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. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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


    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.)

  9. 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.

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

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

  11. Yusuf said on 22nd October 2008, 17:34

    This medal table would be ideal for next year when presumably all vehicles are suppose to be running with similar engines.

    This points system was favoured because of the wild cards it produces esp those with inferior vehicles.

  12. Tarry said on 22nd October 2008, 17:41

    I think it would be interesting to see how the metal system would have played out over the last 5-10 years in a points vs. medals chart of some type. Drivers actual racing for the WIN that’s a concept I can really appreciate. I for one am tried of seeing mediocrity rewarded day after day. Brazil has the potential to be a truly boring race where Hamilton can ride around the track listening to his ipod for 70 odd laps and take the title home. Assuming he doesn’t get punted off the track.

  13. i dont think there will ever be a points system that caters to all the aspects in racing without being overly confusing.

    i think this system is ok maybe they should add points for qualifying although some may argue that championships should not be won through qualifying points.

    very hard to please everyone. this current system is ok

  14. Tarry said on 22nd October 2008, 17:47

    - bananaman’s system sounds interesting as well and would in theory promote more action on track as well.

  15. Pete Walker said on 22nd October 2008, 18:06

    12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 sounds fine to me. And possibly a point for fastest lap, as in the 50s.

    I think a four point advantage for the winner, as used to be the case, is enough of an incentive to go for victory.

    Formula 1 fans – perhaps more than fans of any other sport – love statistics, comparing drivers/teams from different eras using a points system that has changed little in the 58 years of the championship. I think it would be a real shame to see any drastic changes to the championship system.

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