(Image source: Anyul Rivas)
Formula 1 is, and has been for most of its history, a percentage game. More often than not, teams try to achieve their aims by plotting the lowest-risk strategy they can get away with, even if that approach means instructing their driver to perform conservatively. Why risk pushing your car at ten-tenths when you can win at seven-tenths?
The dichotomy is that the engineers and strategists in the teams don’t want excitement, drama and unpredictability (risk) because such variables play havoc with their computer algorithms, but fans who have paid a king’s ransom for a perch in the grandstands are there to be entertained (reward). It is frustrating, but you can’t blame the teams for doing their jobs.
Each wave of technical changes promises much but delivers little – the current hybrid cars are fairly entertaining (despite sounding like canned farts) but do little to resolve F1’s core issue.
The driver with the fastest car in qualifying is likely to win. There are no additional points for driving spectacularly or overtaking the most cars – but, in my view, there should be.
Here’s my points-scoring idea for how F1 can reward its hard-chargers, inject additional excitement into the races and encourage teams to adjust their strategies.
Bear with me.
New points scoring proposal
More overtaking? Yes, please.
Award 100 points for a race victory, perhaps 75 for second place, and reward every driver who is classified as a finisher with points (to discourage teams from retiring a car to preserve the machinery).
Award a sliding scale of points from ten to one for the top ten qualifiers on Saturday, plus ten points for fastest lap in the race.
Award three points for every successful on-track overtaking manoeuvre a driver achieves during a race, except for passes on a teammate. This is probably the hardest bit of the plan to implement as a team of data analysts and stewards may be needed to confirm what is and isn’t an overtaking manoeuvre, especially during complex and often chaotic opening laps.
This would serve two purposes. First, racers like Verstappen who scythe through the pack would be generously rewarded, and so would the likes of Fernando Alonso, who has overtaken plenty of cars these past seasons but has been the victim of some terrible mechanical reliability that has deprived him of points finishes. But you’d also open the possibility of teams deliberately qualifying further down the grid to maximise their points-scoring opportunities.
If, for example, you were Mercedes, and you were confident that Lewis Hamilton could overtake the entire field at a circuit with several overtaking opportunities, you might qualify further down the order, with an eye on the 100 points for a win plus a healthy overtaking bonus of, say, another 30-40 points.
The result? Lewis enjoys himself because he gets to race, he still earns the most points and the fans go away happy after a sensational race. There’s jeopardy involved because the possibility of getting involved in an incident is higher in the middle of the pack, but teams would have to balance that against the potential rewards.
At Monaco, qualifying strongly would be of paramount importance. But imagine Hamilton, Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel all choosing to start near the back around Spa or Silverstone.
Complicated? Perhaps, but it doesn’t really affect the on-track action. The key is continuing to ensure a race victory is the most valuable achievement in terms of points – but making a Grand Prix win earned the hard way more rewarding still.
And you can’t tell me that a sport as technologically advanced as F1 can’t work out a way of rapidly calculating points permutations during a race.
We might get more deserving champions, too. We’ve had title winners in the past who haven’t had to face much opposition during the season or have been paired with a subservient teammate, depriving us of an inter-team tussle at the least.
This restructure of the points system would have to be introduced at a seminal point in F1. Perhaps at the current key juncture in 2021. New technical regulations to encourage overtaking will already be introduced that year, so why not adapt the format slightly?
Imagine if the driver who combined strong overall results with deft overtaking prowess, and sublime speed across the race and qualifying were to win the title.
What are your thoughts on this radical idea? Please vote in the poll and then leave your comments below - I’ll do my best to respond to them all.
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