F1 has borrowed a leaf out of MotoGP's book and then taken it a step further still as it heads into its 2010 campaign, it would appear, with the proposal for a revised scoring system that would reward drivers all the way down to tenth place having now been tweaked by the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) to increase the gap between the winner and runner-up to seven points.
With as many as 26 cars set to swell the fray for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir in mid-March – following the additions of newcomers Lotus F1, Virgin Racing, Campos Meta 1 and USF1 – under the existing 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 format, 18 drivers would leave every race weekend empty-handed, offering little incentive to the midfield and back-of-the-grid contenders.
However, early in December the sport's governing body the FIA announced that it was to introduce a new scoring system from first place down to tenth as follows: 25-20-15-10-8-6-5-3-2-1 – not a world away from MotoGP's 25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the leading 15 finishers in motorcycling's premier class.
Now, following a meeting of FOTA's Sporting Working Group in London earlier this week, it has been proposed to increase the gap between the top two positions to seven points and reduce that between third and fourth to three, to read 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1.
The change has been designed in a bid to encourage overtaking and therefore improve the overall spectacle, something for which F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been pushing for some time. The current difference of just two points arguably makes a do-or-die move for the lead far less of an attractive proposition, with many consequently electing to simply settle for a safe second place.
“It is not because drivers don't want to take the risk,” Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner told British newspaper The Sun
, “but if the points difference between a win and second is two points it is not the end of the world, whereas if it is a significant number it adds motivation for them to push each other very hard.”
“I think there is some tuning of the middle range of the points system,” concurred Mercedes Grand Prix counterpart Ross Brawn. “There was a bit of a disparity in the gaps. It still has to be ratified by the F1 Commission, but that's the proposal.”
McLaren-Mercedes team principal and new FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh was perhaps surprisingly less persuaded of the need to boost the winner's advantage, but the Englishman told Reuters
that if the general consensus is that it should be so, then he will go along with it.
“We've got to go to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) meeting next Monday to see the outcome,” he confirmed. “I personally believe that changing the points won't make a radical difference, and therefore I am fairly relaxed if there is a strong opinion about tuning these points.
“The original idea was that if you increase the incentive to overtake, then drivers will try harder. Certainly most of the young drivers that I see in Formula 1 are trying quite hard anyway, so I'm not absolutely convinced – but at the same time we have got to be willing to change.”
As Brawn and Whitmarsh revealed, the alteration will need to be approved by both the F1 Commission and WMSC next month before officially coming into force, whilst the proposition for additional points to be awarded for pole position and fastest lap was not pursued, despite some drivers reportedly backing the initiative. The idea for two pit-stops to be compulsory in every race was similarly scrapped.