Formula 1 drivers will have to 'try harder' from now on if they are to be crowned world champion, Bernie Ecclestone insists – as he pushes ahead with the introduction of his radical new Olympic-style gold medals system into the sport from 2009.
The F1 commercial rights-holder has come up with the initiative as a means of preventing the kind of situation that saw Lewis Hamilton clinch the drivers' trophy by a single point even though he finished only fifth in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos earlier this month. More overtaking, excitement, wheel-to-wheel battles and unpredictability, he reasons, has to be the principal driving force.
By contrast, Felipe Massa – who not only triumphed on home turf in São Paulo but indeed won more races than his McLaren-Mercedes rival over the course of the campaign as a whole – missed out on the ultimate laurels. Ecclestone is determined that such a scenario should not be allowed to re-occur – and under his new system, whereby gold medals are awarded for victories and the driver with the most gold medals at the end of the year prevails, it would not [see separate story – click here
“It's going to happen,” the 78-year-old told a press conference. “All the teams are happy; the FIA is happy. The whole reason for this was I got fed up with people talking about no overtaking. The reason there's no overtaking is nothing to do with the circuits or the cars – it's to do with the drivers not needing to overtake.
“If you were in the lead and I'm second, I'm not going to take a chance and maybe fall off the road or doing something silly to get two points, but if I need to get a gold medal, because the most gold medals will win the championship, I'm going to do that. I will overtake you, I promise you. That's what will happen.”
“This year, on a number of occasions Lewis did not bother to overtake Massa for that reason. If he'd driven for me and if he'd tried and made a mistake, I would have complained. It's just not on that someone can win the world championship without winning a race.”
Ecclestone added that he hopes to see the proposal ratified at the upcoming FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting next month, ahead of being brought into being in time for the start of next season. The Formula One Management chief executive also responded to suggestions that it would not be fair for a driver who won six times but failed to finish any other races to beat a rival who finished second 17 times but never reached the top step of the podium by simply firing back: “He'll have to try harder next year.”
There are, however, some misgivings about Ecclestone's idea, most notably that it could lead to the title battle being decided earlier than has been the case of late. The current top-eight points system was introduced in 2003, a season that saw Kimi Raikkonen take his duel with Michael Schumacher right down to the wire in the final outing at Suzuka in Japan.
Under the new system, though, the Finn – who triumphed just once all year to Schumacher's six successes – would have been out of contention two races earlier at Monza in Italy. Moreover, with gold, silver and bronze medals respectively for the top three finishers, the initiative would likely remove much of the incentive for the sport's smaller teams, for whom bankable results would become even harder to attain.
“In reality, [it is] difficult to see F1's minnows backing a system that would see them end the season empty-handed,” reasoned Adam Parsons of BBC Sport