Had his controversial Olympic Games-style medals system been in-place this year, Jenson Button would have had to work harder to secure the 2009 F1 Drivers' World Championship – that is the view of the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone.
The Brawn GP star wrapped up the laurels one race early in the Brazilian Grand Prix at the weekend, taking the chequered flag fifth at Interlagos to emulate the achievement of McLaren-Mercedes compatriot Lewis Hamilton twelve months earlier.
With team-mate and home hero Rubens Barrichello finding himself consigned to a lowly eighth place following a puncture, the four points Button claimed were comfortably enough to seal the deal – and means the pressure will be removed in the inaugural Abu Dhabi finale in just under a fortnight's time, as well, arguably, as the tension and the excitement.
The seed of Button's success was sown when the British ace triumphed in six of the opening seven grands prix of the campaign, and though he has not ascended the top step of the rostrum since – with indeed just a sole podium finish to his name from the nine races since Istanbul back in early June, at Monza in September – the damage was done.
Whilst acknowledging the size of Button and Brawn's accomplishment this year – having faced extinction last winter after parent company Honda suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the plug on its involvement with the Brackley-based outfit – Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone argues that had his medals format been instituted, the championship fight would likely be very much still alive.
“You know that I do not like the current points system,” he told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
. “In my system, he would not have won the first six races. This year is a strange year. Brawn GP benefitted from their superiority in the first half of the season.
“When it comes to having to win races to become world champion, the other teams might wake up earlier [than they did in 2009]. My approach is that the man with the most victories will be world champion, because [with the current format], for two points' difference do you take the risk?”
Ecclestone went on to contend that, medals or no, he is convinced that the 2010 season will be a more exciting and compelling one than 2009 has been, with the ban on refuelling meaning more overtaking will have to be done exactly where it should be done – on the circuit.
“Next year things are going to change a lot,” stressed the 78-year-old billionaire. “There will be no fuel stops anymore; the drivers will be forced to overtake on the track. This year, half of the races were won by a clever strategy – in 2010 that will no longer be the case.
“The second positive effect is that for the audience, the races will be easier to understand. The fuel stops were a good show element when they were introduced, but now they are too highly automated. There are hardly any surprises anymore.”