Think the new F1 points system is weird? We’ve seen much stranger

2010 F1 season

First man to the champagne gets 15 points more next year

First man to the champagne gets 15 points more next year

The new F1 points system, which will give 25 points for a win next year, has provoked much debate and criticism.

Points in F1 have produced strange situations in the past. At one race seven drivers shared a single point. Other drivers have found themselves unable to score points in a race due to a quirk of the rules. And two drivers failed to win world championships despite scoring the most points during a season.

The new points system may not be perfect, but it’s certainly an improvement on what we had before. Here’s how the points system has changed over the years.

1950: Top five score, eight for a win

Position Points
1 8
2 6
3 4
4 3
5 2

The driver who set fastest lap during the race scored an extra point

The first F1 race winners got eight points – equal to what second place has been worth since 2003. Next year drivers will get eight points for finishing fifth.

Attempting to give a point to the driver who set the fastest lap was thwarted by 1950s lap timing technology. At the 1954 British Grand Prix seven drivers were credited with the best lap time of 1’50, the timekeepers being unable to measure their lap time any more accurately.

So the single point was shared between Alberto Ascari, Jean Behra, Juan Manuel Fangio, Froilan Gonzalez, Mike Hawthorn, Onofre Marimon and Stirling Moss. Each got one-seventh (0.14) of a point.

1958: No sharing

Up until 1958, drivers who shared their car with another driver also shared the points scored. And if a driver drove in more than one car which scored points, he accumulated each points finish.

This made for some complicated calculations. For example, in the searing-hot 1955 Argentinian Grand Prix Giuseppe Farina and Maurice Trintignant both drove in the cars which finished second and third, each time with a different third driver. So they each scored one-third of the second place points plus one-third of the third-place points, totalling three-and-a-third.

Thankfully they put a stop to this in 1958. From then on a driver could only score points for completing the entire race distance himself, as it’s been ever since.

1960: Top six score

Position Points
1 8
2 6
3 4
4 3
5 2
6 1

Points were extended to sixth place in 1960. This was also the year when the point for fastest lap was dropped.

1961: Nine points for a win

Position Points
1 9
2 6
3 4
4 3
5 2
6 1

The value of a win was increased to nine points in 1961, and the points distribution remained unchanged until 1990. This was the longest period of stability in the F1 points system.

1991: Ten points for a win, every race counts

Ayrton Senna scored the first ten-point win in 1991

Ayrton Senna scored the first ten-point win in 1991

Position Points
1 10
2 6
3 4
4 3
5 2
6 1

Thought of by many as the best points system F1 had, the value of a win went up to ten points in 1991. Ayrton Senna won the first four ten-pointers on the trot.

This is the high-watermark for the value of winning in F1. At this point a win was worth 66% more than second place. Today it is worth just 25% more and that will remain the same in 2010 with the new points system.

The 1991 season also saw the dropping of the “best results count” rule – more on that below.

2003: Points down to eighth

Position Points
1 10
2 8
3 6
4 5
5 4
6 3
7 2
8 1

In 2002 Michael Schumacher set a new record for the earliest a world championship had ever been decided. He sealed the title in the French Grand Prix on July 21st, with six rounds to spare.

The new points system introduced in 2003 was clearly designed to stop that happening again as it slashed the relative value of a win compared to second place. Despite that, two years later Schumacher was able to wrap up the title four rounds before the end of the season.

The “best results count” rule

Alain Prost scored more points but lost the title in 1988

Alain Prost scored more points but lost the title in 1988

Before 1991 drivers could only count their best points scores from a limited number of races. For example in 1990 of the 16 races on the calendar a driver could only count his 11 best scores.

The number of races counting varied with the calendar. At first it was close to half, then in the late sixties the number of races counted increased to around 80% of the calendar. That trend was abruptly reversed in 1979, and for much of the eighties a pattern developed: 16 races, best 11 scores counted. The chart below shows the details for each season the “best results count” rule was used.

Race results counted and dropped, 1950-1990 (click to enlarge)

Race results counted and dropped, 1950-1990 (click to enlarge)

The “best results count” rule tends to colour our view of previous champions. For example both Alberto Ascari’s championship wins were far more emphatic than the official points standings suggested:

1952

Position Driver Total points Points dropped Actual points
1 Alberto Ascari 36 17.5 53.5
2 Giuseppe Farina 24 3 27

1953

Position Driver Total points Points dropped Actual points
1 Alberto Ascari 34.5 12.5 47
2 Juan Manuel Fangio 27.5 1.5 29

There are other examples similar to Ascari’s. The best-remembered details about Mike Hawthorn’s 1958 championship win are that he only won once and beat Stirling Moss by a single point. The fact he lost three separate scores worth seven points, while Moss kept all his scores, tends to get overlooked.

The most famous examples of this concern drivers who ‘lost’ championships because of the “best results count” rules. This happened on two occasions. In 1964 Graham Hill lost to John Surtees by a single point. While Surtees kept all his scores, Hill had two deducted.

And in 1988 Ayrton Senna beat Alain Prost 90-87. But Prost had a mammoth 18 points deducted to Senna’s four. Debate still rages over the ‘fairness’ of the system. I’ll let you sort that one out in the comments! Their points-scoring finishing positions that year were as follows:

Finishing position Ayrton Senna Alain Prost
1 8 7
2 3 7
3 0 0
4 1 0
5 0 0
6 1 0

The “best results count” rule was dropped at the end of 1990. This has definitely been an improvement – it has certainly made championship-deciders easier to follow.

Splitting the season

Alan Jones couldn't score any more points after his 1979 Montreal win

Alan Jones couldn't score any more points after his 1979 Montreal win

As if the “best results count” rule wasn’t complicated enough, for 14 years the championship was effectively split into two. Drivers could only score points in a certain number of races in the first and second halves of the season. Here’s how they were shared out:

1967: Five from the first six and four from the last five
1968: Five from the first six and five from the last six
1969: Five from the first six and four from the last five
1970: Six from the first seven and five from the last six
1971: Five from the first six and four from the last five
1972: Five from the first six and five from the last six
1973-4: Seven from the first eight and six from the last seven
1975: Seven from the first eight and five from the last six
1976: Seven from the first eight and seven from the last eight
1977: Eight from the first nine and seven from the last eight
1978: Seven from the first eight and seven from the last eight
1979: Four from the first seven and four from the last eight
1980: Five from the first seven and five from the last seven

The strangeness of this system was shown up in 1979 when Alan Jones arrived for the final race of the season unable to improve on his points total. He’d already won four of the preceding seven races, giving him a maximum score for that portion of the season.

The “split season” system was dropped the following year. But you have wonder that, had a variant of it been in use in 2009, Jenson Button would have been in serious trouble in the second half of the season.

What about the constructors’ championship?

The less-heralded sibling of the drivers’ championship, the constructors’ championship, began in 1958.

Ferrari are quite fond of pointing out they’d have even more than their still-huge tally of 16 titles had the title begun in the same year the drivers’ did. Still the first constructors’ champions was not the Scuderia but Vanwall.

To begin with only a team’s highest placed car could score points in each race. When the “best result counts” rule was in place, this also applied to the constructors’ championship.

It wasn’t until 1979 that both a team’s cars could score. At that year’s Brazilian Grand Prix Ligier became the first team to score a then maximum 15 points for a one-two finish.

For a while, only teams who entered two cars throughout the season could score points. So in 1984 Osella and ATS could not claim the two and one point respectively scored by drivers Jo Gartner and Gerhard Berger because they were single-car entrants.

The future: 25 points for a win

Jenson Button would have scored 230.5 points under the new rules in 2009

Jenson Button would have scored 230.5 points under the new rules in 2009

Here is the new F1 points system for 2010:

Position Points
1 25
2 20
3 15
4 10
5 8
6 6
7 5
8 3
9 2
10 1

Read more: 2009 standings under 2010 F1 points system

As we’ve already discussed here the new points system is proportionally little different to what has gone before – though seventh place being valued at five points instead of four looks like a mistake.

It’s been pointed out that awarding 25 points for a win from 2010 will render comparisons with previous championships impossible. But as we’ve seen here trying to compare drivers’ performance based on points scores is already meaningless.

The failing of the 2010 F1 points system is that it doesn’t address the under-valuing of a win, a knee-jerk change brought in six years ago. Ultimately, it’s not the points system that makes a championship exciting, it’s how closely-matched the cars are.

Update: The 2010 points system was changed again after this article was written. The following system is now being used: 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1.

2010 F1 points system

Images (C) Red Bull/Getty, Honda, Honda, Williams/Sutton, Brawn GP

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74 comments on Think the new F1 points system is weird? We’ve seen much stranger

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys said on 22nd December 2009, 10:17

    Wow. Some of that stuff from the 50s and 60s – points-sharing, split seasons – was unnecessarily complicated. It’s almost as if the Powers That Be at the time wanted the drivers’ title to come down to the final race with all the drivers priming for a win since no-one would know the minimum place they’d need to win the title. ounds like something Mr. E would do … was he around back then?

    • Robert McKay said on 22nd December 2009, 10:53

      I’m sure there was a logic behind it. i think the dropping of scores made more sense at the time than it does with hindsight, although I can’t offhand think of the rationale behind it.

      I wonder if either dropping scores or splitting the season is down to the fact that these seasons were pre-Concorde agreement and thus maybe it was some sort of attempt to try and guarantee teams turning up at races, although I may be grasping at straws.

      It is much easier nowadays, although the new scoring system lacks a lot of the aesthetic of the older ones.

      • DanThorn said on 22nd December 2009, 11:07

        To my best knowledge, dropping scores tends to reduce the impact of retirements during close championship seasons. A few British club championships still have dropped scoring in place for just such eventualties (The Clio Cup springs to mind.)

      • I’m sure there was a logic behind it. i think the dropping of scores made more sense at the time than it does with hindsight, although I can’t offhand think of the rationale behind it.

        I think there were two reasons. First and foremost was to reflect the fact that teams didn’t enter every race on the calendar as a matter of course. So dropped scores meant you could challenge for the title without having to enter every round. Remember that the Indy 500 counted as a round of the world championship for some time, even though few regular F1 drivers entered.

        Secondly, to take reliability into account. F1 cars were not always as bulletproof as they are now. Dropped scores “allowed” drivers to record a few DNFs without it damaging their points total.

        • Robert McKay said on 22nd December 2009, 12:32

          Ah, I see – thanks DanThorn and Tim :-)

          • Tarzan said on 22nd December 2009, 13:20

            Actually, drop scores are still quite used in sailing, as it is quite easy to f… up a race (it is after all a mechanical sport who depends a lot on the elements! Plus there are so many priority rules that you can have penalties for more or less anything… Point is, clean races are rare). Often, only the 4 out of 5 best results are counted for in a regatta.

  2. Someon said on 22nd December 2009, 10:17

    The table for the points system of the future is a bit off.
    It goes upto 8 and then 7,8 are repeated again.

    That might want to be corrected.

  3. I agree that pointing system is not that important, at the end. Moreover if you keep proportion unvaried.
    But I think that you need to keep the point system as more constant as possible, during seaasons, to not confuse the fans.
    My favourite was 9 (or 10), 6, 4, 3, 2, 1.
    In the 80′s it seems to me it worked well, even if there were a lot of teams, and awarded the winner enough. I don’t like “count” systems at all, each driver should be allowed to keep all the point he gets (even if I understand that the reason was to penalize the reliable based drivers…).
    I don’t like next year pints…too many positions awarded, and a strange 2 points jump between 7th and 8th. I don’t understand why we needed so complex modifications.

  4. DanThorn said on 22nd December 2009, 11:05

    The 10-6-4-3-2-1 system was definately the best. Sadly nowadays the cars are far too reliable for it to be a fair system, but the proportions are perfect. The new points should have been the 1991 system multiplied by 2.5 for the first three places, and then extending the points down to 10th in much the same way as the previous system, giving 25-15-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. The new points have some irregularities which I hope are addressed before the start of the season.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd December 2009, 11:10

      The new points should have been the 1991 system multiplied by 2.5 for the first three places, and then extending the points down to 10th in much the same way as the previous system, giving 25-15-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.

      I like that.

  5. It’s been pointed out that awarding 25 points for a win from 2010 will render comparisons with previous championships impossible. But as we’ve seen here trying to compare drivers’ performance based on points scores is already meaningless.

    This was the case last season, too, when trying to compare several bad starts to previous seasons by Ferrari.

    The different points systems throughout the years made that difficult, so looking at finishing positions is a better way to compare teams/constructors as well as drivers.

    I reckon comparing points tallies for either drivers or constructors, although relatively innocent in the past, with the new 25-points-for-a-win, will be utterly pointless.

  6. Spot the missing K! (and No have I haven’t just smoked a big one.)

    It’s not good is it, that they fail to address the devaluation of a win. I mean surely it came up in conversation so there must be some reasoning behind it. Maybe it’s to keep the championship close. It’s a poor system if you ask me, I think points down to tenth is excessive also. Maybe they should have one points system for the drivers and another for teams.

  7. well, its still easier to understand than the V8 Supercar point system……….

    • drivers get exactly 47.98 points for a race win, and 73.2 points for second. However, should the car be painted green, there are an extra 14.29 points with a margin of error of 11.6 points.

      Its like a game of Numberwang

  8. rampante said on 22nd December 2009, 11:18

    Excellent article Keith, the old points systems did need a lot of explaining. Now that all teams race at every event it is easy to see why they dropped the best 11 from 16. Much easier now.

  9. Great article Keith.

    I’ve always presumed that the rationale of dropping scores was to do with the very poor reliability of the cars in those eras. If they hadn’t dropped scores the championship winner could easily have been the person who drove the most gently and just nursed their car, rather than pushing and providing a good race.

    Not only do the differing points systems make comparisons over the years almost impossible, so do the number of races. It’s been possible recently for a driver to score more points in a season than it was for an early driver to score in a whole career.

    Because of all that in my opinion about the only half realistic way you can compare drivers from different eras is the wins to starts ratio…. and even that is heavily affected by the changes in car reliability….. but for what it’s worth on that basis Fangio at 45% and Schumacher at 36% are way ahead of anyone else.

  10. Tengil said on 22nd December 2009, 11:33

    The pre war championship had a pretty strange points system too: the winner got 1 point, second placed driver got two points and third placed driver got 3 points.
    The rest could get between 4 and 7 points depending on how much of the race they completed (and 8 points if you didn’t start).
    The driver with the lowest total points was the champion.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Championship_(auto_racing)

  11. Siklosi said on 22nd December 2009, 11:45

    It’s all OK except for 7th place.
    01 25
    02 20 -5
    03 15 -5
    04 10 -5
    05 8 -2
    06 6 -2
    07 5 -1 ??? should be 4
    08 3 -2 ???
    09 2 -1
    10 1 -1

    • Robert McKay said on 22nd December 2009, 14:09

      There’s more incentive to push for 7th from 8th than there is to go from 6th from 7th. Which is a bit silly really.

    • Patrickl said on 23rd December 2009, 12:52

      Well, the fact that there are 5 points between the first 3 places is clearly a mistake too.

      It means you gain relatively less and less by going up the podium. You gain 50% by going from 4 to 3, 33% for going from 3 to 2 and only 25% from 2 to 1. Absurd! This was wrong in the previous system too though. Although much less so.

      • Why not simply introduce this system here below. That way a 1st and 3rd place (39 pts) would be more worth then finishing twice 2nd (38 pts).
        1: 25
        2: 19
        3: 14
        4: 10
        5: 7
        6: 5
        7: 4
        8: 3
        9: 2
        10: 1

  12. Gary Brown said on 22nd December 2009, 11:56

    I used to run an online NASCAR racing league (Oval Racing League) and we always dropped some results from a season.

    This method helps to remove the unfairness of getting taken out by somebody in a ‘stupid’ as opposed to ‘racing’ incident. Also it allows for missing a race or two.

    I think they probably used it in the old days because car reliability used to be shocking, and these days most races only lose one or two cars to actual car component failure. The travelling aspect may have been a factor in the early days of F1 but I think it was kept into the modern era for the above reason.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd December 2009, 12:05

      I think they probably used it in the old days because car reliability used to be shocking

      Yep I think that was a big part of it.

      Though perhaps you could argue people were more comfortable with complicated mathematical systems in the past. After all it wasn’t until 1971 that we had decimalised currency in Britain.

  13. SaloolaS said on 22nd December 2009, 12:51

    The only thing I didn’t like about the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 point system was that only 8 drivers scored points. 10 is better, but I think it should be 20, or even 26. In this case it doesn’t even matter if you are 9th or 20th.

    • But you dont want it like V8 Supercars… no no no no no, its horrible

      • MPJ1994 said on 22nd December 2009, 13:32

        As much as I love the V8s, I have to agree that the points system is stupid. For 2nd place to be 92% as good as 1st is ridiculous. Finishing 5th is 74% as good as winning and finishing 10th is 52% as good as winning. And finishing 30th is 10% as good as winning.

        To those who say they want F1 to have a points system that goes all the way to 26th, you just have to look at this to see how pointless it is.

        • SaloolaS said on 22nd December 2009, 17:33

          1st place 100, 2nd place 80, 3rd place 60, 4th place 50, 5th place 40, 6th place 30, 7th place 25, 8th place 20, 9th place 16, 10th place 14, 11th place 12, 12th place 10, 13th place 8, 14th place 7, 15th place 6, 16th place 5, 17th place 4, 18th place 3, 19th place 2, 20th place 1. That would basicly keep the first places the same, but would award places from 10 to 20 as well.

          • MPJ1994 said on 22nd December 2009, 21:01

            That could work, but in the later half of the season it could result in a driver just needing to finish 20th to win the championship, so they just cruise around the back of the pack instead of fighting for points when there are less of them.

          • SaloolaS said on 23rd December 2009, 11:11

            Yeah you’re right.

  14. sato113 said on 22nd December 2009, 12:53

    brilliant article, wow who decides all of these changes? kinda confusing for the casual fan. (not that I am of course!)

  15. TommyB said on 22nd December 2009, 13:15

    Wow what stupid points systems they had back then. Very confusing. Great post :)

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