Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ecclestone gets gold medal for lunacy

I have tried to refrain from discussing the proposed plan by FOM leader Bernie Ecclestone that instead of a points system, the world championship will be decided by awarding medals (gold, silver, bronze). However, today Eccelstone has declared that this system will be introduced in 2009.

Basically the system would award the driver's title to the driver with the most gold medals. So in 2008, Massa would have won the title because he had 6 wins to Lewis Hamilton's 5 (6 golds to 5). The premise of implementing such as system in Ecclestone's rationale is that this would help increase overtaking because there would be more incentive for a driver to go for the win.

There are multiple criticisms and problems of such a scheme. In addition there are far less radical solutions that would keep the sport's historical context relevant.

We must consider race stewards in this equation. We have had plenty of drivers in 2008 go for overtaking opportunities and be aggressive in these opportunities in addition to race starts. Their reward has been getting penalized by race stewards. If Formula One is looking to get even more politicized instituting this system would be confirmation of the sports demise. I guarantee there will be a avalanche of protests of questionable driving else the penalty system is significantly overhauled.

Moreover, what about a driver that gets a lucky win due to rain conditions and never gets near what would have been the traditional points positions? Is that win more valuble then a driver that consistently finishes 6th or 7th in inferior equipment? I don't think so.

Why does not Ecclestone propose awarding the driver that wins the race with more points or increasing the gap between 1st and 2nd place (as was the case in Formula One's past). This was the case for many years until the points system was changed to award 2nd place driver with more points and to extend points allocations to 8th instead of 6th. In my opinion the current system is fine, as it rewards consistent drivers and teams. I am much more impressed with a driver and team that can consistently do well as opposed to drivers and teams that are sporadic in the sense that they are race winners one day and finish 6th or 7th the next. Nevertheless, if the system is to change, increasing the gap is very sensible.

Former Formula One team principal Eddie Jordan believes Bernie Ecclestone's plan to replace the Formula One points system is nonsense. Moreover, Jordan railed against the system saying to BBC Radio Five Live, " The points are necessary. I was one of the team principals in the team principals' meetings who advocated that the points should go down to eighth place because one point to a team down there is as important as a win is to the likes of McLaren and Ferrari and we must never forget that. I can promise you, having been in that position, two points against no points is a huge difference. Drivers like Massa, who started at the very bottom and worked his way up, know how important those points are at the back of the field. Everybody that's involved in the financial side knows how important it is and the extraordinary excitement there is for getting a point at the back. McLaren and Ferrari are working on a budget of perhaps 250 million, and then you have other teams like Force India and Toro Rosso, who to everyone's surprise won a race this year, who would have maybe ten or eight times less budget to play with, and inferior drivers because they're learning their trade and they will come and be world champions in years to come. But they have to find their feet somewhere, and that place has to be in the smaller teams because they're the people who take the risks. He's tinkering with something that in my opinion he has lost the understanding of. He thinks people are only interested in winning the races. I'm sorry, but there's just not enough thought put into this. It should be put to one side and discussed by him and Max Mosley, and for Bernie Ecclestone to say it's coming with the full approval of all the teams, I simply don't believe it."

I am with Jordan, I simply do not believe Ecclestone's statements that teams and the FIA are backing it. If they truly want F1 to be about 2, maybe 3 teams and destroy interest in the other teams and consign F1 to a spec series with no purpose other than for the sake of its own existence (as was having 2 open wheel series in the USA) they truly are mad. Moreover, I would be curious to how the Concorde Agreement relates to such a radical change.

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