Column: F1's double points gimmick
10 December 2013 – On Monday afternoon, Formula 1 fans were left in a state of shock over the FIA's latest string of regulation changes. While budget caps, minor time penalties and permanent numbers fall under the category of sensible suggestions, the concept of awarding double points for the season finale defies belief.
That's right. From the 2014 campaign, teams and drivers will fight for greater reward at Round 19 of 19. "Is this an extended, six hour endurance race?" I hear people asking. Far from it. The distance, as always, stands at a little more than 300 kilometres, with circumstances precisely the same as the preceding 18 events.
In the words of the governing body, placing emphasis on one round has been ratified "to maximise focus on the championship until the end of the campaign." Aside from linking the rule change to Abu Dhabi's return as the season-ending race, with it more than possible that organisers have pushed forward some extra funds for a unique denouement, there are various sporting factors that render this development quite simply unacceptable.
Let's picture the scene in another sport, using football as an example. Spain lead Germany in a World Cup final by a solitary goal and the referee introduces a game-changing twist for the final ten minutes, where the prize of scoring is doubled. I imagine La Furia Roja would feel pretty hard done by if they had held the upper hand for 80 minutes of the match, only to be harshly undone by a system more suited to an arcade game.
Then there is the indisputable fact that certain cars favour certain circuits. While Red Bull has traditionally favoured high-downforce venues, selected frontrunning rivals have enjoyed greater straight line speeds. And the ebb and flow of car development cycles will forever ensure that leading gaps change on a race-by-race basis, something that seems unjust when one event is effectively declared as more important than the others.
But perhaps of greater concern is the apparent oversight from those in decision-making positions. Having already expressed grief over tools such as KERS and DRS, fans used social media to vent their frustrations once more, with the sport's crucial ticket buyers and television viewers now bracing themselves for another gimmick.
Will the FIA change its stance before the opening race of the 2014 season in just 94 days' time? Although it would earn more money under the new scheme, with teams' entry fees based on the total of points they score throughout any given campaign, I hope they look past the financial gain and go back on their word.
While the double points concept is appalling at best, it would be even more farcical to ignore what has been an almost unanimous dislike amongst avid followers of Formula 1. At least enforced pit-stops, first mooted by FIA President Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone, were brushed aside, and thus avoided adding insult to injury.
Clearly, those at the helm need to think long and hard about the steps they are taking as the sport journeys through its annual winter break. Instead of striving to become an entertainment show, which is not required to increase the level of excitement in Formula 1, the focus should be placed on more pressing matters.
Before the new rulebook gets printed, let's hope the delete button is used.