The FIA ??analysis? of Ecclestone?s medals proposal is flawed and irrelevant

The FIA thought it worth mentioning that Ecclestone used to own Brabham

The FIA thought it worth mentioning that Ecclestone used to own Brabham

Bernie Ecclestone?s plan to replace the F1 points system with the awarding of ??medals? for winners has been widely received as a bad idea.

Today the FIA waded into the argument by publishing some research. Their effort shows much the same lack of care and consideration that Ecclestone put his idea forward with.

Titled ??The ??F1 medals? proposal ?ǣ a historical perspective??, it appears to be the product of about five minutes? work, is founded on an utterly spurious premise, and provides no little worthwhile contribution to the medals debate at all.

False premise

In a ten-page document the results of every F1 championship are laid out, and compared to what might have happened had Ecclestone?s scheme been in place (drivers are ranked in the championship in accordance with who has won the most races, then who has the most second places, and so on).

These are the report?s findings:

Only 22 of the 59 World Championships to date would have the same top 3. The other 37 World Championships would be different. The World Champion would be altered on 13 occasions. The medal system would create three ??new?? World Champions who did not win the title using the various points systems.

What does this tell us? Nothing.

The report is based on the assumption that the championship system has no bearing at all on how a driver approaches each race. This is clearly nonsense. Think of how often we hear drivers who have finished second or third in a race contenting themselves with thought that they?ve ??scored good points for the championship??

Ecclestone?s point is that drivers change their approach to championships depending on how the title is won. If they need to accumulate points, then they settle for safe second and third places. If they need wins, they take more risks. The FIA has missed the point by miles with this research.

Politically motivated?

There is something odd about the FIA choosing to respond to Ecclestone?s idea in such an inadequate fashion. And this quote suggests there is a degree of baiting going on:

Brabham under the ownership of Bernie Ecclestone would have won no Drivers? Championships.

The FIA’s notes make extensive references to the number of titles won or lost by different drivers. This is plainly designed to incite opposition to the idea among fans who will object to, say, Nelson Piquet being notionally stripped of his three world championships. Ecclestone’s idea means nothing of the sort, and intelligent F1 fans are quite capable of seeing that for themselves.

A good idea badly sold

I know well enough from reading the comments on the site that a lot of people aren?t convinced by the ??medals? system. Nonetheless I think that had it been thought out properly and presented to fans more clearly it would have been received better.

A championship scoring system that rewards drivers who get the most of the best results is, to me, the fair and correct one.

Ecclestone has made this concept terribly confused by only talking about ranking the top three finishers (when there is no need to exclude drivers who finish fourth or lower in this system), Olympic-style medals, and keeping the old points system for constructors. This is all needless complication.

But the core idea – ranking drivers in accordance with who has got the best results ?ǣ is utterly sound and much simpler than any arbitrary points system that promotes conservatism over the pursuit of victory. I argued for it on several occasions before the ‘medals’ argument blew up:

I still haven?t heard a convincing argument against ranking drivers in order of their best finishes to decide the championship. This laughably spurious statement from the FIA certainly isn?t it.

You can find ??The ??F1 medals? proposal ?ǣ a historical perspective?? on the F1Fanatic drop.io.

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93 comments on The FIA ??analysis? of Ecclestone?s medals proposal is flawed and irrelevant

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  1. Arthur954 said on 30th January 2009, 19:07

    Here is my idea :

    the points system now is : 10,8,6,5,4,3,2,1 with all races counting — I think

    Instead I propose : 11,8,6,5,4,3,2,1 with each driver discounting the two worst races of the year

    this I believe could be a simple step forward that would reward bolder driving, and at the same time not penalise too much a driver that has had bad luck in first – lap incidents, etc

  2. tEQUILLA sLAMMER said on 30th January 2009, 19:08

    great article Keith !!! summed it up nicely, and dont forget the last 2 championships have been decided in the last race by only 1 point!!! How close do you want a title fight to be then toxic midget Bernieboy??? hes such a ******* at times! :)

  3. I don’t like the medals idea at all, if it aint broke don’t fix it!!!

  4. This report looks purely like the FIA saying some things that don’t matter. Saying what WOULD have happened IF the medals system is implemented is pointless.
    Surely the FIA should be doing more important things than printing stupid little reports on ideas that no-one likes (despite how good or bad it may be). I know it’s the off-season but this is a joke.

  5. Scott Joslin said on 30th January 2009, 19:28

    I am not a fan or advocate of the medal system, but interesting from the FIA analysis I believe that the Word Championship would have had a different conclusion only once in the last 19 years. Interesting it would have been last year – and what a awesome season.

    Despite this becoming a political powerplay now, I feel this document highlights even more so that the medials idea is a bad idea. Either keep as we are or increase the difference between first and second. It feels like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

  6. muckymuck said on 30th January 2009, 19:43

    I’m not opposed to a system that rewards wins and gives motivation to win a race, but the key to it is what will be done for positions 4th and onwards.

    If the system is based on the final race position as Keith suggests, I think it would work and it would be fairly simple to understand. A “medals” system implies that only 1st to 3rd is taken into account – even James Allen is uncertain on his blog about what happens to 4th place on.

    An alternative system would be to give cash prizes for the relative race positions, which would live up to the name “Grand Prix”. Final standings can be based on total winnings like in golf, and 1st place would taken home close to double of second place earnings. Then teams can cut their driver salaries and drivers have to earn their living. We can kill two birds with one stone! (I wouldn’t support this…i’m just saying it’s an alternative)

  7. Fer no.65 said on 30th January 2009, 19:44

    I don’t like the medal system… Just because i think points are the correct way…

    I do reject the actual point system… That’s the real problem i think…

    Drivers settle for 2nd because winning means much more risks and just 2 points bonus. Why should they opt to fight wheel to wheel if their 8 points score means 80% of the winners reward?… It’s logically pointless…

    the old 10-6-4-3-2-1 meant you had to win to get much more points for a win and if you were 10 points off the championship leader and you win you could (in the worst scenario) shorten the gap by 40%… And that’s A LOT…

    If i remember correctly, the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 point system was introduced by Bernie himself to avoid drivers (Schumacher at the time) to crown champion as early as in 2002…

    That meaning we had a competitive 2003 season, but let me remind you Schumacher won the title by 1 or 2 points, having won several races, and the runner up (Raikkonen) just won 1 race… It was more packed at the front at the standings, but in fact, the difference should have been much greater…

  8. smithy said on 30th January 2009, 20:01

    A well written comment Keith I agree in total. We all know that most things that come out of the FIA are politically motivated. Last year it was Ron this year it is Bernie. Its just Max not forgiving anyone for being caught with his pants down.

  9. The FIA seems to have written an ambiguous document that it can use to say “I agree” whether the medals system is adopted or not (remember it hasn’t completely committed to either direction yet). However, I think the purpose of this document is entirely political.

    I’m still not convinced by the idea of medals, but then again I don’t see how this document will convince anyone who’s been keeping track of the debate this far to switch positions (in either direction).

    • I must admit to being opposed to the medal system at first, but then not giving it much thought afterward. After all, it was Bernie, it was bluntly put – in essence a typical sound-bite.

      After reading the FIA statement, I have one question. Why? Why did the FIA bother with this at all? It doesn’t say anything. There’s no opinion there. Why make some badly judged (and typically skewed) facts and stats without coming to a conclusion? Nasty and typical, if you ask me.

      The only positive thing I saw in this tripe was the altered order of top Champions. I’ve got to admit that that list looks far more like “how it should have been”, if you listen to opinions fron elder statesman of the sport, ex-drivers, journalists and older fans. Jim Clark with four WDC’s? Seems about right. Prost with five and Senna with four? About right. Stirling Moss with the oneeveryone says he should have had? Yep. I think I’m coming around to the medal system now!

  10. Eddie Irvine said on 30th January 2009, 20:21

    Now there are only 9 teams in the grid, It would be a good idea to go back to 10-6-4-3-2-1 point system. It rewards the winner and it’s in the spirit of the pointing system which for so long have been used in F1

  11. patrickl said on 30th January 2009, 20:30

    Medals are a bad idea. It’s an utterly unfair way to rank a competition. One win is not better than 18 second places. The only proper way to rank drivers in a comptetition is by using a weighed scoring system.

    Is the current weighing incorrect? Yes it is (IIRC it was actually Ecclestone himself who had it messed up a few years agao). Still, that doesn’t mean that the principle of weighed ranking should be abandoned. Simply correct the weights.

    Indeed, maybe medals will cause some drivers to fight a bit more in some rare situations. For instance Hamilton might have fought more when Massa was leading the race only 2 seconds ahead of him.

    On the other hand, it will decreasing the will to overtake a whole lot more. Think about Monza (or any situation where drivers were out of contention for the win). Would Hamilton and Raikkonen have taken the effort to overtake all those drivers if only a win would have meant anything? Of course not. They would simply tune the engine down, cruise to the end and hope for a better race next time. The whole race would have been one long boring parade.

    The analysis is flawed, but the idea of using medals is fundamentally flawed so who cares?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st January 2009, 11:49

      One win is not better than 18 second places.

      Under the present system nine second places are worth more than seven wins, which is also ridiculous. The ranking system is better because it works in more realistic examples. When was the last time one driver had a single win and another 18 second places? Neither system is perfect, you have to pick the one which is more like to give the title to the most deserving outcome in the most realistic circumstances. And that is the ranking system.

      Would Hamilton and Raikkonen have taken the effort to overtake all those drivers if only a win would have meant anything? Of course not. They would simply tune the engine down, cruise to the end and hope for a better race next time. The whole race would have been one long boring parade.

      Given that McLaren were convinced it was going to rain again in that race, which would have put Hamilton in a position to win it, I think that argument is wrong.

    • patrickl said on 31st January 2009, 12:12

      Under the present system nine second places are worth more than seven wins, which is also ridiculous.

      Yes indeed. So? Why replace one ridiculous option with another ridiculous one?

      Simply fix the scoring and the problem is solved. Fix it back to the way it was before they broke it for all I care.

      The ranking system is better because it works in more realistic examples. When was the last time one driver had a single win and another 18 second places?

      Again, that’s just an extreme example to show how ridiculous the medal ranking really is.

      Still the medals system fails in many more situations. It’s not just 18 second places vs 1 win. In my book two second places are worth more than one win.

      Neither system is perfect

      There is nothing wrong with a weighed scoring system. What’s imperfect about that system in itself?

      you have to pick the one which is more like to give the title to the most deserving outcome in the most realistic circumstances. And that is the ranking system.

      No, medals are unfair to the utter core of ranking competitions. You cannot simply ignore all lesser accomplishments and look only at the best results. It’s ridiculous to suggest that that’s even remotely fair.

      Medals are made up to add entertainment. Not to be fair. The fact that it is unfair is taken as an accepted side effect or it’s simply ignored.

  12. HounslowBusGarage said on 30th January 2009, 20:53

    Sorry, the medals concept is irrelevant here. This is Max telling Bernie to eff-off, butt-out or otherwise go away.
    It wouldn’t have mattered if Bernie ha proposed having summer in July, Max would have ruled against it.
    This is Max telling Bernie to look after his side of the ‘triangle’ and not to meddle in Max’s.

  13. Points should most definately be kept. World Champion is an annual title, thus given to the driver that has performed the ‘best’ over the year. By giving the title based on wins, you risk rewarding people for seven good races – out of sixteen.

  14. HounslowBusGarage said on 30th January 2009, 21:08

    Keith,
    I love the pic of the Brabham you selected for this article. look at the elegant lines, the lack or complication in the design. it’s simple and superb. Not a blemish visible on the strict midnight blue and white colourscheme.
    Normally, I’d select a JPS Lotus as the most elegant F1 car of all time, but this Parmalat Brabham comes close, very close.

    • Terry Fabulous said on 31st January 2009, 9:29

      You are spot on HBG.
      I love the lines on this car. Other then the front wings, the 09 cars are looking so much better then the messes we saw last year.

  15. Stealthman said on 30th January 2009, 21:34

    I don’t like the medals idea anyway, but with this report, the FIA has insulted my brain. :(

  16. Spawinte said on 30th January 2009, 21:39

    Piquet loses all three of his championships with the medal system!

  17. Robert McKay said on 30th January 2009, 21:56

    For the life of me I can’t understand why Bernie, who has to a certain extent flagged up a genuine problem with the scoring system, has not been able to “suggest” a sane fix.

    Quite why it either has to be 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 or gold-silver-bronze medals I really don’t get. What’s with the extremes?

    You will be very hard pushed to find anyone who thinks the 2 point gap between first and second is large enough. Make it 12-8-6 and we’ve fixed it, we’ve done exactly what is needed and asked by rewarding the winner and providing incentive, without going totally barmy and destroying the WDC for everyone but the title protagonists.

    Just flamin’ well do it Bernie.

  18. It seems the biggest mistake Bernie has made on this matter is to call it the ‘medals system’. It isn’t that, as you pointed out Keith. And to say that no one will try to overtake because winning is all that counts is wrong – under the current system the 10th place driver wouldn’t be as motivated to overtake the 9th driver as it has no bearing on points. But if it’s positions that count then you may see more motive to overtake all down the grid.
    Also, the argument that 1 win isn’t better than 18 second places isn’t valid either because that simply wouldn’t happen.

    I’m all for it, but lets call it something more representitive of what it actually is.

    Look at Brazil too – granted it was fantastically exciting due to the rain at the end, but other than that Hamilton was content with a finish in the top 5. Under the position system both he and Massa would have been gunning for the win to take the title.

    • Patrickl said on 31st January 2009, 0:09

      Also, the argument that 1 win isn’t better than 18 second places isn’t valid either because that simply wouldn’t happen.

      Well it’s just an example. But something similar does happen reasonably often. For instance Vettel, Rosberg and Piquet versus Heidfeld and Kubica in the last season.

      You also can think up more reasonable yet unfair examples (even for the protagonists), but the point still remains that the medal system is simply unfair.

    • I think such a drastic change to the points as the medal system would be just as ridiculous as max’s spec engine idea. A good way to provide extra motivation for drivers at the front of the grid would be to drop the 4 worst races. This would allow drivers to take risks without worrying about losing valuable points in the championship but still reward consistency. I did some quick research and since the current system was introduced it would not have affected who won the championship but in every season the points margin would be closer except 08 because of the huge amounts of points both lewis and felipe through away. In 03-07 the champion had no more than 2 finishes outside of the points (except 05 but only because alonso didnt race at the USGP) which would also encourage the top drivers not to settle for further back points and race for the podium.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st January 2009, 11:57

        A good way to provide extra motivation for drivers at the front of the grid would be to drop the 4 worst races.

        No, they had that in the ’80s, it got horribly complicated at the end of a season. Not a good idea. Plus then you get into tedious arguments like “Prost should’ve won the ’88 championship” etc…

        • patrickl said on 31st January 2009, 12:42

          You’re going to get the “so and so should have won the championship” with medals too. There will be times when a driver has had indeed one win more but otherwise severely worse results than the next contender (ie the second place guys has been on the podium all year).

          Every inherently unfair ranking system will give those types of debates. Just as the unfair weighed points ranking system is giving similar discussions now.

          • There will be times when a driver has had indeed one win more but otherwise severely worse results than the next contender (ie the second place guys has been on the podium all year).

            Maybe, but if that is the way the title is decided, then the drivers will abide by and race with this potential in mind. One example is football. The Premier League Championship is decided by a system that rewards consistency by a most-points-by-end-of-season-wins method, thanks to scoring 1 point for a draw. Is this fair?

            Australian Rules Football is decided in a different way. There are finals between the top 8 teams at the end, until two teams fight off in a Grand Final. Last year one team won 21 out of 22 games in the season, won every final and then “choked” in the Grand Final. They’re not the Premiers, and they accept this. Is this fair?

            My point is that it should be up to the competitors to judge, not the fans or the FIA/FOM bosses. So let’s see what the teams and drivers think before judging whether something is an “inherently unfair ranking system” or not.

          • patrickl said on 2nd February 2009, 10:33

            Yes I think it’s fair that a draw gives points. No I don’t think it’s fair that at the end of a competition you have finals to determine the champion. Anyway, they don’t do that to be fair, they do that to make more money from the events.

            You act like drivers could in general simply grab a win at will and are not doing so because of lack of motivation. That’s simply not the case.

            In football motivation might play a bigger role, but in Formula 1 the drivers depend on their car (and setup and tires and such).

            Indeed there are rare instances were drivers settle for a lower position, but that’s not the norm.

            Besides, you have 2 drivers per team and often a driver will be forced to settle for a position. Teams will be forced to determine their no 1 driver virtually from the start of the season.

            So the overall result of a season will not change by using medals and the drivers’ motivation has virtually nothing to do with it for the majority of this result.

            Then yes I think it is unfair to count only the wins instead of calculating a weighed ranking based on all results.

            Again, if you want to increase the points for a win then give 12 points for a win. It’s really not that difficult.

  19. Tom Bisset said on 30th January 2009, 22:14

    I’m not in favour of the medals system.

    I think we should adopt a system in which the back-runners can score points and have a chance- maybe have a separate championship for them? It might not work but i think its a fair point because it will give the slower teams to batlle out for, instead of just trying to finish the race.

    Either that or just stick with the normal points system.

  20. gabal said on 30th January 2009, 22:47

    I’m not that much against medals idea because it does promote more aggresive driving and more risk-taking then the present system. If the drivers wouldn’t settle for second or third to score valuable points. It should promote battles for first beyond the first few corners (unless the rain falls). Can anybody remember last time we saw an overtake for a leading position in race? Lets discount wet races, that is a completely different story… If I’m not mistaken there were only a handfull of attacks, let alone overtakes in dieing laps of the race. Remember the astonishing Alonso-Schumacher battle in Imola a few seasons ago? I think medal system (or a similar one) would promote such behaviour on track.

    Maybe I’m biased as I love the drivers who have guts and I would love to see moments like this again in F1. And don’t forget that was a battle for 2nd place…

    • patrickl said on 31st January 2009, 0:17

      But then think how many situations there were where the two leaders were close enough together to actually overtake. It simply doesn’t happen that often.

      Yet if there is a chance than they DO go for it. Spa is an obvious case. Granted there was rain, but these guys were fighting to the death over first spot.

      I’d say the only other example would be Valencia where Hamilton might have pushed Massa a bit more, but he really never would have had a chance to overtake on that track anyway. So even with medals he would have settled for a silver medal.

      There are dozens of instances where I’m sure drivers would have stopped overtaking though. There were lots of botched up pit stops or qualifications which rendered the driver out of contention for the win (and even a podium unlikely). With medals in that situation the best option is to give up and save the engine so you can push it harder for the next race.

      So what would the end result be? One race where there was a guy pushing a tad harder and dozens of times where great overtaking races were stranded from the get go.

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