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Ecclestone explains why he feels medals will work

NEWS STORY
15/12/2008

With the FIA announcing that it will use "market research" in order to gauge public opinion regarding Bernie Ecclestone's proposal for the Drivers' Championship to be based on a medal-based system as opposed to points - which have been used since the championship began in 1950 - the F1 supremo has used his own website (formula1.com) to explain the thinking behind his proposal.

"My idea is that instead of points we should award medals to the drivers finishing first to third in a race," explained Ecclestone, "gold for the winner, silver for the second placed driver and bronze for the driver who comes third.

"The title will be awarded to the driver who wins the most gold medals in a season," he continued, "and if there were a tie, the number of silver medals won would be taken into account (and if still tied, it would be decided by bronze medals and so on)."

Asked to explain the reasoning behind the idea, he said: "It 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.

"This is Formula One, the pinnacle of world motorsport," he continued, "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."

However, while Ecclestone wants to see the Drivers' Championship decided on medals, he wishes to see the Constructors' Championship continue as is, based on points.

"I think we should keep that as it is, awarding points for places 1 to 8 as we do now. For the teams, constructor points are purely a financial matter as they determine a team's share of the annual prize fund. Fighting for a point or two really matters to the teams further down the grid and I don't see any reason to change that.

"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 6 to 8, we made the step from first to second place too shallow. That year, Michael 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."

Amongst other things, there has been speculation that, in certain circumstances, a medal-based system could see the title fight decided long before the final race, the last thing that Ecclestone would want, hence the change to the points system in 2003.

"I think that can happen under any scoring system if one constructor dominates with a superior car," said Ecclestone, "but actually I think it is less likely under the gold medal system. 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."

F1 stats experts have worked out that had Ecclestone's proposal been in use this season, Lewis Hamilton would not have won the title, leading to claims that the F1 supremo didn't want to see the McLaren driver claim the crown. Not so, says Ecclestone.

"Rubbish! Lewis is a worthy world champion and nobody was more delighted than I was that he won. 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."

Despite the FIA's assurance that there will be 'market research' there are some who believe that much like the European Union or even Robert Mugabe, the 'great unwashed' will be asked for their opinion until they agree with Ecclestone's proposal, in other words, the F1 supremo will get his own way no matter what.

In a recent poll on Pitpass, over 95% of readers who voted, voted to retain the points system, even though there is no doubt that it needs overhauling. However, based on recent history, expect the medal-based system to be in place by 2010.

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