Advice from Alice by Maurice Hamilton
F1’s organisers continue to focus on changing the wrong things
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?