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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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

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  1. I appreciate the discussion and the sentiment but I’m still not won over by the medals idea.

    I wonder what fans will think if we have another dominant team, like Schumacher and Ferrari, running away with wins. This raises a further question as to whether viewers be more inclined to tune out because a team has technically taken the most golds and won the championship earlier in the season, or will viewers hang in there if others drivers still have a mathematical chance of attaining the championship? I suspect that if a runaway gold medal championship was won to early in the season, the gold medal idea would be promptly scrapped.

    Until a better idea surfaces, I think we should stick with the ‘best of the worst’ as they say for now…

  2. Has no one noticed what an insult it is to suggest that those who had to fight hardest for their championships (Surtees, Piquet, Rosberg) did not try their utmost to win every race? There is too little difference in the points gap between first and second under the present system, agreed, but that is easily fixed by awarding a couple more points to the winner. If Bernie thinks that F1 drivers do not strive to finish every race as high as possible, it is only the sort of crass and idiotic thinking that is typical of the man.

  3. So Bernie wants wins rewarded over consistency.

    Which is what the old 12-6-4-3-2-1 system did, except Schumacher won too many races and won the title too early – so the system was changed to reward consistency and make it so it wasnt necessarily the guy with most wins who took the title.

    Now the guys who are scoring consistently are actually fighting for the title, a la Kubica, or winning the title without the most number of wins ie Hamilton, the system apparantly isnt good enough, despite it going down quite literally to the last lap of the season. You couldnt have had a more exciting championship finish this year, and last years wasnt so bad either, so i really would love someone who developed this silly medals idea to tell me exactly what was wrong with the way the titles have gone when consistency has been rewarded.

    There is nothing wrong with Hamilton winning the title without the most number of wins, its hardly like he had heaps less than Massa, he was only one behind! Plus I personally like the idea of consistency being rewarded. Maybe a higher gap between win and second – make the points 12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 – that way chances are the guy with the most wins will take the title, BUT you wont get someone who happens to win a few but retire from the rest beating someone who finishes every race high up.

    If Kubica had beaten to odds and taken the title this year it would have been fantastic for F1, and a brilliant spur for the midfield teams to show that you dont have to be in a Mclaren or Ferrari to win, that there is the ability to push the team to the front like BMW – that hardly would have been a bad thing for the sport – which is what Bernie is suggesting with these medals. He is essentially saying that Kubica should never have been allowed near the title fight so close to the end with only one win – never mind how many other good results he had, never mind he made the podium just as many times as the two guys in front of him – yet i beleive Kubica would have been just as deserving, if not more so. Massa and Hamilton made so many mistakes really this year, in comparison to Kubica anyways, so why would Kubica be any less deserving, yet Bernie would have had a fit if a guy with one win had taken it

    That FIA report shows that there would have been a positive difference of only one when it comes to final race showdowns, yet 6 more championships would have been finished earlier under the medals – is that what he really wants – championships being decided stupidly early – wasnt Schumacher winning it in France the other year the reason the whole points system was changed! In fact half of the championships in the last twenty years would have finished earlier than they did.

  4. Hmmm, my comment jumped up a bit there! I say comment it was more of an essay! I do get carried away on occasion! Apologies!

    Just a point concerning what would have happened when applying the medal system to previous years – Ralf Schumacher would have finished runner up in 2001, third in 2002 and fourth in 2003 – all large improvements, (especially 2001!) and results which i certainly wouldnt have complained about at the time ;)

  5. Massif Todjer
    31st January 2009, 18:16

    I think the headline should read, ‘…is flawed but relevant’

  6. I think we’re looking at this from the wrong angle. The question is not whether or not the proposed system is good or bad/better or worse than points. The real question, in my opinion, is whether its right to completely change the very basis of a competition after 59 years. 59 years. The proposed system might be fine for a new series, but this is Formula 1. If you replace the fabric the world’s greatest motorsport competition this way, you might as well make FA Cup matches 60 minutes long with a second ball added in the last ten minutes for a big finish.

    Its not that the proposed system is terrible (although I really don’t rate it highly), its that such a change shows a complete lack of respect for the heritage of our sport. And thats infuriating.

    12 points for a win, job done, lets move on. Its obvious to us all.

  7. theRoswellite
    31st January 2009, 20:12

    My God what a thread…..

    Robert McKay and Pete Walker have this absolutely correct…if you want to reward winning a bit more than at present, just increase the point differential between first and the rest of the field. Period, objective accomplished. Don’t toss the baby out because you perceive the bathwater to be a bit smelly.

    Three quick points:

    You can’t judge the seasonal results in the past by changing the points/reward system. Those teams and drivers may have raced differently under a different system. It’s a principle of logic to realize you can’t alter something in the past without changing, unpredictably, other things.

    To change the present system because you dislike the results….at the front, ignores the majority of the field. (Why not extend points down to 10th at least) I want to see “meaningful” racing between the back-markers as well as the guys at the front.

    And finally, using the Olympics as a guide for your reward system is troublesome. Under that system the biggest loser is always the guy who finished fourth, even when he may have beaten ten or twenty other guys to that position. I understand the need for simplicity in the Olympics, but we certainly don’t need to “dummy down” Formula One.

  8. The point of a ranking system isn’t to retroactively change championship results, or find different champions in future, as the champion almost always has most wins anyway. It’s to try and alter the mindset of the drivers during races to give them more motivation to seek an extra position. Whether it’s 1st/2nd, 5th/6th or 11th/12th.

    We will never have a perfect series where there are bountiful overtaking manoeuvres in every race, and we never have had for that matter. But it might be a step toward that – and surely that’s something we all want to see… drivers racing full throttle as often as possible. Even if a by product of that is a driver might finish 8th instead of 10th in the final classifications because he had 1 podium.

  9. How about:

    50 – 1st
    25 – 2nd
    15 – 3rd
    10 – 4th
    8 – 5h
    7 – 6th
    6 – 7th
    5 – 8th
    4 – 9th
    3 – 10th
    2 – 11th
    1 – 12th

    Gives a big enough difference between first and second places to make it worthwhile racing till the last corner and also rewards more of the mid-field teams.

  10. Keith, I agree that the medals system is better than 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system and even the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system. But what about returning to a points system where the driver’s best six results from each of half of the season count? So if a driver has two wins and scored four 2nd places in the first six races of the year, finishing in 2nd place or below at any of the next three races [assuming an 18-race season] will be worthless, thus incentivising the driver to go for the win. Such a system incentivises drivers to go for the best results but doesn’t fail to reward consistency to the extent that a medal system might.

  11. I never understood what was wrong with 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1. It was a perfectly good system and was changed to stop the championship being won too early. Anything like a medals system could result in the championship being won shortly after half way through the championship.

    Winning should be rewarded but only by the points system. Counting wins to decide a championship could end up reqarding the occasional lucky result or fortuitous stewards decision.

    One thing that should never be considered is discounting results. All of a driver’s results should count. We had all sorts of discounted results systems in the 80s. We had the driver’s best 11 results from 16 races and one season insanely we had the driver’s best 4 scores from the first 8 races added on to his best four from the second 8 races. Most of these rules were put in place to reward fast unreliable cars such as the early turbos.

    Everything a driver does during a season should be reflected in the championship table. If he screws up one qualifying session and as a result records a lowly race finish why should he be rewarded by that being stricken from the record?

  12. Keith I think your analysis of the FIA’s “The medals proposal” was spot on, and I guess that I’m one of the few that actually think that medals are a good idea. I can’t see a flaw in the logic of how the driver with the most race wins is crowned champion. From a P.R. perspective, I can hear the new commentators now…”Lewis Hamilton wins the Gold at Singapore!” and there he is smiling like an idiot, standing amid the flashes of cameras and frenzied fans with a shiny gold medal around his neck. I think it’s brilliant. The idea really deserves another look.

  13. Whatever system is used the basic problems concerning the lack of overtaking in F1 are not purely down to the points system and car aerodynamics. Alot is down to drivers being too afraid of attracting the attentions of the stewards and incurring a penalty in the process, for the slightest infraction.
    If we look at the facts, drivers in the not too distant past who had the balls to take risks were often slapped with penalties of different sorts. Juan Montoya was just the type of driver the sport needed back in 2001, fast, confident, aggressive. Yet it didn’t take long for him to attract the attention of the powers at be and to be punished for it. Sepang 2002 and Indy 2003 are two very good examples of Montoya falling foul, and being unduly penalised.
    We saw the same with Hamilton last year, coming undone with the kind of offences we have seen certain drivers escape with their entire careers.
    The point being is that other drivers will look at these cases and think, I better not take a chance racing Massa or Alonso or whoever as they are racing for the title for example, I’ll get a penalty given against me and lose points.
    That is not the way to be in racing. It stifles talent and ruins the spectacle. Back in 2006 in Canada, we saw a great scrap between Montoya and the then rookie Nico Rosberg. Rosberg ended up the worse off but I admired he for going wheel to wheel with a driver as big as Montoya, and in some cases, rubbing wheels with him, at 160mph. That is what people pay to see, and if the officials got off the pot and allowed the boys to do their jobs, then we would see a hell of a lot more drama.

    1. Good suggestion ! Bernie has used this to help the Ferrari drivers by the way – the stewards are more strict with any team other than Ferrari

  14. I vote for going back to 10-6-4-3-2-1 points. If a driver is good enough to wrap up the championship by midway then they deserve it, we should be congratulating them.

    If we stay with points for the first 8 drivers home, bump up the winner to 12 points and leave the rest as is. 10-8 isn’t enough of a difference

  15. What’s wrong with rewarding consistency? Actually, you have to do it because cars are driven so close to their theoretical limits these days that the driver who makes the fewest mistakes in the fastest car is the winner. It’s a bit boring, but that’s life in F1 now.

    There is very little spare margin for the adventurous driver to exploit, that’s why we don’t see much banzai stuff.

    I say the current system is fine. It has resulted in the entire season being close, which is a good thing. But allow drivers to drop their two worst races, so if they want to have a go but come short, they won’t be penalised.

    And allow team orders. It’s a team sport, remember.

    (Why am I here? I should be after PatrickL. I think it subtracted two hours off my South African time zone)

  16. This analysis is nothing more than a bit of fun, because, as was pointed out in the article, drivers race to the rules in force at the time. It would be like going back and seeing who would have been Premier League Champions in Football if matches had finished after 45 minutes at half time rather than 90 minutes.

    Personally I prefer a points based system, but I think the current points on offer need revising so there is a bigger reward for winning. I wouldn’t go back to just the first six places earning points as in the 1990s, as with increased reliability you can get in a position where only three teams get points.

  17. Nobody has mentioned the fact that the constructors champ. points would remain the same. The drivers are employed by the teams who want to put the most points on the board. A kamikaze run for first or third followed by a crash would not be tolerated by the teams. I think there would not be many occasions where the drivers would be more motivated for the position.

    1. Well, Keith already pointed this out as a flaw in Ecclestone’s proposal. Still indeed it would probably kill most (if not all) of the added overtaking incentive that the medals are supposed to bring.

      Not sure why the constructors need to get points though. They could be ranked according to medals (and after that lower places) too. If it’s about the transport costs being paid, then they woild need at least an 8th place finish instead of a point.

  18. OH MY GOD! the answer is SO SIMPLE! keep the points system as it is but just INCREASE the 10 points to 12 POINTS! done. (12,8,6,5,4,3,2,1)

  19. I think the old points system of 10 6 4 3 2 1 was fine. And changing it because Schumacher won so quickly was nonsense. I am not a fan of the lucky talented Schuey. But it was because he had a superior car (not skill), and the fact that the rest of the field squabbled between each other to catch him, that cost them the wins and a short championship.
    If Schumacher had had one major challenger in 2002/2004 it would have made it more difficult for him to take the crown. Like in 2003.

  20. Bernie has been working too hard… needs a rest
    and am tired of crap proposals nd decisions… am still quite $%#^# with the “new” pit stop thingy…

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