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

  1. Keith – why start at 1950?

    This always annoys me… Formula 1 may have started then but we’ve had Grand Prix’s for just as long before that as after (well nearly)

    The 1930′s European Championship did have some mad scoring – just defining the 1939 rules is a mission even in itself – see the thread here: http://forums.autosport.com/index.php?showtopic=8247&hl=1939+european

    so Keith…care to educate your readers on pre-1950 scoring??

    :)

    here’s hoping…

    Ted

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd December 2009, 13:55

      I usually begin with 1950 as a starting point for things like this because it’s when the modern world championship began. And, as you point out, figuring out exactly what was done for scoring in the years before that is quite tricky!

  2. DGR-F1 said on 22nd December 2009, 13:30

    It all looks very fine and simple, 26 cars and points down to 10th, but what incentive is there to encourage all the other drivers to continue? OK, so there is always that awe-inspiring battle for 11th place, but doesn’t the FIA (or is it FOM and FOTA who decide these things?) need to do a little bit more to encourage the back markers to try harder (and show that they are not just there to make up the numbers)?
    I would like to see points for fastest lap, leading the race and the most positions gained between start and finish. On the new scoring, they only need to be 1 or 2 points, but it would maybe help towards having fewer Zeros on the scoresheets.
    And yes, maybe FL and Leader points would normally go to the usual suspects, but occasionally they wouldn’t, and that might help keep us fans interested too……

  3. Great article, I have often wondered about all the changes in the F1 points system but never got round to looking researching it myself.

    As I started following F1 in 1991 I am biased towards the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system.

    I must say that although I don’t like the point spread as it is now I do prefer the current system to some of the previous ones such as best results count, sharing points and points for fastest lap.

    I think after you have decided on a points system the first question is how many places do you want to award points to, and how much should each position be worth as a percentage of the points for a win.

    When you have decided on those criteria you could then work out the points for each position starting from 1 point for the final point scorer and then work up to the winner, rather than saying X points for the winner and then work out the rest.

  4. ledzep4pm said on 22nd December 2009, 13:41

    How about a medals system where the one with the most wins becomes champion, and if there is a draw it goes to the points

  5. ledzep4pm said on 22nd December 2009, 13:45

    1 – 20
    2 – 14
    3 – 10
    4 – 6
    5 – 4
    6 – 3
    7 – 2
    8 – 1
    Done, bigger advantages for winning and podiums, still only 8 drivers

  6. ILoveVettel said on 22nd December 2009, 14:53

    This is the high-watermark for the value of winning in F1. At this point a win was worth 66% more than second place.

    Was not that 40%?

  7. 10-6-4-3-2-1. Let’s just go back to that. I’m pretty sick of superfluous rules changing every season. Ever since 1994, the FIA seem to be trying to fit a body kit to a Ferrari…

  8. Had forgotten about the point for fastest lap. I think that could be re-introduced. As shown several times last season, that would be a valid way for some of the lower ranked teams to get some points on the board, as well as making the other teams think a bit about what they want to do for their tyre strategies.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd December 2009, 16:43

      I just hate the idea of a driver needing to score one point in the final race to be champion, and doing it by ignoring the race and just bolting on soft tyres and doing qualifying laps.

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 22nd December 2009, 20:29

        But Keith, if a driver only needed one point from the race, he could tootle around like a mobile chicane and be happy in 10th place.
        Both situations would be anticlimactic.

        • José Baudaier said on 22nd December 2009, 22:05

          The problem comes when a driver does this all season and manage to score 15 points along with some 4th and 5th places and end up being ahead of a driver that was most of the championship fighting for the 3rd place but didn’t scored any fastest lap.

  9. I think that it looks ok, man I had no idea that the points systems were so funky in the past.

  10. J.A. Summers said on 22nd December 2009, 17:51

    The best points scoring system IMO would be the one used from 1961 to 1990, with all results counting, and a point for fastest lap and pole position.

  11. Maciek said on 22nd December 2009, 18:04

    Nice article to put things in perspective. I think too we often look at changes to the sport as if they were happening for the first time. To tell the truth, I don’t think I would mind seeing the ‘best results’ system reintroduced in some way, though I’m sure it’s more complicated than it’s worth.

  12. A few typos in that article, Keith!

    Suggestion:
    25-18-14-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
    Rationale:
    - the largest points gain is 2nd-1st (obviously)
    - there’s as strong an incentive to get on the podium as there is to move up to 2nd
    - ditto for the top 6, the ‘traditional’ scorers when most people here grew up ;-)
    - dito for the rest

    BUT – on second thoughts, winning a race is a reward in itself. Likewise, getting on a podium is a reward in itself (and both of these come with shiny trophies!) So there’s no absolute requirement that these be represented in points as well: points exist for the purposes of the championship, so the system should be designed with an exciting and fair championship in mind!

  13. John M said on 22nd December 2009, 18:48

    I’d like to see more reward for winning. My thought for a while has been:

    1 – 20
    2 – 15
    3 – 12
    4 – 9
    5 – 7
    6 – 5
    7 – 4
    8 – 3
    9 – 2
    10 – 1

    I like going to 10th place with the bigger field of 26. But, I don’t want to see it expand to the Nascar system where everyone gets a point.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a point for pole position, and possibly one for fastest lap.

  14. Great piece, thank you…

  15. inc0mmunicado said on 22nd December 2009, 21:01

    How about 2/3 of the way into a championship we reset the top 1/3 drivers to the same unattainable point count (unattainable by those whose points are not reset), and give 10 bonus points to the those top 1/3 of drivers for every win up to that point. Then resume scoring as usual…. with 170 points for winning, 5 points for leading a lap (attainable only once in a race)…

    I don’t think there’s anything more bizarre than that!

    • You’ve been peeking at NASCAR’s championship system again, haven’t you?

      (But you forgot the 5 points for leading the most laps.)

      Actually, not a bad concept–it makes the last third of the season a real pressure-cooker for those drivers who qualified for the reset by meeting a minimum points level, while still giving the rest of the field the regular racing incentives(sponsorship money, driver contracts, etc) to putting on a good show.

      Not saying that sort of thing would work for F1, but it does seem to work okay for NASCAR.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th December 2009, 9:44

        But even with the “Chase for the Cup” in NASCAR there’s dissatisfaction with how predictable the last few championships have been. I think it comes back to the point that if one person’s doing all the winning they’re going to be champion regardless of whether they’re Michael Schumacher or Jimmie Johnson, and fiddling with the points system isn’t going to turn a one-sided championship into an exciting one.

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