question, but that to me sounds pretty equal actually. The championship IS about consistency to an extent. Of course it’s about winning but even when it was 10-6-4-3-2-1 it was still about getting podiums on the days you couldn’t win races. We don’t do that nonsense of throwing away results like they used to in the days of Senna and Prost.

  9. Journeyer said on 6th June 2007, 17:00

    I say 15-10-7-5-4-3-2-1. 15 is 5 points more than 10, lots of points to fight for. But at the same time, it values consistency. You need to score regularly because you don’t want the competition leaving you behind so easy.

    38, winning two races early, means that he fully deserves the title lead. But if he finishes 2nd, he automatically drops 5 points. He finishes 3rd, he drops 8 points. It’s easier to build a big lead, but it’s also easier to lose that lead.

  10. Simon Stiel said on 6th June 2007, 23:00

    Debate is a indubitably healthy undertaking; it’s interesting that Bernie Ecclestone himself has questioned the current points system and has raised the same points Keith has made.

    Here’s one thing nevertheless. Keith has raised 2003 as an example of the flaws of the current system. But if the “more wins is better” system had been applied, the 1994, 1997, 1998 and 1999 seasons would not have gone down to the wire.

    Consistency is not a matter of one just “cruising around all year” it involves tremendous effort and should be rewarded as it has done. A good example of this is Keke Rosberg in 1982; one victory but scored points regularly in a car that had 100 less horsepower than the turbos. Regarding constructors, BMW and Nick Heidfeld have been consistent and deservedly, are third in the constructor’s championship.

    I feel that a championship based on number of wins would make a greater evil out of what Keith says is “by no means the greatest of F1′s many evils”. Greater good would be achieved in solving what Alan Henry called the problem of F1 cars not passing one another as often as we would like.

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