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 think the gap points difference between the positions should be greater… Something Like in MOTO GP. Cause now you can come First for 5 races and then Lose one race and lose your 10 point Advantage you had..

  2. Now you have explained the thinking I can see that the ‘medal’ approach would be quite a sensible and simple idea to work with.
    The positions do reflect all the way down the scale too, but you would need to cut off at 5th or 6th place or it would get too confusing for the press etc…
    So you could end up with a driver having:
    First 3, Second 2 Third 2 Fourth 0 Fifth 5 Sixth 2 Not Classified 1 DNF 2
    And it would just carry over into the Constructors Championship too, since no team can have two Firsts at the same race.
    I can see this as a way to make the drivers want to get a position and not just settle for points, which is what I want to see in a race, after all….

  3. the limit said on 22nd October 2008, 14:54

    I think its a great idea. Last week I mentioned that I was fed up with drivers being rewarded for mediocre results, and this may go someway to changing that.
    You are absolutely right Keith that the incentive should always be victory. I am embarrassed when I see a driver on the podium celebrating a third place finish as if he has just won the championship. True ‘drivers’ only celebrate winning, second is to be the first of the losers.

  4. Mystic Pizza said on 22nd October 2008, 14:58

    In light of “Stewardship Irregularities” as recently experienced by nearly everybody irrespective of which team or driver you support, surely a points system as at present could absorb slightly more of these without adversely affecting the outcome of the season? Changing the motivation of drivers from sailing to safety as cited with Lewis in Singapore to perhaps a more focussed effort to gain a top three position for a medal may invigorate those races that tend to be rather processional. However, certain circuits would not necessarily be able to offer the overtaking opportunities required and the cars would also need an aerodynamic overhaul to be in place (as promised for 2009).

    Sometimes the worthy “Driver of the Day” may well not be one of the top three finishers and if scrapping rewards to the drivers from 4th place down, perhaps kudos could be provided to nominate one of the field for this accolade? Admittedly on some occasions this would fall to one of the top three in addition to their “medal”. Perhaps a tally of these could be considered should there be a tie?

    At the end of the day, the current system does not always provide rewards to the most deserving. Whether you go for points or medals, eight places, three places, fifteen places are all academic. Those with the best car and the best budget to create the best car and have a half decent person to drive it are going to be higher than those that don’t. What would be more entertaining is to have three, four or more manufacturers at that level than just two.

  5. Chalky said on 22nd October 2008, 15:02

    Also, if a driver is dominant in the first half of the season and wins the first 9 out of 17 races, then the title race is over by round 9. But what if a completely different guy dominates and wins the next 8 races? It wouldn’t mean anything anymore: he can’t be champion because he can’t beat the other guy’s win total.

    That’s why I think you can’t have a medal table too.
    Win 9 out of 17 and then you can just stop. Championship over! Even if another driver came 2nd in each of those races and then won the remaining 8 he would never be champion.

    Plus, given the problem with overtaking, pole at Monaco would be even more important. Or are we assuming more riskier moves would be made?

    That leads onto, the current state of the stewards and issues drivers have with overtaking….

    But then Monaco is near the start of the season, so why risk a move then. Taking bigger risks at overtaking would only happen near the end of the season, like it is now.

  6. 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?

  7. 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).

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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)

  12. 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)

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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??

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