Bernie Ecclestone is right: ‘Gold medals’ would make F1 more exciting

Lewis Hamilton would have a harder job at Interlagos if I was in charge...

Lewis Hamilton would have a harder job at Interlagos if I was in charge...

It’s that time of year when we look ahead to the final round try to figure out who needs to finish where to win which championship.

Long-time readers of this site know I don’t think very much of points systems and think they should be scrapped.

Bernie Ecclestone thinks so too, and when you look at how close this year’s championship would be if we did I think it’s hard not to agree.

Here’s the championship situation as it currently stands:

Lewis Hamilton 94
Felipe Massa 87

Explaining all the permutations by which the drivers’ title might be resolved next week is rather complicated. And if you want a real headache, try doing the same for the constructors’ championship. And when there’s more than two drivers or teams involved it gets quite painful.

Bernie Ecclestone recently repeated as suggestion of his (which he first brought up years ago) that the F1 championships should do away with points and mimic the Olympics’ medals leaderboard instead. So the drivers’ championship would instead look like this:

Driver First Second Third
Lewis Hamilton 5 2 3
Felipe Massa 5 2 2

Now that would make things a lot more straightforward: whichever driver wins the final race wins the title. Were Massa to finish third with Hamilton outside the top three, then fourth places could be used to determine the champion, then fifths and so on.

This isn’t as radical a proposal as you might think. In fact this exact system would be used to determine the champion were the two to end the year tied on points. So why not just dump points to begin with and make the whole thing easier?

One of the usual responses to this suggestion is that prioritising wins in this way would do too little to reward consistency.

But do we really want to reward consistency as much as we do now? I found watching Lewis Hamilton site behind David Coulthard for lap after lap at Singapore because he didn’t want to risk a safe six points rather tedious. In my scenario he’d have been 4-5 down to Massa on wins and I bet he’d have been pushing rather harder to pass Coulthard.

We need to give drivers the maximum incentive to push for wins. Simply boosting the winners’ points haul to 12 or more isn’t enough. Racing to win is the essence of F1 and the championship structure should reflected that.

That’s my opinion anyway, and I’ll continue to hold it until someone convinces me otherwise. Over to you…

Here are some earlier articles where I’ve made the same argument, with examples from past F1 seasons and other championships:

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72 comments on Bernie Ecclestone is right: ‘Gold medals’ would make F1 more exciting

  1. I fail to see what is so complicated about the present points system. It has worked for decades, almost always providing us with a worthy champion, and only requires one or two points more for a race win to make everyone happy.

    If you insist on an argument to persuade you that the medals system is completely unnecessary, Keith, let me ask you one question:

    Would you take away the championships of John Surtees and Keke Rosberg?

  2. Drivers Championship
    HAM 5 2 3
    MAS 5 2 2
    RAI 2 2 4
    ALO 2 0 0
    KUB 1 3 3
    KOV 1 1 1
    VET 1 0 0
    HEI 0 4 0
    ROS 0 1 1
    PIQ 0 1 0
    GLO 0 1 0
    TRU 0 0 1
    COU 0 0 1
    BAR 0 0 1

    Constructors Championship
    FER 7 4 6
    MCL 6 3 4
    REN 2 1 0
    BMW 1 7 3
    STR 1 0 0
    TOY 0 1 1
    WIL 0 1 1
    RBR 0 0 1
    HON 0 0 1
    FIF 0 0 0

    I hate the idea but that’s how it would look this year. It would throw up silly results like Renault ahead of BMW. STR ahead of Toyota. If Alonso had come home third in every race of the season (102 points) he’d finish behind Piquet (8 points).

  3. I preferred when the second place got 6 instead of 8…

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd October 2008, 15:18

    Clive – Drivers fighting for championships will always tailor their efforts to the parameters of the competition – precisely as we saw in Singapore with Hamilton this year. For example, some people complain that Prost ‘should’ have been champion in 1988 because he would have accumulated more points than Senna but for the ‘best 11 results count’ rule. But the fact is that rule was there, Senna knew it, and conducted his approach to the championship accordingly.

    If you ask me if, in principle, the driver with the best results should be champion, then of course I agree with that and the ‘gold medal’ system does a much better job of doing it.

    But should we go back a re-assign championships in accordance to new criteria? Of course not. That would be like the FIA coming up with a new definition of a driving standard and using it to retroactively strip a driver of a race win. Which would be appalling…

    Matt –

    If Alonso had come home third in every race of the season (102 points) he’d finish behind Piquet (8 points).

    You can come up with a ‘potential’ scenario to undermine any system – I think we have to ask ourselves how likely that scenario is.

  5. Keith –

    Of course, but I think the scenario’s afforded by this system are much worse than in the current (or old) points systems. Instead of Alonso finishing 3rd in all 17 races, let’s just say he finished 3rd in Singapore and Japan, which judging from his/Renault’s pace in these grands prix, would have been a reasonably accurate outcome had the races been ordinary. He would currently be 11th in the world championship, still behind his team mate, a team mate he heads in qualifying at a count of 16-0.

  6. Patrickl said on 22nd October 2008, 15:36

    I think this medal scoring system is too simplistic. A driver who has come second in all races should not lose to a driver who came first only once and didn’t finish the rest of the time.

    There is some merit to coming second. Less than coming in first, but it should not be overlooked almost entirely (only as a tie breaker when number of first places is the same).

    Points systems are there to rate performance as a whole. Basically just looking at wins is not a fair way to rate performance.

    I do think there should be more points difference between 1st and 2nd and then to third than there is now. Maybe back to how it was before?

    I also liked that drivers could drop one result in the nineties. This meant they can take more risk and if they spun, they could remove that score (or lack of score)

  7. It has just occurred to me that this would also be able to rate the ‘Fastest Laps’ and ‘Pole Position’ criteria as well, since a car which gets Pole doesn’t always win the race, or even finish, and a car which finishes 10th may have set the Fastest Lap. I for one want to see kudos given to those drivers as much as the top three finishers – otherwise it does not reflect the outcome of the race, and may add a little to the ‘Pedigree’ of the drivers. So a Drivers ‘Scorecard’ would have:
    1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th N/C DNF FL PP
    Which you see now I know, but it would mean more to everyone (including the driver)

  8. Shahriar said on 22nd October 2008, 15:39

    noo…
    it wud mean that only the winner takes it all…
    after the 3rd place what happens? wud be a little
    unjustified… from my pov

  9. I’m just going to paste my forum discussion post, minus the constructors championship as thats been discussed, as my opinion on this hasn’t changed. I’d rather see the win bolstered to 12 points or more than see the medal system awarded – that being said, I do want to see winners being awarded their due, and more fights for the lead where it actually matters:

    You could win a lot of races, but screw up quite often. Lets say you won the first 9 races out of 17 (entirely theoretical!), making it mathematically impossible for anyone else to get more wins, but royally screw up the rest of the 8 races, not even getting a Silver or Bronze. Is that the marque of someone we want to call champion? We do want some degree of consistency, right? I would still like to see someone, who has it all to lose, have that sort of pressure where they still need to get the job done. Nobody wants to see the championship wrapped up by the time Spa comes round, right?

    I’m still in favour of the points system, alot of sports work this way, and that there’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just F1 might not have it right. I’m in big favour of the old 6 points paying positions awarding 10-6-4-3-2-1.

    Bearing in mind a big reason why we have 8 points paying positions instead of 6 nowadays was because Schumacher and Ferrari were dominating too much, and this helped closed the deficit. Indeed, thanks to this points system the championship went down to Brazil last year, and at one point there were 4 Championship contenders at nearly half way through the season. However, it also meant there was much less incentive for being P1 – which is similar to the issue Bernie is talking about.

    What it does encourage is consistency, and this is perhaps what the medal system discourages – going for the most wins is certainly the goal everyone has, but on the days you can’t win sometimes it shows up a drivers abilities and psyche that they don’t really deserve to be champion?

    I think the points should be reverted back to 10-6-4-3-2-1, or if they were to keep the 8 points paying positions, then 12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. I’m sure I’ve written this on one of the blog posts before as well. But I hate how someone can come first, and gain such little from he who came 2nd.

    F1 needs to address on awarding the winner their due. But not make it easy for them to wrap up a championship, at the same time.

  10. Steven said on 22nd October 2008, 16:09

    I dont mind the point system.
    I dont like the point system in motoGP or australian v8 supercars where u get a billion points for winning a race. It devalues the importance of a single point. And because of that i dont think the medals would work. Some of the great moments in f1 were when struggling teams grabbed a point. What are the rest of the teams racing for when medals are only rewarded to 1st 2nd and 3rd??

  11. Mussolini's pet cat said on 22nd October 2008, 16:27

    the trouble with the medals system, is that if say Hamilton won every race up to the German GP (using this season as an example) & Massa fininshed 2nd in those first 10 races, then the season would effectively be over in July!

  12. I think it’s a bad idea keith. What about the other teams like Williams, Honda, Force India??

    And for someone who finish 4th or 5th it is very ‘cruel’ not to give him any points

    Also the point system and the trophies is a tradition , you cannot just replace it.It’s one of the few things which remain still good enaugh in F1

    *It would be better if the winner gains more points

  13. Phil B said on 22nd October 2008, 16:49

    @10 It’s not a points system because in a medal system the number of nth places is only relevant if the number of n-1th places is tied. In a points system all ‘counted’ places are relevant, just with various weightings.

    I strongly prefer points. Most of the challenges listed by people can be solved by varying the weightings, I always liked the 10, 6, 4…. system and would prefer to see our current system changed to reflect the fact that finishing first over second should be worth more than finishing second over third.

    People sit on either side of this depending on how they answer this question:

    If a driver, A, wins one race and DNFs the other 17 and Driver B finishes second 18 times, who would you like to see become champion?

    If you answer A then you prefer the medal system, B, you prefer points.

    I think we have way too much emphasis on consistency but to say that we should go to the other extreme and reward Driver A (in my admittedly extreme example above) wouldn’t improve things.

    As I’ve said elsewhere on this site: 20, 15, 13, 12, 11….. would be OK by me, or double each one if you want to reward the winner even more but leave it as a points system, please.

    (One other advantage of the points system: It makes the championship table a lot easier smaller and and a lot smaller)

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd October 2008, 16:50

    I’m not saying people who finish below third should not be ranked, I just listed the top three places in the table above as an example.

    So for the drivers who have no firsts, seconds or thirds we look to who has the most fourths, then who has the most fifths and so on.

    Again, this is all allowed for in the current rules in circumstances were two drivers have the same number of points. For example, look at Vettel and Button’s positions in the championship last year: both had the same points, Vettel ranked ahead because his best finish was fourth, Button’s was fifth.

  15. Phil B said on 22nd October 2008, 16:59

    @33 last line should read:

    championship table a lot easier TO READ and a lot smaller.

  16. F1Fan said on 22nd October 2008, 17:01

    Keith,

    I think a hybrid system would be best. In other words, count 1st, 2nd and 3 places only but assign weights. In my mind it is a lot more difficult to win a race than simply taking 2nd place. A race win is the altimate goal and as such, a 1st-place finish should be rewarded accordingly, as compared to a 2nd and 3rd place finish. This is precisely what I suggested in my letter to the FIA last year. It is true that in certain years it won’t really make a difference as to which system is used, but I would like F1 to stay on principle, and that is that a race win should carry a lot of weight towards winning the title. For example, with the current system, we almost had Lewis win the title last year w/ one less race win than Kimi, and if that happened I would have an issue w/ it, regardless of which driver stood to benefit or be on the other end of the deal.

  17. If they did switch to a medals system, does that mean McLaren will want to keep all those won by their drivers as well?

    They’ll be saving a hell of a lot of space storing medals.

  18. bananaman said on 22nd October 2008, 17:14

    How about returning to the “best 11 results only” system? Under a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system with best 11 results only, I believe the pre-Interlagos table would be:

    LH: 88 points
    FM: 85 points

    Lewis has already had 11 finishes at 5th or better, so another 5th place or below would be worthless as it wouldn’t be one of his best 11 results. For him, 4th place in Brazil would gain him 1 point, 3rd – 2, 2nd – 4, and win 6 points. For Felipe, 5th in Brazil would gain him 1 point, 4th – 2, 3rd – 3, 2nd – 5, and a win 7 points.

    The only downside i see is that this is a slightly complicated for Joe Public. But the positives are that it makes the championship more exciting, incentivises drivers to push for higher places, and maintains a points system – thus reducing anomalies such as Renault beating BMW and STR beating Toyota.

    Under this system, if Massa were to win in Brazil, Lewis would need to finish second (as opposed to the 5th he currently needs) to be WDC.

    (I realise that if this had been the points system in place, drivers would have behaved differently all year and thus would probably not be on the same points as they are now, but the three advantages I specified remain valid.)

  19. David - BR said on 22nd October 2008, 17:15

    I don’t know, the ‘medal’ system means that safety car produced results (step forward Renault) have an even bigger impact. Also the scrap for lower points would largely disappear.

  20. George said on 22nd October 2008, 17:24

    21 – Clive – the voice of sanity. I couldn’t agree more.

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