Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Bahrain, 2014

Teams surprised by reaction against double points

2014 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Bahrain, 2014Formula One’s team principals admit they were surprised by the strength of the reaction against the plan to award double points at the final race of the season.

Fans have overwhelmingly criticised the plan, with 96% opposing it in a recent F1 Fanatic poll.

The idea was proposed by Bernie Ecclestone in an attempt to prevent a repeat of last year’s decline in viewing figures in the final races.

“I think when it was decided we didn’t put too much emphasis on it,” said Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff, “we didn’t think it was a big drama.”

“It’s clear that you have to support the commercial rights holder and if TV audience dropping I think we have an obligation to listen.”

“When we got the reaction afterwards it was not what we expected. You have to honour that and I think nothing has changed since then. The last race remains double points. Let’s see what we are able to do next year.”

Claire Williams and McLaren’s Eric Boullier endorsed Wolff’s view during the team principals’ press conference in Melbourne.

The possibility of awarding points for qualifying positions has also been raised. Renault’s Rob White said: “I think as long as the points structure is understood in advance it’s an optimisation target like all the rest and Formula One is a fantastic machine for getting the best out of a given set of constraints.”

“I personally am not in favour of things that are hard to understand. And therefore if it gets too complicated I won’t like it.”

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78 comments on “Teams surprised by reaction against double points”

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  1. if TV audience dropping I think we have an obligation to listen

    Maybe you’d be better off thinking as well as listening. There are many reasons the TV audience is dropping, not least the fact that most countries have now switched to providers that you have to pay for.

    1. Great point. Couldn’t agree more.

      Also, when one team or driver is dominating the ratings will drop, but this shouldn’t be addressed by arbitrary changes to the points system to ‘spice things up’.

      Taken to its extreme they may as well award 250 points to the first person to beat Vettel…..

      Just when I’m getting excited about the new season I am reminded of the idiocy of its rule makers!

    2. My question is: Who told Bernie viewership was going down because of points system?

      1. Loads of fans. Everyone who moaned and said they were going to switch off because RBR tied the championship up with races to spare.

        1. That’s irrelevant — Vettel didn’t win nine races because of the points system. He won for whatever reasons, better car, better driver, more luck, less competition, being in clean air… and the winner gets more points than second, etc, etc.

          Yes – some fans were turned off because of his dominance, but the true diehard fans (I’ve been one for more than sixty years) know full well that this happens from time to time. Ecclestone was dead wrong with double points, and Wolff, Bouiller and Ms Williams have other motives (probably budgetary concerns rather than sporting competitiveness) to rather vaguely back him up.

          1. It’s not irrelevant, it’s what people were saying. They hated that the championship was sewn up with races to spare and said they weren’t going to watch any more. People moaned. Because people always moan about everything. The change to the rules which gives double points for the last race is a logical solution to the problem of how you make sure that the championship isn’t decided early. A bad one which compromises the integrity of the sport while pandering to a vocal, uneducated minority from the X-Factor generation who would rather see an artificially tweaked reality show than a genuine competition, granted. But a solution none the less. And that’s basically what happens when people whinge and cry about every little thing in the sport. You end up with broken tyres, DRS passes, final race points bonanzas, and so on.

            It’s precisely because they DID listen to people moaning that we’re in this situation.

          2. @mazdachris and @paul-a – It IS irrelevant because their attempt to fix it didn’t change anything. In 2013 VET had the championship locked following the race in India because he had a 115 point lead with only 75 points available in the final three races. All this stupid double points scheme would have done was make 100 points available over 3 races. How does that help?

            One could argue that even though VET did not technically have the season locked up prior to India, he basically did. Again, this doesn’t change that. At the very most, one could argue that this scheme extends the possibilities by a race.

            But the problem is that if there is a runaway season, which are the seasons to worry about flagging interest, this does nothing but look cheesy and screw up future career points calculations. If no one can beat VET or MSC or SEN, then adding more points to certain races does not help. If they could beat them, they would have been doing so. And if it is a close season, then this becomes an unneeded and horrible asterisk.

          3. @mazdachris – Also, it’s clear that they were NOT listening to fans, otherwise they would have reversed this stupid decision. They were listening to (looking at) the viewership ratings. And that’s fine, that’s how they butter their bread, but they were very hamfisted in how they went about making changes.

            Rather than seeking input from fans or even listening to fan reaction to their idea, they simply say, oh well, we didn’t think fans would hate it and even though we know now that they do we’re just going to pretend it’s okay. They made the rules and can change them, but won’t.

          4. I agree that it’s an absolutely dreadful solution to something which is simply an inherent characteristic of any sport. Sometimes you will have uncompetitive races and seasons, that is simply a fact which you must accept. This only becomes unacceptable if you believe that, rather than being a sport, F1 is actually a pure entertainment product, and one which must be tweaked in any way possible in order to maximise profitability. Which is exactly how the teams and the commercial rights holder see it. So in that respect, since this almost certainly will keep the championship alive longer than it would have done otherwise, it will be mission accomplished in their eyes. And let’s face it, us hardcore fans are almost incapable of doing the one thing we could do to oppose this – switch off and stop watching. But because I can’t switch off and I’m already a paid up subscriber, my opinion isn’t important compared to the opinions of those who CAN switch off. Those are the people whose voices will be listened to, not ours.

    3. exactly. I also watch races via internet streemings. in Latvia I have to bay whole VIAsat package if I want to see F1. but in that package of 30 channels there is only 4 I would watch. so thanks, but no thanks. I’m not gonna pay for what I don’t need. If I could bay only those channels I need, I would consider. meanwhile I’m OK with what I get for FREE.

      1. Damn right! Same here in the UK my friend.

    4. @textuality, right, and it’s not just because of pay TV, much of it is to do with insulting the intelligence of the fans by substituting gimmicks for racing, and it appears now that the team owners have no respect for the fans either.

      1. @hohum – Agreed. We were surprised by the backlash, but we’re not going to do anything about it.

    5. I think Wolff forgot that the core audience will still watch F1 even if you ruin it. this move is for the people that wander about on tv so having a championship making headlines is good as it can bring new people to switch temporarily to F1.

  2. “I think when it was decided we didn’t put too much emphasis on it,” said Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff, “we didn’t think it was a big drama.”

    You don’t say! The problem is you guys didn’t do much thinking at all in the first place, concerning the needs and ideas of the fans…

    1. Exactly !


    1. Jan (@yancheelaa)
      14th March 2014, 9:11

      Couldnt agree more

      1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
        14th March 2014, 9:22


    2. Messeage to F1 teams, TRY LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE WHO COUNT

      They are listening to the demands of sponsors and TV stations who pay for this stuff…



      1. @klon, “sponsors and TV stations who pay for” actually IT IS THE FANS who pay for all this stuff by watching and responding to the sponsors message and either paying for or suffering through the commercials of the TV broadcast, in my case it’s both.

    3. The problem is that, by definition, loyal fans aren’t the ones leaving F1 in droves. While I don’t agree AT ALL with the double points rule, us “loyal fans” aren’t the ones they’re trying to please.

      1. But why would new or casual fans need other reasons to like the sport?

        If you think that we loyal fans like the sport despite it not being any good or exiciting then yes, they should change things.
        On the other hand if the loyal fans have good reasons to like the sport then the new or casual fans only need to discover what we like so much about it, not have it changed to “suite” a imginary person that does not like F1.

  4. It’s clear that you have to support the commercial rights holder and if TV audience dropping I think we have an obligation to listen.

    That’s exactly the problem here, because they really don’t need to listen. The rules should be written by the FIA, with input from the teams, like it is in pretty much any sport. When the commercial rights holder, i.e. Bernie Ltd., gets involved in writing the rules, things start crashing.

    1. I guess its a nice way to say that when Bernie told them that Abu Double would pay extra to “spice it up a bit” it wouldn’t be a big problem and earn them all a few quid more, they just agreed, not thinking too much.
      Typical of how no one in F1 currently really thinks much about what they are doing as long as they do not see a danger to their narrow self interest.

      1. Which is probably why the teams and the commercial rights holder shouldn’t be involved in decisions relating to the sporting regulations. Because they are ALL focused on their own self interests and have demonstrated on countless occasions how they can’t be trusted to work collectively for the good of the sport. Unless the good of the sport also happens to align with the relentless pursuit of increased profit margins.

  5. TV audiences are dropping because the commercial rights holder is insisting on putting F1 behind a paywall in major markets. Just look at what happened to the viewing figures in France after it was made subscription only. It’s not rocket science.

    But then perhaps it’s not that surprising really that people who have been professionally involved with motorsports for pretty much their whole lives don’t really understand the point of view of the common fan. Any more than we could realistically expect a politician to understand what a ‘normal’ person’s life is really like.

    1. @mazdachris, just how many casual viewers or channel surfers do they think there are out there at 1.30 am or 6.30 am on a Sunday morning which are common broadcast times outside of Europe, you have to be a serious fan to be watching at those times, not a disinterested youth with a 15 second attention span, which seems to be what Bernie thinks the market consists of.

      1. Alas, those who behave like disinterested youths with 15 second attention spans happen to be the ones who are most vocal in bemoaning everything about the sport. Those of us who have been there for decades, loving every minute of every race, are not the ones who are going onto forums and claiming that they can’t stand how boring it is and so on. We just quietly get on with watching the sport we love.

  6. They must all be living in the same shut-in fantasy world as Bernie then.

    1. pretty much that, yeah.

    2. I like the thought that Bernie’s shut-in fantasy worlds consists of lots a dancing $ signs. And not much else!

    3. @ajokay the money world you mean. And yes, they are just worried for the free Johnie Walkers, the free Rolex they get as a present, oh, and let’s not forget the suite at the Yas Hotel, all for free.
      That definitely sounds worth it to forget the fans.

  7. The reaction came before the teams rubber-stamped the double points for the final race. Weeks before. Which shows just how hard they were listening to the fans. One day they will figure out it’s us that find their parade. They follow the TV money, advertising, etc as though they find it – they totally miss the link between the fans and those continuing to put the cash in. It’s not rocket science. They think our financial contribution is limited to a cap or two.

  8. So surprised by the reaction that they decided to stick with it despite that.

    These are supposedly intelligent people, it seems crazy that nobody put ‘much emphasis’ into agreeing a stupid rule.

    1. My money is on Bernie signing the contracts (TV) first and then telling the teams to rubber stamp it, so with a fait accomplis they can’t change even if they had thought to consider the implications.
      A message to TV executives, I will boycott viewing the last race, I will not be alone.

  9. Toto, you will not improve viewing figures by doing something which 96% of the fans dont want.

    1. Lol, exactly!

      I fail to see how their reasoning makes any sense whatsoever.

      Problem: declining viewing figures from fans
      Solution: shove a disgraceful rule down their throat, which none of them likes, that’ll teach’em!

      Also, regardless of feedback, make the decision permanent. Because…you know, it just has to be permanent.
      Unlike those ‘flexible’ technical rules regarding exhausts, diffusers or tires, which can change mid-season and actually impact the cars, their construction, performance and budgets, a purely artificial, organisational rule made-up by a delusional Bernie just has to remain permanent!

  10. They can’t be half as surprised as I am that they are surprised.

    F1 is full of intelligent people who on earth did they not realise this was a stupid idea?

  11. I can’t understand why no one in F1 seems to know that viewing figures are dropping because people are being asked to pay to watch it! When F1 was showing fully free on the BBC British viewing figures were rising each year. Then they move half of it to sky and viewing figures drop off. Although they are still strong on the races aired on the BBC for free. They are supposed to be clever people but anyone with half a brain cell can surely understand that we do not need double points they just need to move the coverage back to free to air channels.

    1. It’s the same in other countries too it seems. I can’t remember the exact figures but I’m sure every race live on Sky brings in significantly fewer figures than the BBC. The figures probably dropped off a bit in 2011 but Vettel domination probably contributed to that. It will be interesting to see what the TV audience for the last race will be. I’m unsure whether to boycott the race or not.

      1. I would stop watching the race after 5 laps anyway as the people in charge of the calendar put Abu Dhabi last

    2. That is probably the main problem when considering veiwing figures for the whole season, but i presume the ‘drop off’ the teams are referring to in this case is the fall in viewers as the season nears the end, which shouldn’t be affected by the pay to watch system.

      I don’t have a good solution to the ‘dominant season’ problem, i think it might be something that you have to accept if you are to keep everything fair in a sporting sense. And i understand why this is a risk to investors and track owners if their race is towards the end of a season. But now that i think about it, these tracks also get the rewards if there is a close championship, so maybe these things can balance out over the years (if the tracks even stay on the calender that long!).

    3. Not only does moving to PPV hurt the viewing numbers it hurts the teams ability to raise sponsorship money, which hurts the quality of the cars the teams can afford to build, which hurts F1, which in turn hurts the number of people interested enough to watch, etc continuing in a downward spiral for F1.

  12. Well maybe if teams took a sensible pill and decided that making 18 races half as significant as one on a dull track wasn’t a fantastic idea, we probably wouldn’t be in this absolutely stupid situation.

  13. I like these two quotes together: “it’s an optimisation target like all the rest and Formula One is a fantastic machine for getting the best out of a given set of constraints.” and “I personally am not in favour of things that are hard to understand”.

    Spoken like a true engineer ;)

  14. “It’s clear that you have to support the commercial rights holder and if TV audience dropping I think we have an obligation to listen.”

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to listen to an old man who thinks medal for race winners, track shortcuts, artificial wet tracks are a good idea. Each year Bernie comes up with the silliest idea for F1, and every year he is laughed at. How come this year everyone has supported the idea and keeps supporting it despite the strong criticism?

  15. I propose the FFA (Formula One Fan’s Association). Screw FOTA.

    1. @electrolite I believe FOFA already exists…

      1. Right, how do I join?

  16. I think as long as the points structure is understood in advance it’s an optimisation target

    What is wrong with these people and how do they get into such positions? Humans still decide the relative weightings between smaller targets in any multi-objective problem. That’s where the subtlety lies.

    Too many engineers aiming to solve problems instead of thinking about the construction of the ‘problem’ itself.

  17. When we got the reaction afterwards it was not what we expected. You have to honour that and I think nothing has changed since then. The last race remains double points. Let’s see what we are able to do next year.

    Here’s a thought. Why don’t you see what you are able to do this year?

    1. @deej92 Because a major midseason rule change like that would just make things worse – not to mention set a bad precedent. It would be too easy to interpret a midseason change as one favoring one team/engine manufacturer over another.

  18. It has to be doublespeak – I cannot wrap my head around the idea they didn’t think this would stink to most fans. Among many other problems with F1 at the moment is that drumming up interest from non-fans, any which way, has become the main objective. But then again should we really be surprised? The ‘sport’ costs too much, simple as. We all love the innovation and the technology, but eventually things have to balance out somewhere.

  19. I’m pretty sure a lot of the surprise comes from the fact that they were probably very much taking fans’ views into account when they came up with the idea. People were crying last year about Red Bull sewing up the championship early, and saying that F1 was boring because the championship was over too soon and that they weren’t going to bother watching the races after the title decider. In some respects, a tweak to the rules system which means that the championship is likely to go down to the last race would appear to be the perfect solution to what fans were complaining about.

    They obviously missed the bit where fans complain about everything, regardless.

    1. @mazdachris so you’re a fan of the rule then?

      1. No, I can’t stand it, I think it makes an absolute mockery of the sport. I just hate that there is a very vocal group of people who just moan about absolutely everything like a bunch of little Caligulas who demand 100% wall to wall entertainment. It is exactly these people, the ones you see on here moaning about processions or boring races, and so on, who are being pandered to by this absolute abomination of a rule change.

        But put yourself in the shoes of Wolff and so on. They see that viewer numbers are declining, so they go on F1 forums and see what people are saying. They see that people are moaning that the championship is boring, that they hate it being decided early in the season. And so they come up with this idea to keep the championship alive to the end. It makes sense, in a manner of speaking. And I can also understand why they would then be surprised that people moan about this too. But I don’t think it necessarily follows that it means they don’t listen to the fans, since this would very much appear to be a direct response to a complaint which many many people made last year and have done in other years gone by as well.

        1. But were fans of F1 on forums, complaining and moaning and threatening not to watch because Vettel was winning all the races? I don’t think so, I think the people complaining were the non-fans and the uninformed sports journalists who regard football as more important than life itself, not true F1 fans.

          1. How would the people in the sport ever know the difference?

          2. I mean, in some respects it’s a meaningless definition. A fan is someone who will watch no matter what, and so to some extent their views aren’t really that important. They are more interested in the opinions of people who won’t simply watch regardless, but who might genuinely turn off if they don’t like what they see.

  20. I just hope that whoever wins the title this season wraps it up with several races to go, just to make a mockery of this stupid rule.

    1. Me too, it will allow me to feel smug and take the pain out of my boycott of the last race.

      1. @hohum
        A boycott of the last race, especially if the championship is already decided, isn’t likely to have much of an impact since the decline is likely to be considered part of the usual dropoff.

        A much better idea would be an organised, publicised boycott of a very popular mid-season race. Ideally one which is also shown FTA, so the British GP for instance. If a huge number of people made a point of not tuning in for that race, then people may take notice.

        Unfortunately that simply isn’t going to happen.

        1. No it’s not, but I will take the time to complain as loudely as the turn-offs and to tell anyone who will listen why I am boycotting the last race, after all it’s not as if my not watching is going to come to their attention any other way, even if all F1Fanatics joined the boycott it would not set off alarms seeing as we are spread all over the world, but the TV program buyers need to know that the quick-fix pill Bernie has sold them is worse than the ailment they took it for. @mazdachris

      2. When F1 went behind a paywall, the thinking man would not of subscribed. Most ‘fans’ just put their hands in their pockets and paid. If the majority had snubbed it, F1 would be back FTA by know and there would not be any gimmicks because those in charge would know the fans would revolt. As it stands I expect it carry on down this path as mugs will just continue to support them whatever they do and moan about it.

        1. Tiomkin, I’m sorry, but that’s just naive. Sky F1’s viewing figures are nowhere near the BBC highlights, but not only have they kept the experiment, they’ve expanded it to other countries. Sky F1 was never about the ratings – it was about the revenue.

    2. @don-mateo Which will make fans complain in the process, and allow Bernie to ram through his original idea of THREE double-points races? Be careful what you wish for.

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