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The Points Chestnut

I see Bernie Ecclestone has dragged the F1 scoring system into the limelight again, saying that there should be a greater points difference between winning and coming second. It’s a hoary old chestnut that has been tinkered with many times in the past and most changes have made things worse, not better.


Keke Rosberg, 1982

For once, however, I agree with Bernie – the gap between first and second is a bit close at the moment. But an increase to three points difference rather than two should be sufficient, otherwise we risk having championships decided by the halfway mark in years when one team is dominant. Interest in the rest of the season would just drain away.

Bernie’s other suggestion, that the championship go to the driver with most wins, would be a bad mistake, in my opinion. This puts far too much emphasis on winning instead of consistency. And 1982, a year in which the champion won only a single race, is the perfect answer to such a system. Although it is known as the year nobody wanted the championship, in fact it was the most closely-fought season ever. Incredibly, eleven drivers won races that year, Prost, Pironi, Watson, Lauda and Arnoux managing two victories each, while Rosberg, Patrese, Piquet, Tambay, de Angelis and Alboreto took one apiece.

In effect, Bernie is saying that Keke Rosberg did not deserve to be champion that year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Under Bernie’s proposal, the champion would have been Didier Pironi, on equal race wins and second places with John Watson but with a third place to swing the balance. One of Pironi’s wins was stolen in controversial circumstances from Gilles Villeneuve and was not exactly the kind of driving that deserves a championship.

Most of the other race winners shot themselves in the foot – Prost by squabbling with Arnoux all season instead of making sure that he beat him fair and square, Piquet by agreeing to take on development of Brabham’s new BMW turbo engine, and Lauda by being unable to overcome his under-rated teammate, John Watson. In contrast, Rosberg defeated whoever Frank put in the second Williams car (Reutemann, Andretti and Derek Daly were tried) and concentrated on always being near the front in a car that was not really competitive. He deserved the championship all right and it would have been an injustice to give it to anyone else.

It is too simplistic to say that 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 doesn’t become champion, it is always an exciting season of cut-and-thrust, nail-biting finishes and a championship decided at the last. Just ask John Surtees about that.

So I suggest you give the winner one more point, Bernie – that’ll fix it.

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