Ad­vice from Alice by Mau­rice Hamil­ton

F1’s or­gan­is­ers con­tinue to fo­cus on chang­ing the wrong things

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Mau­rice Hamil­ton Mau­rice­hamil­ton MAU­RICE HAMIL­TON is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed full-time F1 re­porter and au­thor. A CAR con­trib­u­tor since 1987, he also writes for The Guardian in Eng­land and is the F1 com­men­ta­tor for BBC Ra­dio’s 5 Live F1.

THERE were mo­ments dur­ing the past few months when you could have been for­given for think­ing those in charge of run­ning For­mula One had been read­ing Lewis Car­roll’s Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land. Peo­ple sit­ting in com­mit­tee some­where had sug­gested an ex­pan­sion of the GP cal­en­dar and spread­ing the points from first to final finisher. Those in charge seemed more in­tent on tin­ker­ing at the edges rather than tack­ling fun­da­men­tal prob­lems head on.

On the first topic, I agree with Gun­ther Steiner when the Haas team prin­ci­pal says we should be cre­at­ing an air of ex­clu­siv­ity by cut­ting back the cal­en­dar in­stead of ad­ding to it. But I’m not so sure about his view that points could be awarded down to 15th place, never mind some­one else’s daft idea that ev­ery finisher should re­ceive some­thing for his trou­ble.

It was as if the de­ci­sion mak­ers had been look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion from the dis­or­gan­ised race penned by Lewis Car­roll when the Dodo Bird sud­denly declared: “Every­body has won, and all must have prizes.” It was an easy way out in Alice’s fan­tasy world. F1 ap­pears to be try­ing to do the same while ac­tu­ally mak­ing things more com­pli­cated by ad­just­ing the points struc­ture yet again. Is this re­ally nec­es­sary?

Many were against the last ma­jor change (for­get­ting the lu­di­crous Bernie Ec­cle­stone-in­spired dou­ble-point final round in 2014) when the cur­rent sys­tem was in­tro­duced in 2010 to re- place the pre­vi­ous spread of 10 points cov­er­ing the first eight fin­ish­ers. As a mat­ter of in­ter­est, I ap­plied the 2009 struc­ture as a com­par­i­son in 2010. Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Fer­nando Alonso would still have been first and se­cond but Mark Web­ber and Lewis Hamil­ton, third and fourth, would have swapped places. Apart from that (plus 12th and 13th as well as 15th and 16th switch­ing po­si­tions), there would have been no vari­a­tion on the points table. In re­sponse, you could ask: “So, what’s the prob­lem with mak­ing the change?” To which the re­ply surely has to be: “Why change at all and make the math­e­mat­ics more com­pli­cated for the ca­sual viewer?”

Say­ing that, one ben­e­fit of the cur­rent sys­tem is the win­ner is awarded appropriately, un­like the for­mer struc­ture when the gap be­tween first and se­cond, and se­cond and third, was ex­actly the same (two points).

With that in mind, you could ar­gue it’s hard to find fault with the scor­ing awards that lasted from 1961 to ‘90 when the win­ner re­ceived nine points, then six, four, three, two and one. Mak­ing it into the top six re­ally was an achieve­ment back then, if only be­cause re­li­a­bil­ity was woe­ful and there were oc­ca­sions when the or­gan­is­ers were some- times lucky if six cars ac­tu­ally fin­ished. In this era of cast-iron con­sis­tency, a top 10 fin­ish does de­serve some re­ward.

That aside, there is one fun­da­men­tal value that is surely worth remembering. Re­gard­less of the points struc­ture in place, the championship ought to be sec­ondary to proper rac­ing, with each Grand Prix taken on its merit and the world cham­pion be­ing the driver who has won the most races.

That’s not to say I’m agree­ing with an­other of Ec­cle­stone’s cheap sug­ges­tions that gold, sil­ver and bronze medals are handed out. The ob­jec­tive should be for each race win­ner to re­ceive a re­ward suf­fi­cient enough to pre­vent a championship be­ing won by a con­sis­tent run­ner-up.

There will be anom­alies in what­ever sys­tem you choose but I don’t buy the claim that sub­stan­tial points for the win­ner en­cour­ages early set­tle­ment of the championship to the detri­ment of the re­main­der of the sea­son.

There has been men­tion of the Michael Schu­macher years when he clinched the ti­tle as early as July and Au­gust. This ig­nores the point that most of the races in the early 2000s were com­par­a­tively dull in any case be­cause of Fer­rari’s com­plete dom­i­nance and the hap­less Rubens Bar­richello’s sub­or­di­na­tion as num­ber two. It’s bet­ter to look at Suzuka 2005: a truly bril­liant race run af­ter Fer­nando Alonso had claimed the ti­tle and proof that, once vi­sors are snapped shut, rac­ing driv­ers can’t help but do what they do.

More im­por­tant, surely, is giv­ing them de­cent cars to race rather than peer­ing through a look­ing glass at some dream world bear­ing no re­la­tion to what this sport ought to be all about.

One wise line from Alice in Won­der­land seems ap­pro­pri­ate here: “If you don’t know where you’re go­ing, any road can take you there.”

Is it re­ally nec­es­sary to ad­just the points struc­ture yet again?

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