Bernie Ecclestone has moved to deny speculation that his radical plan to replace the traditional Formula One points systems with Olympic-style medals for the top three finishers had anything to do with dissatisfaction at Lewis Hamilton being crowned as champion in 2008.
The sport's commercial guru claimed that his new reward system would not only provoke more overtaking, but would also see the driver with the most race wins crowned at the end of the year, rather than allowing drivers to take the ultimate honour by dint of better reliability. However, he denied that the suggestion had been made because of a backlash over Hamilton - who continues to struggle for universal acceptance - coming out on top in 2008. The Briton, who survived a last race scare at Interlagos, pipped Ferrari's Felipe Massa by a single point despite the Brazilian winning one more race during the year.
"Lewis is a worthy world champion and nobody was more delighted than I was that he won," Ecclestone told the official F1 website, "He was destined to be a champion and it was just a question of when, not if, he would win.
"The only thing I was uncomfortable about was that, under the current system, Lewis needed to finish only fifth in the last race to win the title and I don't think the fans go to races or switch on their TV to watch a great driver aim for fifth place. The want to see the best drivers in the world battling hard for a race win."
Many have pointed to a flaw in Ecclestone's argument for the implementation of the medal system - quite apart from the fact that it removes any incentive for the sport's smaller teams to battle for position further down the field - that could see the title decided well before
the end of the season. While each of the last four championships would have gone to the wire under Ecclestone's proposals, more one-sided affairs - such as Michael Schumacher's 2004 campaign - would have been done and dusted as early as the mid-point of the season.
"I think that can happen under any scoring system if one constructor dominates with a superior car, but I actually think it is less
likely under the gold medal system," Ecclestone insisted, "With four or five races to go, a driver who is three or four gold medals down could still win the championship, which is far less likely now if the difference between winning and second place is only two points.
"This is Formula One, the pinnacle of world motorsport, and only the best driver should win the title. Being a Formula One world champion is not about being a consistent and reliable runner-up. It's about racing hard, taking chances and not settling for second best. Last year, Hamilton was leading the drivers' championship before he had even secured his maiden win. Likewise, after Canada this year, Kubica led the drivers' championship on points even though Hamilton, Massa and Raikkonen had all won more races. Lewis and Robert are both extremely talented, but I don't think the system should produce that kind of result. It shouldn't be possible for someone to be crowned world champion without winning a single race, but that really could happen unless we change the scoring system.
"Back in 2003, we extended the points system down to eighth place which was great for the teams, especially the smaller ones, but it aggravated the problem with the drivers' scoring system because, by increasing the number of points for coming second from six to eight, we made the step from first to second place too shallow. That year, Michael [Schumacher] won the title from Kimi by only two points, but Michael had won six races whereas Kimi had won just one race. Kimi is a great driver and a natural racer, but I don't think it would have been right had he won the title in that situation. However, it nearly happened.
"[The medal system] will make Formula One a much more exciting spectacle because it will incentivise drivers to race to win. We should see much more overtaking, drivers will take more chances and they will race each other all the way to the chequered flag. At the moment, quite often we see drivers settling for second, third or fourth position, and the race can be dull in the final stint after the last round of pit stops. The drivers aren't to blame, they're racers, but the scoring system forces them to be too conservative. As things are, if they want to take the title, it is better to settle for a few, safe points rather than chase down the guy in front and risk going home with no points."