So the FIA has decided to award the F1 world championship to the driver who wins the most races. This is an idea I have been championing for years, and it will produce a more legitimate world champion.
Racing is about winning races and the whole emphasis of everything should be on that goal. A championship based on points assigned for different finishing positions, puts an emphasis on consistency rather than excellence. Can you imagine any other sport where the champion could be the competitor or team that failed to win the most events? Can you imagine going to any other sporting event where you would be looking for the battle for fifth place as the crucial struggle to determined the champion? No. The guy who wins the most times is the champion.
Car racing managed for decades without much emphasis on series championships – the focus was on individual races – the Indy 500, the 24-hours of Le Mans, the Mille Miglia – and on the drivers who won those races.
Unfortunately, when series promoters decided to add the series championship concept to the race winner concept, they generally chose to use a points system which rewarded finishing positions other than first. And this produced championships where consistency is often more important that wins.
So, now we have a real series championship in which the F1 champion will be the driver with the most wins – pure and simple. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that there is some natural justice about the old championship formula and, if the new one would have produced different results, the genuine champions (as determined by the old formula) are somehow being cheated of the championship they deserve. Hogwash.
Any championship formula is artificial. The champion decided under the rules of the day is the genuine champion. If the rules change, the champion decided under the new rules is equally genuine. For example, the 10-race ‘playoff’ system in NASCAR Cup has made a huge change in the way the champion is decided but the NASCAR champions under the previous season-long accumulation of points or under the 10-race finale system are all genuine champions because they won the title according to the rules of the day.
Having said that, I would reiterate that the most genuine champion has to be the one who wins the most races, not the one who, through a combination of good but lesser finishes is the most ‘consistent’.
Those who advocate a wins-only championship formula – and there are many advocates of this idea – contend that it will produce battles for the win rather than ‘points conservation’ strategies – and that will produce better racing.
Unfortunately, the FIA has seemingly found a need to create a compromise formula in which everything else, including all the championship places below the top, are still based on the old, clunky points system. I continue to advocate that all the places down the list be based on the principal of the best finishing positions counting more (as is the case in the tie-breaker formula in the old points system – most wins, most 2nds, most 3rds, etc.). I worry that the expected positive effect of giving every diver an incentive to race for the highest finishing position in every race has been lost – and that we may still see race strategy based on points conservation rather than going for the best finishing position.
It’s too bad the powers that be did not fully grasp the opportunity to revitalize the championship formula and, instead, produced a compromised hybrid. Let’s hope that, compromised though it is, race fans learn to love this new championship formula and the way it rewards drivers who win races – the true champions..