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Medals, or meddling?
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Medals, or meddling?
Posted By:   |  27 Nov 2008   |  8:06 pm GMT  |  23 comments

The discussion about the medals system potentially coming into F1 has set fans buzzing again, since Bernie Ecclestone stated, “It will happen, ” on Wednesday.

We’ve had lots of intelligent and insightful feedback on this and I have to say that the antis outweigh the pros so far. I also noted Eddie Jordan’s comments, where he laid into the plan and virtually accused Bernie of being out of touch. This is clearly a foretaste of the kind of comment we can expect from dear old Eddie when he is unleashed as a pundit on BBC next year…what would he have said about the ruling on the Bourdais/Massa collision in Fuji, or even the penalising of Hamilton at Spa? He’ll have the stewards reaching for the smelling salts next year.

The teams I have spoken to give this initiative a cautious welcome, but with quite some reservations. They see it as a very big step that needs to be thought through and presented properly. No-one is in the mood to shoot ideas down at the moment, because we are in the ‘phoney war’ phase of the FOTA/FIA/ Bernie tussle, which will start to heat up more next week, when FOTA meets on Dec 4th and the FIA world council on the 12th.

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23 Comments
  1. Mark says:

    However if, in the Brazilian race, Lewis Hamilton had needed the win to have a greater tally than Felipe Massa then McLaren would have approached the weekend totally differently and may well have been up there at the front with Ferrari.

  2. Gavin says:

    The notion of a lack of interest from the 18-24 or younger age groups seems to have been bourne out in a poll I voted on at another motorsport forum lately: more specifically, the drop-off in numbers of those who claimed to have become interested in the sport in the last six to ten years, as I did (from ’01 to ’02-ish), as opposed to rather more time ago than that, was… stark. To say the least.

    Personally I felt that it was a creditable idea were Bernie’s aims indeed those basically stated by James. Looking at today’s Autosport magazine, I’m not disagreed with by Mark Hughes…

  3. Ollie says:

    A couple of points to make, but first of all, a nicely balanced article – there aren’t too many around on the subject of medals at the moment!

    on four occasions the title would have been decided in August and on two occasions in July.

    …which obviously wouldn’t be great. One of the reasons for changing the points system from 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 was to help draw out the championship when Ferrari were walking away with everything mid-season. With the 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 we have seen a fair few titles go down to the wire. And in 2008, pretty much the last corner! Spectacular to say the least. With more chances of the title being wrapped up early on, well, would anyone of these 18-24 year olds watch the last few races…?

    If you misjudge your lunge and ‘cause an avoidable accident’ you could be in for a stiff penalty at the next race

    I feel more should be done to the stewarding process to encourage overtaking. We all saw in Monza drivers think about it, and then think again. With rules written in stone that make sense and are understandable, and with consistent adherence to already laid-out penalties, there shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe then the drivers would feel better about making an attempt to pass.

    One of my readers, Alex, asks why doesn’t Bernie consult the fans? Well they don’t consult the fans on technical regs, or on where to place the cameras at a race track, so I guess they would ask, why consult them on this? That said there have been fan surveys in recent years, notably by the FIA and ING and it’s good to see that the fans’ point of view is being taken on board.

    So as a fan yourself James, how exactly do you feel the fan’s views are taken onboard? Okay, the FIA have done two surveys in the past and ING have done one this year. The results of the FIA’s survey? Pretty much ignored as far as I can tell. I know there are many reasons as to why Suzuka took a sabbatical from the championship, but seeings as it scored so well in both FIA surveys, you’d think more could have been done to save it’s spot. Unfortunately (and in my opinion), money spoke louder than words the day Fuji was brought on as host of the Japanese Grand Prix.

    Just because someone asks how I am does not mean they are listening. And just because someone asked me what I thought about F1, it doesn’t mean they listened then either.

    (I’ll stop ranting now and let a proper discussion about medals take place! ;) )

  4. Matt W says:

    If Bernie wants people to be able to overtake for the lead, why doesn’t he get rid of some of the tracks where overtaking is impossible. Some of the new tracks like Valencia and Singapore have been a big step backwards in circuit design. Then you have to consider the way the sport is policed, which currently penalises drivers for attempting to overtake.

  5. Alex says:

    Hi James,

    The new rule wouldn’t take the sheen off Lewis’s championship as he actually won the most races last year (6 to Massa’s 5). Massa did not win Spa Lewis did, no matter what the FIA decided to do afterwards. In fact if Lewis had finished 6th in Interlagos Massa’s Championship win would have been a complete outrage because he would have won on win countback.

  6. Akshay says:

    I’m not exactly averse to the idea of having medals in F1, because I strongly believe that the guy with the most wins should be the Champion. On the other hand, however, if either Massa or Raikkonen or Hamilton do a Schumacher, the Championship will probably be sown up in about 10 races (assuming one of them wins 8 outta 10). The only thing they’ll race for then, is the Constructor’s Championship. Which is pretty stupid. But then again, we won’t have Championships that are played safe and only require a 5th place finish. Given the “car characteristic circuits” we have seen this year and the last, it’s unlikely that anyone will sew the Championship up in about 10-12 races. Personally, I feel F1 should introduce the MotoGP points scoring format. The gap between first and second (and third) places is large enough to “goad” racers into overtaking and the number of places that get the points will ensure that even midfielders have a good battle that the audience as a whole will be interested in. I say this because neither my friends nor I are interested in who is where after the top five or six places and this number becomes smaller and smaller as the Championship progresses. So, I feel that we need to introduce MotoGP style points scoring system and if that’s not possible, I wouldn’t mind the medals.

  7. pinkypants says:

    I wish we could just get back to racing without the FIA/ Bernigate politics…. then I’d watch every GP

  8. mattanddebz says:

    Medals and points!? That’ll definitely bring a “best of the rest” approach to the F1 standings.

    I much prefer the idea of dishing out more points. 1 for pole position on a Saturaday, 1 for fastest lap, etc. Maybe 1 for Martin’s “driver of the day” and 1 taken away by Eddie’s “idiot of the weekend”.

    The main problem with suggestions of tinkering with points systems is that nobody really knows how they’ll work out. We may find we have one of the most exciting seasons ever thanks to a new system, or we may luck out and have a championship wrapped up by the middle of summer!

  9. Andy Fov says:

    Interesting point made about F1 appealing to over 25s. I wasn’t remotely interested in the sport till I hit that age.

    Watching a chasing car claw back 2 tenths a lap over 15 laps isn’t for the impatient ‘everything now’ generation. I accept that some of younger demographic crave more immediate thrills, but American wrestling already exists to entertain people with short attention spans. I’d hate to see F1 dumbed down to a demolition derby level.

  10. Aaron James says:

    I originally wrote this on the Autosport Forum but I’m reposting much of the thinking here as your blog posting really set off something for me.

    I think one of James Allen’s interesting observations (Medals or Meddling), and one we’ve not largely considered here, is that Bernie’s proposals revolve around getting more 18-24 yr olds interested in F1 with F1 now seen as a more late twenties+ sport.

    That’s interesting in two ways:

    a) Clearly those in the late twenties + must have become passionate about the sport in their youth, why aren’t young people interested in F1 anymore?

    Well the answer here is in my opinion very clear – Bernie has pursued commercial strategies which harm grass roots engagement in motorsport and F1 especially. By placing such punitive commercial demands on race organisers ticket prices have been pushed out of reach of all but the most determined fans. It is in no way feasible for an average family to attend a Grand Prix now. When you think average household incomes in the UK for example are less than £30,000, of which less than 10k of that is at all ‘discretionary’, spending close to, if not over, £1000 to attend a race weekend is not really possible.

    To exacerbate this, he has pushed the cost of hosting a race so high that the crucible of motorsport in Europe has been forsaken for temporarily (oil and trade imbalance) rich autocracies frivolously spending their citizens money. How is it possible for an 8yr old to get passionate about watching processions in sand pits or concrete business estates in Asia? Not very. He’s outsourced F1, and like how outsourcing IT has seen a dearth of new IT talent coming through the university system, it’s seeing fewer kids grow up to be F1 fans.

    So Bernie has had an epiphany has he? Is his short sighted running of the sport finally come home to roost? If so, it took years to manifest itself, and as such will take years to repair. Adding ‘gold’ medals wont do a pinch of damn.

    b) Those that _can_ ‘afford’ F1, on average fit a quite specific demographic. Well educated, relatively affluent people who view themselves as sophisticated and high brow sponsors can target them better in F1 than pretty much anywhere else. Dumbing the sport down, or otherwise debasing the sport to appeal to ‘yoofs’, (the now teenagers who had the sport been run better would have had an indoctrinated love of the sport ingrained into them well before pubescence), is going to turn off the guys who actually do still love the sport.

    I grew to love F1 because as a kid growing up in Adelaide there was nothing quite like hearing and seeing the turbos belting around the parklands. It is ingrained, and no matter how much havoc Bernie and co wreak on the sport F1 will always be something I remain wide-eyed about.

    But then, my parents could afford to take us all to the races every year and not have to sacrifice dinner on the table to do it.

    Bernie has screwed up royally with his short-term commercial approach to the sport. Young people don’t get to experience what many of us (now in our mid to late twenties) did as kids. It’s no wonder then, they don’t have a love for the sport we do.

    I’m scared out of my mind that Bernie is, who seems to be growing increasingly desperate, going to do stupid things to appeal to teenagers and young men who don’t inherently care about the sport. People he could have easily turned on to the sport in the late 90s and 00s by not employing a commercial strategy purely predicated on massive (and therefore only short-term) commercial gain.

  11. Dermot Keelan says:

    If Bernie wants to create more competitive racing at the front of the field in F1 then how about a points format like so: 16-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.

    It is similar to the old 10-6-4-3-2-1 which placed much more importance on races victories. I think such a format would also lead to much more intense racing between teams outside the top 3 teams.

    But as it stands now if a 2 drivers fighting for the championship are running first and fourth the driver finishing fourth only loses 5 points to the winner. Under the format above that would be an 8 point deficit which could be reduced to 6 points if the driver in fourth were to make an attempt to pass for third position.

    Restructuring, rather than scrapping the points format should be what Bernie is proposing.

  12. Kevin M says:

    Nice article James.

    My concern with the idea of medals is that, as stated by Ollie, we moved away from the 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 points system to tighten up the championships. That seems to have worked and the last two drivers championships have been decided on the final day in Brazil. So with that in mind you would have to say the desired effect was achieved.

    This effort to tighten up the championship has also had the opposite effect. I believe the points system now in effect means there is not enough reward for winning races. This creates a scenario where long term, once an entire season is completed, Formula 1 looks like an exciting sport to follow.

    The closeness of the championship creates an illusion that the racing is also very close. There’s no incentive to have close racing when there is the chance of being penalised by the stewards if something goes pear shaped. There is no reason to take that risk for the low reward of an extra 2 points just to win a race. Drivers and their teams play the long term game. So each race in itself is losing its spectacle. Race winners are now the first car to get to turn 1 and passing a car is something you try to achieve via a pit stop. That’s hardly the thrill ride that Formula 1 is meant to be.

    So is the medals system the answer to these issues? I’m not so sure. If the reasoning behind medals is that the person who wins the most races will win the championship, then thinking behind this idea is right. As a fan, you want the drivers to be desperate to win. All too often drivers will now settle for second place. At the same time, a driver who never finishes in the top 3 doesn’t really have a lot to show for their season. The constructors points this driver wins aren’t exactly going to win over fans as they are ineffectual for the driver themselves.

    I’m not sure what the right solution is, but whatever is put in place needs to have equal importance short term as it does long term.

  13. Al27 says:

    The problem with attracting 18-24 year olds is surely to do with the lack of action in some grand prix?

    Medals are neither here nor there if we end up with too many Valencias.

    Overtaking, close racing and action are what draw people to F1 racing. This is supposed to have been fixed for next season – lets see if that works before messing around with minor things like points or medals.

    Sounds like Bernie’s trying to fix a problem which doesn’t exist.

  14. Mike Ellison says:

    I agree with Aaron. Bernie’s at cross-purposes with himself. Does he want the money or the audience? Just like soccer squeezes every last penny out of the fans, he’s positioned F1 to do just that. Now he turns around and wants “youth” to take an interest. Hmmm… blow hundreds of pounds on a weekend with the lads or put that money into your chick-magnet Civic? Nah, watch the race on TV.

    I still maintain that the medals system will only see wild stabs at overtaking by the 4th place guy because the penalty of losing a medal is too high. It would actually be better to drop the medals idea and just do it on a simple count of wins and if there’s a tie, the first guy to get that number of wins is the champion.

    My preference is to keep the current points system unchanged and to have a new FIA boss that is strong enough to keep Bernie out of the rule-making.

  15. gareth price says:

    Well balanced article James!

    Personally I’m all for mattanddebz’s ideas

    “1 (point) for pole position on a Saturday, 1 for fastest lap, etc. Maybe 1 for Martin’s “driver of the day” and 1 taken away by Eddie’s “idiot of the weekend”.

    Brilliant, especially the last one!

  16. pinkypants says:

    James, why does Bernie hate Britain and the British so much, or is all this just a coincidence? I really wish he would try and be a little bit more supportive, I guess he can make better money elsewhere…

  17. Jonathan says:

    Bernie has completely lost the plot here. The whole idea of medals is just horrible. His notion that the drivers don’t take risks or try hard enough is absurd.
    I honestly think that this idea is a direct result of his impending divorce. He’s not in command of everything in his life for a change and needs to take charge.
    Ridiculous.

  18. C.D. says:

    Perhaps I’m just a sentimental fool, but I get tired of this need to “reboot the system” to make things appealing to younger folks, ala James Bond.

    I came to the sport decades after it was established and didn’t need rule changes to get interested.

    In fact, I’d say one of the things that turns people off most is the ammount of rules manipulation that takes place, whether its Bernie or Max or the teams. Engines, electronics, rules, points system. Enough already.

  19. speedmerchants says:

    JA writes: C.D, I like your point. But I’ve always thought that F1 should make a virtue of the fact that F1 progresses so quickly, it is a fantastic laboratory of vehicle technology, so it HAS to change the rules from time to time to control speeds and improve safety. THis is something you don’t need to do in football, for example, but if you didn’t make changes to the cars from time to time they’d go around the corners so fast the drivers necks would snap! And right now it’s important that it reflects modern trends hence the KERS and other green initiatives. F1 cannot become a 20th century dinosaur.

  20. evil g says:

    How many 18-24 year olds watch the Olympics, where they have the medal system? None. This is a well known problem for the IOC because their main audience are in their 40s.

    The Champions League and Premiership football are points based [followed by it going to knock-out in the CL].

    Perhaps somebody who is a yoof should tell Bernie that there are no medals in football.

    What an attention seeker he is. What a stupid idea.

  21. Alex B says:

    First off, I want to say thanks for mentioning my question James, it made me feel a bit special…

    …but back on topic, I think the root of my criticism about not asking the fans, is that the medal system is a fundamental change to F1 (on the surface at least), whereas technical regs and camera positions aren’t – they are a natural progression, whilst the idea of a medal is quite a radical overhaul!

    No longer will we see big, extravagant, and often, insane trophies – but a winning driver proudly holding aloft…a tiny little gold medal – it doesn’t really have the same impact, does it? Why not get rid of the champagne aswell, and have the drivers spray lager at eachother, you know, so the average, modern man can relate…

    I suppose what really annoys me, is that what Bernie really wants to do, is introduce a rule saying that the driver who wins the most races, wins the Championship – but he’s too scared to do so with the current trophy system. Instead, he is hiding it behind the medals, to make it look new and exciting – when, in my opinion, it will just look tacky.

    On another note, I only started watching F1 around 2004-05, when I was about 16 years old – none of my family or friends watched F1, so I had no reason to be interested in it. Furthermore, the negative press about the domination of Schumacher put me off, as why would I want to watch the same man winning all the time?

    However, I got hooked for some reason when I just decided to watch a race one day, and I’ve barely missed a race since. Going back to my mindset 5 years ago, I doubt that a medal system would have attracted me much, whereas a fantastic, controversial young talent such as Hamilton (also would have helped that he’s British!), would have got my interest much quicker!

    The key problem with the current state of F1, is not the lack of overtaking, or the points system, but the stereotypes that are linked with the sport. A comedy program, one week after Lewis had won the WDC, made fun of F1, not about the lack of overtaking, but about the nature of the sport – cars going round a track, driver vs technology, boredom – and I don’t think a medal system will change this much…

    *sorry about the rant…*

  22. Bob Massey says:

    Okay, if we’re rethinking points here, how about being really radical… how about points for grid position (as has already been proposed in these comments) but why not a single point for each lap led?

    Okay, so the end of season scores could get pretty large, but we often see races where unlikely people lead races, even if only for a few laps during pit stop windows, and those could add up.

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