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

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

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

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Tengil said on 30th January 2009, 22:58

    I think this was intended as a bit of light entertainment and not a political move at all.

    I saw a race from the late eightees (i think) a while back and Murray Walker mentioned the medals idea then, how long has Bernie wanted this?

    If Bernie wants more overtaking maybe the points should be given for overtakings, not for finishing first ;) Qualifying might be a bit odd though, everyone fighting for last place.

  7. manatcna said on 31st January 2009, 0:33

    I’m with the vast majority of people who believe that the best solution is to increase the points differential.

    The medal system is a bad idea, and no-one will make me believe otherwise.

  8. F1Yankee said on 31st January 2009, 2:06

    nothing new to say:

    medals are a crap idea – cheesey and counter-productive. as was said before, 1 first place is not better than 18 second places.

    keep the current system, but award first place with 12 to 15 points.

    what about the possibility of extending points farther down the order? before you poo-poo the idea, know that it has worked very well for decades in north america.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st January 2009, 11:54

      what about the possibility of extending points farther down the order?

      With a ranking system, you wouldn’t have to, because every finishing position would be ranked.

    • patrickl said on 31st January 2009, 12:35

      The current ranking system is in the first place based on score, but when that’s equal it transfers to a position based ranking type (like with the madal ranking).

      So all postitons do already count in the current ranking system.

      It’s difficult to account for all positions fairly in a score weighed system. Or rather you’d need to use really large numbers for first place to be able to keep a progressive scoring all the way down. For instance if you want to give each position two thirds the points of the position before it, you’d need to start with 3000 points for first place to keep that up.

      So either you take out the progressive scheme, but that would make it unfair (not enough difference in points between gaining places) or you stop giving points.

  9. Hear hear! The research means nothing because the drivers reaction to the rules isn’t taken into account.

    (still don’t like the medals idea tho)

  10. Arytons said on 31st January 2009, 3:12

    Bernie has gone off the boil. Medals are a bad idea. Consider the 2008 season – Hamilton losses a win from a bad steward decision; Massa takes out Hamilton perhaps prevent another win…the point being that the stakes would be too high to prevent the FIA from interfering or from a driver or teammate from taking drastic action.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st January 2009, 11:55

      Consider the 2008 season – Hamilton losses a win from a bad steward decision

      That’s not an argument against medals, that’s an argument against bad stewarding decisions (and I’m with you on that one!).

  11. eccelstone is way past it… 78?? surely someone younger with more life in them, a fresh perspective and less self interest can deal with things better!

  12. Nothing to do with who would’ve lost what or who would’ve won what in the past years with the proposed medal system: as Massa has pointed out, you work out your strategy and work according to the current system – if you don’t win, you don’t win.

    I agree the winner doesn’t get much for a win – but it ends at that. The points system needs revision, that is all. No medals, no trophys, no nothing else needs anymore weight. If they revised the points system (rather rashly, I may add) because the season could be wrapped up by sheer dominance, then why should they do any different when nobody is clearly dominating?

    As with one of Keiths previous posts, I still stand by a revision of the 12, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 scoring (should 8 places be points awarded). Otherwise, given the demise of Honda making the grid 18, I’m in favour of the old 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 system.

    In the end, the winner DOES need to be rewarded – why should having to settle for second be there? And I welcome proposals that do so, but I don’t agree with the medal system whatsoever. If it’s not the points system, then please figure out some other way – bearing in mind there are teams that struggle to get into the points as it is without top teams having to field a 3rd car, or whatnot.

  13. scunnyman said on 31st January 2009, 5:58

    There seems to be a contradiction here in what the f.i.a want in making engines last longer and saving money and bernie wanting the medals system. Drivers need to save their engines so cannot always push for a win. And extending the gap in points between 1st and second cannot work i do not think. The reason for the current points system was to stop the likes of Schumacher winning the championship too early with the 4 point gap between 1st and second, so increasing the gap would make it worse. Maybe if they gave out points to everyone on the grid that would help. Perhaps someone could do research into that to see if it would make a difference?

  14. KingHamilton said on 31st January 2009, 8:17

    Points system should be: 20-15-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1-1-1. Thats the top 12 finishers getting points, so teams like force india can get rewarded more for better races. And the system I propose has double the points for finishing 1st over 3rd, a huge difference that we all want to see so we see drivers battling more. I think thats the best way!

    • Adrian said on 31st January 2009, 10:36

      I like that idea, but why not make it 20-15-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. I don’t like the idea of 3 finishers all getting the same points, just doesn’t seem right.

  15. I think the medal system is a bad idea but I see the way Bernie is thinking too. Adjusting the point system is one way to look at it with either 12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 or 10-6-5-4-3-2-1. The other way would be to reward good qualifying and point the top 6 for qualyfying too it would make the stratergists lives a little more interesting. I would propose 10-8-6-4-2-1 for qualifying too or even just a top 3 – 5-3-1 This would make people think even more about race stratergy and qualifying performance!

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