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F1 Points System

One thing I don’t understand about F1 is the constant dissatisfaction with the way the points are awarded. For many years, the 9-6-4-3-2-1 format held sway and I saw nothing wrong in the system. Someone, somewhere, was unhappy, however, and occasionally the system was tinkered with, usually by counting scores only from a limited number of races. Drivers who scored in more races than this limit would have to drop points from the extra races.

This led to some interesting situations, with the champion not always having the highest points total. Inevitably, the system would be dropped, only to be tried again in later years when everyone had forgotten the injustices of the past.

The usual argument against the traditional scoring method is that it does not give enough credit for winning. The fact that a driver could win the championship through consistency rather than by winning the most races seems to annoy some people. And it’s true that winning a Grand Prix deserves recognition and reward; it is not something achieved with ease.

The chequered flag

The chequered flag

The problem is that it’s also unfair to ignore the lower places in a race. Finishing second may take just as much skill, effort and commitment as has the winner; it depends on circumstances such as how much of a battle for the lead there was, who has the better car and what setbacks were overcome. And it seems strange to penalize reliability and consistency in finishing every race in the points whilst perhaps not winning any of them.

So I do not think that there is a perfect system for awarding points. Whatever is decided will always be a compromise between the conflicting pressures to reward both speed and reliability.

The present 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system is a reflection of this conflict. Originally, the points for a race win were increased from 9 to 10 in an attempt to give more credit to the victor. The later addition of points for 7th and 8th places has resulted in a spread of the points that actually negates the earlier effort to reward the winner. Note that there is now only a 2-point difference between first and second places, as opposed to the old 3-point gap.

This has some bearing on the championship this year. Theoretically, Michael Schumacher can still catch and pass Fernando Alonso if he equals or betters Alonso’s performance in the first half of the year. But much depends on what happens to Alonso in the later races. If Michael wins all of the remaining races but Alonso comes second in each, the Spaniard will still be champion. It begins to look as if Michael has a Herculean task ahead of him, especially when we consider the reliability of the Renault.

And that is really my point; the scoring system still rewards consistency above everything else. All the tinkering of previous years has failed to get around the fact that, in a championship, it is more important to finish often than to win occasionally.

To my mind, this is how it should be. The winner of each GP has his reward, the place on the podium, the adoration of the crowds and a trophy for the mantelpiece back home. But the championship is much more about stamina and remaining in the hunt. It’s about lasting the course, rather than outright speed on a day when everything went right.

One Response to “F1 Points System”

  1. [...] race wins are all that matter. Consistency must always be an important part of the equation too, as I have argued before. And the strange thing is that, when we do get a year in which the driver with the most wins [...]

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