You know something has gone horribly wrong in Formula One when Ferrari fans agree with Sebastian Vettel.
That’s what happened earlier this week after the F1 Strategy Group and the F1 Commission decided to make the final race of the season worth double points as a way to spice up the driver’s title.
Many feel the move is a knee-jerk reaction against Vettel’s four straight crowns and his runaway championship this year, which the German wunderkind clinched with one-quarter of the season to go.
The idea didn’t go over well. It didn’t matter what team you supported, it was next to impossible to find anyone connected with the sport who praised the move to award 50 points for a win in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next fall.
Reigning champion Vettel said it best: “This is absurd.”
He rightly added that the double points rule “punishes those who have worked hard during a whole season. I respect the old traditions in F1 and do not understand this new rule.”
Agreement with the Red Bull star was almost unanimous, with fans and media alike universally deriding the change on social media. Even die-hard Ferrari fans – possibly the same louts who booed Vettel when he won September’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza ahead of the scarlet car of crowd favourite Fernando Alonso – found themselves on the same side of the debate as Vettel.
The blanket panning of the move also highlighted the fact that even with the Formula One Teams Association organizing several fan forums over the past few years, the sport really hasn’t made any strides in understanding the fans in the stands.
Fans and Vettel also had good reason to criticize: Not only is it a silly decision that flies in the face of fair competition, but it is also solves a non-existent problem with a solution that doesn’t work.
In all, 42 per cent of the total crowns handed out by F1 (27 of 64) have been decided in the final race. In recent years, 13 of the past 30 world championships have been awarded at the last grand prix, a clip of about 43 per cent. In addition, only 10 of the past 30 seasons saw a champion crowned prior to the penultimate race, which means a full 80 per cent of championships kept fans on the edge of their seats until the end of the year.
So, Monday’s double points decision is akin to the National Hockey League moving to alter the Stanley Cup finals because two out of every 10 series don’t go past game five.
This change is reminiscent of the push to modify the points system three years ago. At that time, the F1 Commission altered the points system to “encourage the race to win” by making them worth 25 points rather than 10 and extending scoring from the top eight to the top 10. In reality, the actual proportion of points really didn’t change that much and it’s more than doubtful that the new scoring system made any F1 driver want to win more. Similarly, a 50-point finale doesn’t add any impetus to take a chequered flag.
Let’s be clear: Anyone who has actually passed muster and reached the pinnacle of motorsport wants to win every race. It doesn’t matter to the guys in the cockpits if race wins are worth 50 points or 25 or one, they will push as hard as possible on every lap. And that goes for IndyCar, NASCAR and every other racing series.
To make matters worse, a double-points finale would have only changed the eventual title winner three times in the past 30 championships (2003, 2008, and 2012) and would have taken the title to the final race in six other years, but not altered the result (1987, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2005, and 2009).
In fact, in the past 30 years, the double points final race idea would have never pushed the title fight into the last grand prix and changed the outcome already in the books.
Possibly the most damning argument is that five drivers in the past 30 seasons didn’t need double points to come from behind to win the title in the final race (Prost in 1986, Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, Mika Häkkinen in 1999, Kimi Räikkönen in 2007, and Sebastian Vettel in 2010), which is one more than the new rule would have delivered over the same period.
On the other hand, the scheme diminishes the value of the other 18 races on the calendar, which now deliver half the points of the stop in Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps fans can make their feelings clear by demanding to pay only half price for tickets to the first 18 grand prix in 2014, including those going to Montreal for the series’ annual stop in Canada, since the results of those races only worth half of the Abu Dhabi event.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and F1 instead listens to its fans and reverses this daft decision.
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