Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Singapore, 2008

Top ten: Worst rules ever seen in F1

Top TenPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

A new rule offering double points at the last race of the year has provoked widespread criticism from Formula One fans.

It’s not the first folly F1 has undertaken – here are ten of the worst ideas ever to make it into the rule book.

Though we should consider ourselves fortunate none of them are quite as bad as Formula E’s ‘Vote to Pass’ rule. Except perhaps the last one…

Aggregate qualifying

Jarno Trulli, Toyota, Monaco, 2005A classic example of bad F1 rule-making: an excessively elaborate approach which failed to solve a fairly simple problem.

During the 2000s Formula One seemed to change its qualifying rules once per season at least. Aggregate qualifying was the surely nadir of the various schemes that were devised.

It involved running two qualifying sessions where each driver did a single lap, the first with no fuel restriction and the second using the fuel load they would start the race with. These times were then added together to produce the grid.

If ever a rule looked like an answer to a question no-one asked, it was this. As well as being needlessly complicated, the fact that the second session was held on Sunday morning deprived the sport of the media value of deciding the grid on Saturday.

The only positive thing to be said about this episode was that the powers-that-be realised how bad an idea it was fairly quickly. It was used for just six races in 2005 before being dropped.

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Point for fastest lap

In the first years of the championship the driver who set the fastest lap at each race got a bonus point. The plan was dropped in 1958 and ever since drivers have only scored points based on where they finish in the race.

The simplicity of that approach is something F1 would do well to preserve. There were discussions last year about reviving the practice, but giving the bonus point to the pole sitter instead.

F1 should be very wary of tinkering with the points system in this way without thinking carefully about exactly what incentive it is giving to competitors. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see what farcical scenarios could unfold if rules like this were implemented.

For example if a driver needed only one point to win the championship and could do so by setting fastest lap in the race, they would be better off treating the race as a qualifying session, only leaving the pits for a few laps on soft tyres. Series which do give points for fastest lap, such as GP2, attempt to prevent that from happening with ever more complicated rules governing how a driver is eligible for the bonus point. All of which is needless complication for no real benefit.

As for granting a point for pole position, viewing figures for races would certainly not improve if millions tuned in one day to discover the championship had already been won 24 hours earlier thanks to the pole sitter taking a bonus point during qualifying. Besides which, starting the race ahead of everyone else is enough reward in itself.

Grooved tyres

Fernando Alonso, Renault R28, Hockenheimring, 2008From 1998 F1′s tyre manufacturers were required to produce tyres with circumferential grooves in them, in an attempt to reduce the contact patch on the ground and therefore reduce cornering speeds.

It proved an unpopular move with many drivers who did not like the handling sensation given by the new tyres. Jacques Villeneuve strongly criticised FIA president Max Mosley’s plan before it was introduced.

However the stated aim of controlling cornering speeds was not successfully achieved. The ending of competition between tyre manufacturers in 2007 finally achieved that. The unpopular grooved tyres were now surplus to requirements, and were scrapped in the 2009 regulations.

Narrow track cars

It was a double-whammy of rubbish rules in 1998. As well as the unpleasant grooved tyres, car widths were reduced from 2000mm to 1800mm.

To my eye the cars just haven’t looked right ever since – too narrow and too tall. Design expert Adrian Newey thinks so too, and that’s good enough for me.

Shared drives

A relic from a bygone age. Drivers were once allowed to take over a team mate’s car if their own broke down.

The sport became instantly simpler in 1958 when drivers were only allowed to drive a single car during the race, meaning an end to complicated post-race totting up of which drivers had appeared in which cars and finished in which positions.

Perhaps not so much a bad idea as one which doesn’t really belong in the sport of today, and which had to go to allow Formula One to become what it is.


Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Singapore, 2008In-race refuelling has been allowed at several points in the history of Formula One, but its last introduction was by far the most controversial.

Its return to F1 in 1994 came over the objections of all the teams bar Ferrari, who believed their V12-engined car stood to gain the most from it. But even after they joined their rivals in using V10 engines from 1996 the practice remained.

Promises the equipment would not leak and fires would not be possible were quickly disproven. Jos Verstappen’s Benetton erupted in a major conflagration during the 1994 German Grand Prix, injuring him and several members of his pit crew. Fire remained an occupational hazard of the F1 pit lane until refuelling was finally outlawed again in 2009.

Refuelling did produce some surprising twists in the races during its first few years. But as teams quickly mastered the new variable it became less a source of strategic interest and more a cause for frustration as drivers would ‘wait for the refuelling stops’ when stuck behind a rival rather than risk an overtaking move.

F1 finally rid itself of refuelling at the end of 2009, though not before it spawned some undesirable offshoots in the rule book, such as the regulation forbidding drivers from pitting while the Safety Car was out. But even that wasn’t as bad as…

Fuel credit qualifying

Jenson Button, Honda, Monaco, 2007F1′s three-part qualifying system was a change for the better when it was introduced in 2006, though it wasn’t without one honking great flaw.

Much as today’s Q3 drivers are handicapped by having to start the race on the tyres they qualified on, in 2006 they had to use their race fuel load in Q3. Making matters even more complicated, their race fuel load was fixed at the beginning of Q3, and for every lap they ran drivers were credited with a lap’s worth of fuel at the start of the race.

This led to the bizarre spectacle of every driver beginning Q3 by circulating the track at a steady pace to burn off as much fuel as possible before their flying lap, then having their tanks replenished before the start of the race.

Attempts to explain this particular piece of nonsense to the uninitiated invariably provoked confused expressions. The rule remained in force in 2007, when it was noted that Honda’s environmental awareness-raising ‘Earthdreams’ car was not above joining in the practice of burning fuel to satisfy this grossly ill-conceived regulation.

Dropped scores

Sometimes good intentions yield bad ideas. Allowing a driver to drop their lowest scores from a particular number of races promised to reduce the effect of unreliability on their season.

But it made for very complicated calculations at the end of championships, which involved working out how many points each driver would lose and gain based on each possible finishing position.

Making life even more difficult, for a period the championship was split into two halves, in each of which a driver could drop a certain number of results. That arrangement was scrapped in 1980 and ten years later the practice of dropping scores also ended. Since then every race result has counted towards the championship – a satisfyingly simple and logical arrangement.


Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013“People say there’s not enough overtaking in Formula One.”

“That’s OK, I have a solution: we’ll make overtaking so easy no one cares when it happens any more!”

“Great idea! Every race will be like that brilliant grand prix at Dijon in 1979 where Rene Arnoux blasted past Gilles Villeneuve on a straight and then quickly pulled away from him.”

“That’s settled, then. Now, what shall we do about the points system…”

Double points at the last race

Tinkering with the points system is what those in charge of F1 do when they can’t face up to tackling the sport’s real problems. And so instead of addressing F1′s runaway costs and growing shortage of competitors, they decided to double points for the last race of the season this year.

This was a panicky response to the drop-off in television viewers at the end of last season, when Sebastian Vettel wrapped up the title with three races to go.

Presumably those who supported the move forgot how often the previous, fairer points systems produced thrilling last-race title showdowns (most recently in 2012, 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2006) and failed to appreciate how sport can only produce these moments of pure drama when the spectacle is genuine, rather than artificial.

Over 90% of F1 Fanatic readers oppose the plan. Rarely have I seen opinion among fans so strong and so near to unanimous on any topic.

This presents those in charge with a glaring contradiction: they are trying to make F1 more appealing to people by introducing a rule the vast majority do not want. Hopefully that obvious point will become clear to them in the coming weeks and the rule can be scrapped before the season begins.

Then they can refocus their attention on fixing the things that are broken with the sport instead of those that aren’t.

Over to you

What do you think belongs on a list of the worst rules ever seen in F1? Have your say in the comments.

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  • 158 comments on “Top ten: Worst rules ever seen in F1”

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    1. Multiple issues so dividing them by topic.

      DRS situation
      I think overall DRS has been a positive step given that the focus on aero made overtaking all but impossible. Yes, there are situations where the driver in front becomes a sitting duck. This can be remedied in multiple ways:
      1) Ensure that DRS confers a maximum advantage of increase in speed of say 5 mph. [Complex and difficult to enforce]
      2) Change how ERS can be used in conjugation with DRS. The lead driver is allowed to use the full ERS capacity (120 kW) while the driver using DRS can only use a fraction of the ERS capacity. The fraction may be a global number for the season or it may vary from race to race. [Simple and easy to enforce, pressing the DRS button limits the ERS capacity to a preassigned fraction.]
      3) Allow current form of DRS only after the gap between two drivers in 30 seconds or less. [Easiest change of the lot]
      4) Have adjustable rear wings and adjustable front wings and split DRS into offense and defense modes:
      a) Offense mode: Adjustable rear wing that allows the following driver a burst of speed of 10-12mph
      b) Defense mode: Adjustable front wing that allows the lead driver a burst of speed of 4-6 mph
      This means the speed difference between the drivers will be somewhere between 4-8 mph and may or may not be enough for an overtaking maneuver. [Really complex and difficult to enforce]

      Double points situation
      Double points for the last race is a dumb idea as it clearly adds value only to marketing and entertainment at the cost of the competition.

      However it can be done in a nice way by introducing the idea of jokers.
      1) In a season, every driver gets 1 joker for use in the driver’s championship(WDC) and every team gets 1 joker to use in the constructor’s championship(WCC). At a given race, a team and its associated drivers can only play either the driver’s joker or the teams joker and not both.
      [This ensures that a driver’s interest’s and a team’s interest’s are not in conflict and offers a degree of protection to the driver’s, particularly the team’s 2nd driver.]
      2) When you use a joker in a race any points that you score get doubled.
      3) The intention to play the joker can be made
      a) earliest: after the end of qualifying
      b) latest: one hour before the start of the race
      [Creates an element of surprise for the audience and provides the teams with an element of security]

      1) Every driver/team has a chance to score extra points on a circuit that suits them.
      2) There is an element of strategy involved here, for both the top teams and the mid-field teams.
      3) Generates audience interest, speculation and discussion.

      1) A team’s WCC points will not be equal to WDC#1 + WDC#2. [This seems like a small price to pay, the equality will only happen if zero additional points are scored with the jokers]
      2) How do we deal with undue mischief from other drivers/teams towards a driver/team who is playing a joker in a given race? As this is a bit of a ‘WMD’ situation, the FIA will have to add very stiff penalties for undue interference. The GPDA will also have to play an active role in ensuring that the driver’s play nice with each other as far as joker’s go.

      Ideally, I think it should be 2 jokers for every driver and 2 joker’s for every team but as proof of concept 1 joker will do. More than 2 will be too tough to manage.


    2. I whole heartily agree that the narrow cars look like crap compared to the wider 200cm cars. DRS is a joke.

    3. I like the narrow track more than the 2009 new wing ration, personally most people have become more appreciative of the narrow track cars, they were actually not bad even if the grooved tyres had most of the blame for the 1998-2008 cars

    4. No refueling, F1 is sprint racing. No tyre changes F1 is sprint racing, turbos the 80’s and the new turbos F1 is not all about power but about efficiency and lightweight, most of the blame behind the turbos was that it meant that marketing and money started to sever the big teams from the middle teams.

      All of this rules makes sense for someone that loves the 50’s 60’s and 70’s of F1 but started on the 90’s

    5. IMO one of the worst rules ever has been in 2005, that it wasn’t allowed to change the tyres in a race …^^

    6. I was thinking this afternoon about this double points rule and how it will upset the championship and title fight. But then I started thinking about the backmarkers. Can you imagine this scenario. Caterham has done such an amazing job and somehow manage to score their first point in some GP, effectively giving them 10th position in the constructors. But then, here’s the twist, Marussia manages it aswell, only they did the exact same thing in Abu Dhabi. They end up scoring P10 worth 2 points giving them 10th in the constructors. This as a result Caterham pulls the plug and ends their F1 project.

      This rule is just pure evil if you think about it really…

    7. Extra points is a dumb idea especially if inferior tracks like Abu Dhabi are used. But if a single race were lengthened to 500km, then maybe it could work.

      Races like Monza, Silverstone (with a simpler layout), Montreal, Spa and maybe Austin could be run over 500km. Longer than that would be too hard on brakes, and tracks that are too technical would break cars over that distance. Extra tires could be allotted, and today’s engines are required to last at least two races, so distance isn’t really a problem.

    8. Back in the 90’s in used to watch every race, now with all the idiotic rules I am loosing more interest every year. I remember at university I developed a database with all the F1 qualifying and finishing positions and entered all the data for 5 years form 1989 to 1994, and played around with different point scoring positions to see how the championship would change.

      Back then points were only given for the first 6 finishers, and the result was the no matter how points were scored, there was little impact on the final result.

      If it was up to me I would score the first 10 finishers (10,,9,8,7,65,4,3,2,1 points), top 3 qualifiers (3,2,1 points), and the 3 fastest laps (3,2,1 points).

      I would change the aero rules to get rid of most downforce, just leave enough for the cars to stay on the ground (think of Formula Ford on steroids).

      Thinking back about pre-qualifying days, if F1 was affordable enough for 39 cars to be able to enter today that would be fantastic for the sport.

    9. I think,the point for the fastest lap wasn’t a bad idea,BUT i think,it would be great if the FIA gave it for the pole position,not for the FL.

    10. Bring back refuelling, Bridgestone tyres, strong V8/V10 engines and forbid all the drs, ers/kers stuff and nring new safety car rules: close the pit entrance when safety car is called and don’t allow them to go full speed into pits under caution

    11. The worst rule ever introduced to F1 or any automotive sport for that matter, was allowing the use of airplane airfoils to impart downforce. F1 (and others) are now in a confused state as to which technology to employ.. airplane or automotive. So until the powers to be figure out these are cars and not airplanes, expect motor racing to be a confused pimple faced kid that does not know what it want’s to be when it grows up.

    12. What baffles me is the number of people that think an overtake using DRS constitutes racing. It doesnt.

    13. The 5 power units rule for 2014 and the 4 power unit rule for 2015

    14. It has long been supported that three things need to happen in F1

      Use the BTTC rules in handy cap weighting of cars who finished on the podium in the last race.
      F1 should be now handed over to an independent board of professional qualified managers and run it like a business
      Each car fielded and completes a race should get one constructors point to share out media revenues more evenly

    15. noeltudball
      5th July 2015, 13:02

      Why does the driver has to take off and put back on the steering wheel at the end of every race.

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