September 29, 2008

If I’m brutally honest, I have always found the current World Championship scoring system unsatisfactory.  The 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 framework dates back to 2003, to try and guard against a repeat of Michael Schumacher’s dominance in 2002, where he had the title wrapped up by early-July.  It’s rubbish, though.  The weight it affords a place negates the value of a Grand Prix win.  With three races left of a tight season in 2008, we are left with the rather tame prospect that Lewis Hamilton only needs three second-place finishes to be World Champion.  Indeed, this would be the case even if his main rival Felipe Massa won all the remaining rounds, a feat which would mean that Massa would have won exactly double the number of races Lewis has.

Another factor of the current system is that, as well as not sufficiently rewarding victory on the track, it can be utterly brutal in the case of failure.  Nothing wrong there per se, but considering the fact the current era of Formula 1 is characterised by its phenomenal levels of mechanical reliability, coupled to the meagre two point gap between a win and second, it can be near impossible to close down the gap that fate may have created.  This puts rather too much emphasis on lady luck for my tastes.

The scoring system’s role is to accurately reflect the flavour of a season’s racing and reward the single outstanding driver.  Despite its shortcomings, I do not believe that the 10-8-6 system has yet failed to do that.  However, as I have already intimated here, we could be facing that prospect this year.  The 2008 season has been all about Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.  The two have been involved in a summit duel, enlivened by the fact that neither man is particularly experienced in the pursuit of the world crown, causing mistakes and inconsistency.  Ultimately, though, there has been very little to choose between them over the balance of the fifteen races.  The current points gap between them is 7, which is perhaps a little harsh on Massa.  I decided to have a look at some alternative scoring systems.  This is, FIA delegates please note, a service charged on a consultancy basis.

The 2008 results at-a-glance (click image for full-size)



1. Twelve points for a win

This system addresses the issue of adequately weighting a Grand Prix win.  Points awarded, as before, to the top-eight finishers: 12-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.  As you can see, it reduces the gap to five points rather than seven, which is fairer on Massa.  It also sees Hamilton in the driving seat, which is fair on him considering the fact he has finished in the points twice more than his rival.  Most importantly, however, it offers Massa greater chances to close the gap.  Equally, it presents Hamilton the opportunity to finish the competition quicker if he is willing to adopt an aggressive, race-winning strategy.



2. Old-school

This system is a return to the pre-2003 scoring.  10-6-4-3-2-1 to the top six finishers.  This strongly rewards a victory, as with the 12-points system.  It also increases the challenge by reducing the amount of points available at every round.  Again, Hamilton leads.  However, the solitary point here is perhaps scant reward for his slightly greater consistency over the fifteen races.  This said, it is a fairer reflection of Massa’s five wins to Hamilton’s four.

10-6-4-3-2-1, +1 pp, +1 fl

10-6-4-3-2-1, +1 pp, +1 fl

3. Pole position and fastest lap

This system retains the 10-6-4-3-2-1 framework, but adds one bonus point for pole position and one for fastest lap.  Here, the gap is closed to nothing, and it’s all to play for.  The real beneficiary here is Räikkönen.  Already thrust ahead of Kubica by the results-only points, he is spectacularly rewarded for his 10 fastest laps and two pole positions.  Herein lies the weakness of this system, however, as it casts significant doubt over the value of fastest laps.  Räikkönen has equalled his own record for most fastest laps in a single season in 2008, but you’d have to be his mother to argue that he has been a particularly competitive participant in the title fight.  Fastest laps are funny things.  Over F1 history, they have fallen to Bertrand Gachot, Jonathan Palmer and Brian Henton.  Meanwhile, Ayrton Senna racked up only 19 in a stellar career.  One can just imagine how he might have reacted to losing a World Title by a single, fastest lap-earned, championship point.

10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 (best 12 scores only count)

10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 (best 12 scores only count)

4. Dropped scores

The dropped score system was a regular part of Grand Prix racing up until the late 1980s.  It was abandoned largely because of the 1988 season, where Alain Prost comprehensively outscored his teammate Ayrton Senna thanks to grinding reliability as well as speed.  However, only allowed to count his best 11 scores, it was Senna who prevailed in a season where he would generally win or crash out in the attempt.  This system – Best Twelve out of 18 scores counted – would address the issue with the current scoring where a mechanical retirement can cost you dear and then take three or four races to redress.  All well and good in March, but slightly less so with only three Grands Prix remaining.  Its downfall is perhaps that it is rather more complicated for the casual fan, or even the dedicated fan without an Excel spreadsheet.  Regardless, as you can see, it leaves the points exactly as they currently are under the current system.  However, the excitement value would be much higher.  Hamilton and Kubica have both scored 12 times, and would have to start discounting their lowest points-scoring placings the next time they added to their totals.  Massa, on the other hand, has only scored ten times, rendering the seven point gap much less of a handicap.  Räikkönen, 27 points behind with 30 to win, could be the real beneficiary.  The Finn’s title in 2007 came after he overcame a 17-point defecit with only 20 on the table.  Under the dropped score system, he could win the remaining three races of the season without having to lose any of his accrued points, having only finished in the top eight on nine occasions.


My favoured system here is the second one – 10-6-4-3-2-1 for the top six.  It sees Hamilton just shading Massa with three races to go, but offers him no option but to attack to keep himself in that position.  It also increases the value of a championship point, which is somewhat lacking in awarding them to 40% of the race starters as they are under the current framework.  It is also a system which worked just fine between 1990 and 2002.  What’s that old expression?  If it ain’t broke, fiddle endlessly with it?  No?


2 Responses to “Scoring”

  1. Marcus said

    Nice article… I’m equally sad in that I’ve pondered the change of scoring systems over the years and wondered what the various outcomes would be with the current World Championship. Glad to see someone has been even more of a geek than I and written it down! 🙂 Thanks!

    Its a good blog – keep it up!


  2. […] of the pre-season is the change to the scoring system.  Gone (but not entirely forgotten) is the flawed 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 framework, with number of wins now being the first deciding factor in determining […]

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