F1 championship closer than NASCAR

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Monte-Carlo, 2008, qualifying, 470150

Formula 1 often gets compared unfavourably with NASCAR, especially in America where NASCAR is king. Among the various criticisms levelled at F1, some fair and some not, is the charge that Formula 1 is too predictable and the same drivers win all the time.

Four years ago, when Michael Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races, it was a reasonable point. But has that stared to change?

Last year the top three drivers were within one point of each other at the end of the season. Halfway through 2008 the top three are tied in F1, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup is looking rather one-sided.

F1 championship standings

1. Lewis Hamilton 48 (three wins)
2. Felipe Massa 48 (three wins)
3. Kimi Raikkonen 48 (two wins)

Full F1 points standings

NASCAR Sprint Cup standings

1. Kyle Busch 2,881 (seven wins)
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,619 (one win)
3. Jeff Burton 2,590 (one win)

The F1 points system awards the title to the driver who scores the most points over a season. In the event of a tie, drivers are ranked by who has the most best finishes. So Hamilton and Massa are ahead of Raikkonen (three wins each to two) and Hamilton is ahead of Massa (one tenth place to none).

NASCAR uses a system called the ‘Chase for the Sprint Cup’ to ensure the championship battle lasts until late in the season. Ahead of the final ten races the top 12 drivers’ championship points total are reset to the same level and although they continue to race all the other drivers, only one of those 12 can be champion.

Of course, this means that the best driver over the course of the entire season doesn’t necessarily become the champion. (Read more on how the Chase works here).

F1 and NASCAR could not be more different in concept. And it’s surprising to see that in F1, where the performance of different cars can be great, the championship battle is so close. Meanwhile in NASCAR, where the cars are practically identical, Kyle Busch has won more races than the other top ten NASCAR drivers put together.

How has Formula 1 become so close? And why is Busch doing so well?

Busch drives for Toyota in NASCAR and his successes are regularly booed by a large number of NASCAR fans who resent seeing a driver of a Japanese car doing so well in an America-based series. Busch is apparently going to drive Toyota’s F1 car at the end of the year. As one of the most well-recognised American racing drivers it would be a gigantic PR coup if the 23 year-old got a race seat.