What’s The Points

I thought it would be interesting after three races to look at how the new scoring system compares to the previous two systems. On the left is the current top ten, in the middle as for last year’s points and on the right for the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system that preceded both:

1      Massa   39      Massa   16      Alonso   13
2   Alonso   37   Alonso   15   Vettel   13
3   Vettel   37   Vettel   15   Button   10
4   Button   35   Rosberg   14   Massa   10
5   Rosberg   35   Button   13   Kubica   9
6   Hamilton   31   Kubica   13   Rosberg   8
7   Kubica   30   Hamilton   12   Webber   6
8   Webber   24   Webber   9   Hamilton   6
9   Sutil   10   Sutil   4   Sutil   2
10   Schumacher   9   Schumacher   3   Schumacher   1

The new 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 system essentially scales up the points for the higher places by a factor of 2·5 or thereabouts but is more generous with the lower places:

Pos.   New   Old   Factor
1st   25   10     2·5
2nd   18   8     2·5
3rd   15   6     2·5
4th   12   5     2·4
5th   10   4     2·5
6th   8   3     2·66666…
7th   6   2     3
8th   4   1     4
9th   2   -     Infinity
10th   1   -     Infinity

Under this year’s system compared to last season’s, Hamilton and Button both pick up a position due to more kindness to lower positions. With the old 10-6-4-3-2-1 system, the three winners would be at the top, followed by Massa with two podiums and then the other four drivers to get podiums, which to me seems more right. (Tied points are separated by countback, who has the most wins else the most seconds, et cetera.)

The current points system seems to be a mish-mash of questionable decisions. In olden days, the emphasis on outright results rather than bullet-proof consistency was aided by only so many best scores counting. For example, in 1958, only the best six scores from ten races (plus the Indianapolis 500) counted, although this did not stop Mike Hawthorn with one win beating Stirling Moss with four wins despite Hawthorn dropping three scores! In 1991, dropped scores were abolished and 10-6-4-3-2-1 introduced. With increasing reliability, dropped scores had become a regular occurence at the top of the table and this was felt to confuse the public.

In 2002 in Malaysia, Michael Schumacher had a bad weekend; he finished third which was the worst result for his Ferrari that season. Otherwise he won eleven races with five seconds, sealing the World Championship in France with six races to spare. In 2003 in a reaction so kneejerk it was astounding Max Mosley did not break his own nose, the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system was implemented. After 15 of 16 races, this meant Kimi Räikkönen, with one win and six second places, still had a shout against Schumacher on six wins (Kimi needed to win with Michael not even getting a point for eighth; Kimi came second and Michael did get a point for eighth.)

Of the championships since, only 2008 would have spawned a different result under 10-6-4-3-2-1 scoring. Felipe Massa would have beaten Lewis Hamilton, 83 to 80 points. Without the controversial Belgium penalty, which demoted Lewis to third for Massa to inherit the win, it would have been Lewis’s title, 84 to 81. Personally, I thought that was a marginal decision by the stewards, some sound arguments for and against the penalty, but I think it best that and other decisions of similar controversy that season did not decide the title.

The two questions that should shape the points system are how many finishers should score and what should the ratios of points rewarded be?

The argument used for many years to resist giving points for more than the top six was that F1 is about the cream. However, in the old days, Formula One cars were a lot less reliable and mid-field teams could pick up decent point-finishes here and there because of that attrition. With modern reliability, the mid-field teams were struggling over the scraps behind the then big four of Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault. So eight points positions, yes, but not ten. There are only six or seven reasonably competitive teams and ten points-positions is just too many. I know the argument is it is difficult for smaller teams to appease sponsors without getting any points but this is F1, not school sports day, and no place for consolation prizes.

Ratio-wise, the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system seemed about right. Generally the driver with most wins should get the title, but not to the extreme of Uncle Bernie’s medal system. In 1982, Keke Rosberg won with one win (which he almost did not get) and under the most-wins-gets-the-title would have been fifth behind four drivers that achieved two wins. Rosberg got five other podiums and four additional top-sixes whilst others had more occasional good results and there has to be some balance between outright speed and consistency winning titles. (Note: back then it was 9-6-4-3-2-1 but would hardly have made a difference that year.)

My conclusion is the points system should be 20-12-8-6-4-3-2-1. I do not hold with drivers needing more incentive to win, these guys want wins so badly it hurts, but a points-system that gave more reward to speed over reliability would encourage designers to take more risks than they do now pushing the performance of the car, and more cars not making the distance would surely make F1 just a bit more interesting.

I will try to keep updating the title-chase positions according to the different points systems during the season. I did start this entry about a week ago but I have been a bit ill recently. The readers reader may be interested in this blog which (amongst other stuff) scores the new teams in their own championship.

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