Will Gray

Gray Matter: F1′s point to prove

Will Gray

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When Bernie
Ecclestone brought up his medal proposal again last weekend he instigated a new
debate about Formula One's points system - so has F1 got it right or is there
another change around the corner?

preferred 'winner-takes-all' style medal system was rejected in favour of a
25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-3-2-1 system this year, which replaced the
10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system and was brought in through a FOTA agreement with two
aims: to encourage drivers to fight more for victory and to allow the new teams
the chance to get some points on the board.

So far,
however, it seems to have done little to achieve either and has perhaps made
matters more confusing with the variety of points outcomes on offer and the
large gaps looking bigger than they actually are.

The current
points system sees the following positions...

1. Webber          202

2. Alonso             191

3. Hamilton        182

4. Vettel              181

5. Button             177

maximum 100 points remaining)

If the old
system were still in use, the points order would be...

1. Webber          80

2. Alonso             77

3. Hamilton        75

4. Vettel              74

5. Button             72

maximum 40 points remaining)

In fact,
the new system has actually made this year's closely fought title battle
slightly less tight.

With the
new system, the gap between Webber at the top and Button at the bottom of the
five title contenders is 25 points - the equivalent of a race win. In contrast,
the old system sees just eight points separating top and bottom - meaning
Button would need just a second place finish to get back up the top.

And as for
making it easier for teams to secure points, nine teams have collected points
so far this year - with all three new teams yet to get a score on the board.
Last year, every one of the 10 teams on the grid ended the season with points
in the bag.

But what
about Ecclestone's idea to simply award gold, silver and bronze to the top
three? Had that been accepted, the title battle would currently be...

1. Webber          4 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze

2. Alonso             4 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze

3. Hamilton        3 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze

4. Button             2 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze

5. Vettel              2 Gold, 2 Silver, 3 Bronze

(with four
medal awards remaining)

With Webber
and Alonso tied on four golds each, the Australian would be only narrowly ahead
by virtue of an extra third place - and Hamilton could easily leapfrog the two
with a single win due to the fact he has already secured one more silver medal
than his rivals. But it would already leave Button and Vettel with quite a task
to win two from the last four to have any chance of taking the title - making
things even less close amongst the top runners.

It also has
a fundamental flaw as it totally ignores a driver who drops down the field and
then fights back to claim a few precious points but doesn't make the podium.
Given the current engine usage rules, that could lead top drivers to just park
up to save their engines as soon as they realised the top three was

So while
Bernie's model may be interesting, it must never be adopted. Points must always
remain the way to decide the title destination and ultimately the simple fact
is that if the title battle is close, it will be close whatever system is used.

Once again,
then, perhaps Formula One should have stuck to the 'if it ain't broke, don't
fix it' approach...and all we can hope for now is that this debate does not go
on to mimic the qualifying debacle of a few years back, when the system was
changed time and time again.

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