So About These Medals…

So About These Medals…

It couldn’t have escaped your attention that Bernie Ecclestone has a new idea that he thinks will encourage overtaking in Formula One. The idea centres around the way the winner and subsequent finishers are awarded their ultimate prize, currently points that go towards a grand total which eventually decides the finishing order of the championship. It isn’t rocket science and it has worked ever since the championship was formed in 1950. Bernie though, thinks this should all change…

Bucking the trend of the last 59 seasons, Ecclestone is fully intent on introducing a medal system, much like how the Olympics are played out. The country with the most gold medals after two weeks of competing in the Games essentially wins the competition, and should it be tied between two nations, the the amount of silver medals is considered, then bronze. And having visited the Beijing Games earlier in the year, Bernie is convinced this is the way forward for Formula One.

Under Ecclestone’s proposal, the winner of the race will receive a shiny gold medal. The driver with the most at the end of the season is declared the world champion. However, Formula One is currently made up of two championships; the drivers and the constructors. But Ecclestone feels that the constructors championship should remain as it is, with 10 points being awarded to the winning team, 8 points for second, 6 for third, 5 for fourth and so on down to 1 point for the eighth-placed team.

Currently, I do not understand what happens to the fourth, fifth, sixth (seventh and eighth) placed drivers under Bernie’s new scheme – years ago the top six finishers received points, and this was changed in 2003 to close up the championship and hopefully help end the dominance of Ferrari which at the time, was putting many people off watching. Assuming it is only the top three drivers who would be now be involved in the awarding of medals, Ecclestone believes the necessity to overtake will be increased, thus improving the spectacle for the fans.

In 2005, Fernando Alonso took his first world championship after a season-long battle with Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. The championship was a good one, although Alonso was clever enough to realise that once he got the lead of the title, the need to push for wins wasn’t always appropriate. If Alonso was running in second place in a race behind Raikkonen, he would only lose two points – a margin which is easily recoverable when luck switched allegiance. And this is how Alonso played his championship campaign which resulted in much success as Fernando took the title with two races still to run. Alonso ultimately ended the year 21 points clear of Kimi Raikkonen, and more than double that of Michael Schumacher.

Under the medal scheme though, Alonso would still have been world champion, but it would have been much closer. Raikkonen and Alonso both won seven times, which would have resulted in seven gold medals each. However, Alonso brought his Renault home in second place a total of five times, Raikkonen only managing three runner-up spots. Of course, if it were medals they were going for, then maybe Alonso would have pushed harder in some races. And maybe the US Grand Prix would have gone ahead with a full field of drivers.

I disagree with having two different points systems as I feel it adds unnecessary confusion for new fans. If medals is the way to go, then it should be a blanket change across both championships. Similarly, if Bernie wants points, or to award farmyard animals to the podium-placed drivers, then the same should be applied to the constructors. I also disagree with Bernie that Formula One isn’t exciting enough. This year we saw plenty of overtaking; Nick Heidfeld passed two cars in one corner during the rain-soaked finale in Spa Francorchamps, Lewis Hamilton had more goes up the inside than you can shake a stick at and Felipe Massa also tried many times.

If there was any one race where overtaking wasn’t as regular than normal when it should have been plentiful (Valencia aside), then it would have to be Monza. Many drivers thought about it, but then decided to play it safe, considering the trouble Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa found themselves in the week previous. So perhaps the FIA need to ensure that if a driver does have a go at a pass, he isn’t then penalised two hours later*. That alone would encourage overtaking more than anything else. Improve the strength of the cars so they don’t fall apart at the merest suggestion of contact with another and you find yourself with a winning formula, do you not?

Ecclestone will put his idea to the FIA World Motorsport Council meeting in December, where he is confident it will pass judgment.

It’s going to happen. All the teams are happy. The whole reason for this was that I was fed up with people talking about no overtaking. The reason there’s no overtaking is nothing to do with the circuit or the people involved, it’s to do with the drivers not needing to overtake.

If you are in the lead and I’m second, I’m not going to take a chance and risk falling off the road or doing something silly to get two more points. If I need to do it to win a gold medal, because the most medals win the world championship, I’m going to do that. I will overtake you. Bernie Ecclestone.

Is Bernie playing the Mosley-game when he says “all the teams are happy”? I’m yet to read a quote from any of the teams about this proposed change, much like how the mysterious letters of support Max received during his saga in April never saw the light of day. One person who is happy to go on record though is future BBC pundit Eddie Jordan, and he isn’t entirely convinced it is a good idea…

I think it’s nonsense. The focus of everyone in Formula One at the moment must be on the current situation with costs and cost cutting, and nothing else. The rest is just dressing it up.

He’s tinkering with something that in my opinion he has lost the understanding of. He thinks people are only interested in winning the races. I’m sorry, but there’s just not enough thought put into this. It should be put to one side and discussed by him and Max Mosley, and for Bernie Ecclestone to say it’s coming with the full approval of all the teams, I simply don’t believe it. Eddie Jordan.

So what do you think about Bernie’s new idea – the beginning of a new era where drivers will really attack each other for wins? Or the heralding of another era where two teams win everything and the backmarkers come-and-go like the wind?

*Unless of course, it is absolutely and unequivocally necessary and obvious.


  • Changes to encourage overtaking will only work if the drivers aren’t scared of being penalised by the stewards when they do try to overtake.

    2008 was a season heavily marred by the stewards and inconsistent decision – if drivers are to be allowed and encouraged to overtake, rules need to be consistently enforced.

  • The bloke has lost the plot and I wish he’d just concentrate his efforts on his impending divorce instead. make an interesting point:

    A look back at the last 10 seasons reveals that the system being proposed would have changed the outcome of the World Championship on only one occasion: this year, when Felipe Massa won six races to Lewis Hamilton’s five . In the nine other seasons the champion would have been the same but the date by which the title was decided would be different. In four of the years the title would have been over before the end of August and in two cases it would have been finished in July.

    What’s to stop that happening again? How utterly boring will it be know that the drivers’ championship had been tied up with three or so months to go?!!

  • In four of the years the title would have been over before the end of August and in two cases it would have been finished in July.

    whoever it was that invited bernie to watch the olympics this year need shooting.

  • This year, although Felipe Massa was credited with one more win than Hamilton, he should have had three fewer. Hamilton won on the road after restoring the place to Raikkonen and being told by the Race Director that it was OK. The erroneous penalty reversed these positions so Hamilton 6 to Massa 5. However, in a complete departure from conventional practice at Valencia, Massa was found to have been released from the pits in an unsafe manner. Correctly applying a penalty here would again have reversed the results – Hamilton 7 Massa 4.

    Only one of these incorrect stewarding decisions on it’s own could have been corrected for the right result in the championship but neither were. Since any place below a win is worthless unless countback happens, the FIA’s efforts to prolong the title battle (putting aside theories of Ferrari favouritism) would have delivered the wrong result under Bernie’s proposed scheme.

    Since 2nd places have no value except in the event of a tie, the stewards ability to strip a driver of a deserved win in error gives them far too much power

    Also, Nelson Piquet Jr lucked into 2nd place in Germany. That would place him above Webber and Trulli, although Glock would survive above him on countback of 4th places. It would however put him and Glock behind Nico Rosberg on countback of third places.

    It’s down the field where this system can make more of a difference. The drivers in the McLarens and Ferraris made a lot of mistakes this year but in most years would be expected not to. Someone might work hard for consistent 4th, 5th and 6th places throughout the year which would count for nothing against a lucky second.

    And yes, as people have pointed out, mostly the season would be decided quicker – giving the FIA more reason to try to make more cack handed alterations earlier in the season to try to keep it alive.

    Have I missed anything?

  • I’m all for giving this idea a chance to be honest. For once it doesn’t seem to be a kneejerk reaction to stop the previous winner from winning again next year – surely this type of thing would suit Hamilton’s style given that he struggles sometimes to grasp the idea of not going for wins…

  • Nutty. I think it’s a way to divert attention from his sad personal matters…(wait a minute…Ron and Bernie in the same year….spooky…and a tasteless innuendo…) and to also divert attention from the real problems of F1, being rapidly escalating costs caused by ‘cost-reduction’ measures and dreadful stewarding.

    Medals are not a dumb idea because they’re different, they’re a dumb idea because it won’t change the show.

  • Okay, so this is tenuous…but…

    Having spent a great deal of time in Korea, I can tell you they totally dig the Olympics. Samsung is a massive sponsor of the Olympics and LG are pretty jealous about that. Samsung also runs the World Cyber Games which hands out medals and is considered ‘the Olympics of e-gaming’ (their words).

    So, the wallahs at LG have said, ‘I say, old chum, we rather like the Olympics. How about we switch to medals rather than pesky points? Here’s a few mill if you can manage it…’

    It might seem silly, but the Koreans are still seriously proud about the Seoul games…

  • I think this is just Bernie tinkering with things which don’t need changing. Reasons why this system wouldn’t work are:

    – The championship could, in theory, be decided by the end of July in 2009. So what would be the point of competing any further or watching the rest of the season?

    – What motivation do the team and drivers at the back of the gird have for being motivated? If the top 3 places are dominated by the same drivers each race, then would there really be anything to aim for?

    – Consistent, professional and tactical driving isn’t rewarded but dare I say it, aggressive, dangerous and “anything to win” attitude is.

    Bernie, stop messing around with an excellent sport. The 2008 season was by far the best I’ve watched and it wasn’t over until the last corner. How can you say there was no over taking when it was exactly overtaking itself which decided the championship.

    No wonder your wife is leaving you!!

  • While it’s certainly not a bad idea to have medals in F1 and points for the constructors, I’d personally like to see the MotoGP points scoring format come to F1. The gap between the first three places is 10 points which will “goad” the racers to overtake and giving points to the first 15th finishers will ensure that even mid-fielders/backmarkers get points and we are interested in even their championship position. As of now, I lose interest in who is where beyond the top six or even five. (The number goes down as the C’ship becomes narrower :P) So yeah, MotoGP points is what we ideally need, but if that can’t come, then I’m open to medals. But then again, if Hamilton or Raikkonen or Massa do a Schumacher and win something like the 8 outta 10 races, they’ll only need to race the remaining races for constructors points. And that’ll make racing “pointless”. Let’s see. Hope things turn out for the better and the points system is overhauled in a suitable fashion.

  • There are two possible reasons for this nonsense. Either Bernie is trying to destroy F1 so that he can set up his rival GP1 championship or this is part of a plan to keep Max in power. He will start all this nonsense about how he is the only person who can stand up to Bernie. I favour the latter because the FIA have not commented on this until today instead of saying on day one that Bernie had no say over the points system.

  • The idea of letting the guy with the most wins become champion is self-evidently a good one.

    You mention Alonso’s title campaigns.. a bad start for Ferrari, then a Schumacher going all-out to win every race and a careful (boring) Alonso. It doesn’t matter whether the championship goes to the last race or not, it was pretty pathetic having Fernando looking like an old woman for pretty much the whole season and Schumacher looking like the knight in shining armor..

    Lewis’s (first) title will similarly forever be tarnished by the fact that he almost lost the championship through his “go slow and keep out of trouble” antics at the last race. It was once again a pathetic season end for a “champion”.

    It’s not Alonso’s or Lewis’s fault. I’m sure they would have preferred winning the race and the championship. As things stand, the two Ferrari drivers would have made worthier champions because they at least tried to win every race..

    The points system thus clearly sucks for the driver’s championship at least at the front; which in all honesty is all that counts. Being 4th or 5th makes no difference even to the drivers. It’s the wins and podiums that matter.

    The constructors championship is similarly unbalanced. Here people do care whether they come 7th or 8th!

    Unfortunately with the grid as tight as it has been recently giving points only to the first 8 cars produces a shamble lower down the grid. 2x Ferrari, 2x McLaren, 2x BMW, 1x Renault, means that there is only one slot left for getting (low and behold) one championship point. Leaving aside Toro Rosso’s emphatically unfrozen engine advantage, we would have ended up with the rest of the grid on no more than a few points, most of which come from sheer luck, be it choosing the right tires at the right moment or being lucky with the safety car.

    Bernie’s idea of two different scoring systems is thus not a bad one:

    Driver’s championship: focus on top few places, reward wins and podiums.

    Constructor’s championship: focus on true performance over the season, reward consistency with both cars.

    The thing that’s worst about the medal idea is the medals. It’s not the olympics; it’s not a true “sport”. “Wins”, “2nd places”, “3rd places” is much appropriate. Same points system as the constructors on top of that.

    Constructors: Give everybody who finishes points, not just the top eight. How about 25, 20, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

    This way you can get the top runners to take the risk to overtake (no time for losers), while letting the constructors rankings reflect their true pace. Or phrased negatively: no more driver crowns without risk and no more arbitrary constructor’s rankings.

    Perhaps also fewer crashes down the grid, because finishing lower than 8th is still better than not finishing.

    At the moment, it’s all crashes and overtaking down the grid as the desperate scramble for 8th place intensifies and all prudence and judgement at the front. I for one, would like to see things the other way around.

  • I think last season has been one of best in terms of winners, driving, overtaking and excitement. Changing it to a medals system will only make it worse.

    Last season there were 7 different winners, BMW and Torro Rosso were muscling in on the top 4 and Renault returning back to form.

    By included a medals system, it will make teams focus on specific races and less on others, so we will see domination on certain circuits by McLaren and Ferrari even more so than there is at the moment.

    If anything, add another 2 points to 1st place and make them need to overtake to win the Championship!

    It also smacks of Ferrari International Assistance!

  • After trying to consider all the options, I must say that Akshay’s idea of using the MotoGP points system is a good one. I think Bernie has a good idea in trying to increase the battles for a podium finish, but it is being done in poor fashion by rewarding only the top 3 drivers. What I would do is award points to the top 10 or 12 finishers- this allows for increased midfield battles- but make the point margins bigger for P1-P3. That way you have motivation for not just sititng back in P4, and the teams battling their way up the grid have more of a reward than under the current system.

    Also, while Frank’s idea is well-taken, I disagree that every finisher sould get points. I am in favor of opening up more of the grid to points, but the drivers should need to battle for something during the race. Otherwise, a driver could sit back in P20 all day and get a point that could impact the championship chase.

  • Weather or not Bernie changes the point system or not, I believe he has already damaged F1 reputation as being the elite in motor sports. I heard more backstabbing, complaining and just down right rude comments from not only fans but also drivers and team members this year. It does not matter if we have point or medals next year, it matters that F1 broadens its fan base and with Bernie chopping circuits off the calender and excluding North America, that is going to be hard to draw in more fans. When it comes to overtaking do not only look at the stewards and the penalties that are handed out, look at the tracks and the ability of the drivers also as a reason

  • Gold ledals are exactly the wrong approach! That’s only going to effect the 2 front cars! Stupid! We want to see midfield overtaking!!!!!! And on top of that stop changing things all the time, last year there was quite a lot of overtaking. Only change needed would have been even less aerodynamics.

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