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

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  1. mattclinch said on 23rd October 2008, 14:46

    i really dont understand why there is so much discussion over the current system. this is the 3rd season in a row that the championship has gone down to the last race. how is that not working?

    teams are always going to play numbers games and drivers are always going to hedge their bets and avoid taking what they consider to be unnecessary risks.

    it is fairer to not ‘meddle’ (pun intended) with the system and let the teams know what they are racing for season after season.

  2. bananaman said on 23rd October 2008, 18:09

    Pedro – I was only clarifying Keith’s suggestion, not advocating it myself. So yes, under a medals system, Coulthard would be ahead of Webber because of the former’s Montreal podium.

    I was suggesting a best 11 results only system (post 38), which in my opinion is just better than the medals system where good luck could result in a driver being far higher up the table than he deserved to be.

  3. David Watkins said on 23rd October 2008, 18:38

    Full medal points for 2007 and changes in position of each driver from where they finished in the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 table along with their points.

    1) Raikkonen 6 2 4 (110 points, NO CHANGE)

    2) Hamilton 4 5 4 (109 points, NO CHANGE)

    3) Alonso 4 4 4 (109 points, NO CHANGE)

    4) Massa 3 4 4 (94 points, NO CHANGE)

    5) Heidfeld 0 1 1 (61 points, NO CHANGE)

    6) Kovaleinen 0 1 0 (30 points, +1)

    7) Wurz 0 0 1, 4th (13 points, +4)

    8) Webber 0 0 1, 7th (10 points, +4)

    9) Kubica 4th x3 (36 points, -3)

    10) Fisichella 4th, 5th x2, 6th x2 (21 points -2)

    11) Coulthard 4th, 5th x2, 8th (14 points, -1)

    12) Rosberg 4th, 6th x3 (20 points, -3)

    13) Vettel 4th, 8th (6 points,+1)

    14) Button 5th (6 points, +1)

    15) Trulli 6th, 7th x2 (8 points, -2)

    16) Schumacher 6th, 8th x2 (5 points, NO CHANGE)

    17) Sato 6th, 8th, 12th (4 points, NO CHANGE)

    18) Liuzzi 6th, 9th (3 points, NO CHANGE)

    19) Sutil 8th (1 point, NO CHANGE)

    20) Barrichello 9th, 10th x4 (0 points, NO CHANGE)

    21) Speed 9th, 13th (0 points, NO CHANGE)

    22) Nakajima 10th (0 points, NO CHANGE)

    23) Davidson 11th x3 (0 points, NO CHANGE)

    24) Yamamoto 12th (0 points, NO CHANGE)

    25) Albers 14th x2 (0 points, NO CHANGE)

    26) Winkeljock No Finishes

  4. Yosef Bassiouni said on 23rd October 2008, 18:50

    Hi just come across this site, really impressive, all i need to know f1 related in one place ;) i’m an avid McLaren fan, b4 lewis as well, i like what you’re saying here, and as mclaren and lewis are racers i think this would be good for us, i always think the drivers that wins the most gp deserves the title, by and large this happens, but i don’t like the way people get high placings on just finishing, like someone said you can win five build a 10 pt lead and then see that go in one dnf! also this would be easier for joe public to understand and that would be f1 to a new audince! the only down side is you do get those results like toro rosso being up in the championship instaead of toyota, but every system has faults, any system that means the driver that has won the most is good news imo

  5. David Watkins said on 23rd October 2008, 19:27

    2008 Championship Standings (as for post 63)

    1) Hamilton 5 2 3 (94 points, NO CHANGE)
    2) Massa 5 2 2 (87 points, NO CHANGE)
    3) Raikkonen 2 2 4 (69 points, +1)
    4) Alonso 2 0 0 (53 points, +2)
    5) Kubica 1 3 3 (75 points, -2)
    6) Kovalainen 1 1 0 (51 points, +1)
    7) Vettel 1 0 0 (30 points, +1)
    8) Heidfeld 0 4 0 (60 points, -3)
    9) Rosberg 0 1 1 (17 points, +4)
    10) Glock 0 1 0 4th x2 (22 points, NO CHANGE)
    11) Piquet 0 1 0 4th x1 (19 points, +1)
    12) Trulli 0 0 1 4th (30 points, -3)
    13) Barrichello 0 0 1 6th (11 points, +1)
    14) Coulthard 0 0 1 7th (8 points, +2)
    15) Webber 4th (21 points, -4)
    16) Nakajima 6th, 7th (9 points, -1)
    17) Button 6th, 9th (3 points, +1)
    18) Bourdais 7th (4 points, -1)

    No change, of course, with any of the drivers without points

  6. David Watkins said on 23rd October 2008, 19:30

    Who can honestly say that Coulthard has had a better 2008 than Webber?!

  7. #66 Thanks for the tables. While I agree that it’d be hard to argue that Coulthard has been better than Webber this season we’re talking about positions outside the top 10. And who’s to say that under a medal system, Webber wouldn’t have raced harder and got a higher finish?

    What about Kubica, Alonso and Raikkonen? My opinion is that the medal system is a better reflection of their seasons/ability.

    How much more exciting would this season be if we were going into Brazil with a ‘winner takes all’ situation?

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd October 2008, 22:54

    Mattclinch – “this is the 3rd season in a row that the championship has gone down to the last race. how is that not working?”
    The test of whether a system is working is not whether it’s producing close championship-deciders. You could easily introduce a NASCAR-style ‘Chase for the Cup’ system to fulfil your criteria, and it would be terrible.

    The test is whether it fairly rewards the best driver over the course of a season with the championship, and how it affects a driver’s tactics in order to do that. The current system encourages title rivals to be ultra-conservative in final races; the ‘gold medal’ system is more likely to force them to keep pushing.

    Thanks to everyone who’s posted the charts by the way – they make interesting reading!

    I do agree with the sentiment that, of F1′s various problems, this is not a top priority. But still, it’s something I think would make the sport better and easier to understand.

    I think there’s another argument in favour of it: F1 cars are extremely reliable now, to the point where a championship-contending driver can expect to have as few as two, one or even no failures per season. That makes the impact of these failures far greater under the points system – but the ‘gold medal’ method potentially lessens their impact.

  9. michael counsell said on 24th October 2008, 0:34

    Ridiculous why would anyone ever fight for position if it meant nothing… Who care what the fans think its not their job, its a pleasurable experience. Let teams and drivers fight for minor points, for honour. They work hard enough. Have some respect.

  10. This is the system from A1GP, isn’t it?

    The main difference is that it would decide the driver’s championship (only) because I don’t think medal counting would work well for the constructors (teams). In A1, all wins are for the countries (teams) but the teams only have one car each.

  11. William Wilgus said on 25th October 2008, 14:55

    This is exactly what I’ve been arguing for all along: whoever wins the most races is champ.

  12. I think they need to leave well enough alone. They did everything in their power this year to make sure Ferrari won both championships and against the odds, McLaren took one away. But under a medal system, Ferrari would have had both. As soon as another team (notably McLaren) were to claim the same fortune under a medal system, they would want to change the rules again. Leave well enough alone. It has worked for years and is just fine the way it is, though a first place finish could have a little more oomph to it over second, I suppose.

    There are already enough changes for 2009 that we don’t need to muck it up even more with something like this. For all we know, the new aero regulations generating BUTT UGLY cars will give us the closer racing we would like to see and the need for a different points system wouldn’t really mean much. There is way more potential for abstract results with a medal system than there are with the points. So freaking what if other sports use medals? Who cares? F1 is racing. RACING leagues by and large are points driven. Its not the Olympics here people.

    IMO, Bernie needs to close his mouth and just rake in the cash now. He has done enough and its time to pass it on to someone else who can keep F1 at the pinnacle of technology. Its going down the tubes and with the desire for spec engines and smaller budgets. At this rate of intervention, it will soon be the likes of the IRL only on a grander stage. Don’t get me wrong, my advice isn’t to stop ALL the changes, change CAN be good. But it needs to be gauged, weighed and measured to see if its having the desired result. Concentrate on one change at a time, make sure it has the desired effect and then scrap it, or move on to something else. Changing everything all at once leaves everyone unable to gauge what changes are working and which ones aren’t.

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