Born in Adelaide during its 11 year long era of hosting Formula One, Jacob Polychronis has admired the sport his whole life. Along with his brother Gabriel, they share their educated opinion via articles and their podcast, F1 News & Views Podcast.
July 1st, 2012 (F1plus / Jacob Polychronis).- Over the years, the Formula One point scoring system has altered on numerous occasions. The initial points scoring system, which was in place in-between 1950 and 1959, saw only the top 5 drivers score points with the winner claiming a total of 8. Today, things couldn't be much different as the top 10 places all claim points with the maximum prize being a total of 25.
What is intriguing about the inaugural points system however, is the fact that a solitary championship point was awarded to the driver who claimed the fastest lap in the race. Despite the fact that any points system overhaul is unlikely to occur in the immediate future, rewarding points for the fastest lap could add another exciting element to the sport. Awarding points for claiming pole position similarly could represent an intriguing addition to the current points system. Much of the global F1 community would agree.
A survey was conducted by F1 Racing to engage fans' reaction on awarding championship points for the fastest lap and pole positions. A total of 8,669 fans responded in which 63% either agreed or strongly agreed to awarding points for pole position. Only 28% were opposed to the idea. The results in favour of awarding points for fastest lap were not as strong, nonetheless, 58% either agreed or strongly agreed, while 32% disagreed. Such favourable results perhaps suggest this is certainly a change which Formula One should consider.
As in most cases, there are both pros and cons surrounding the argument at hand.
The skill to lap faster than the field while a Formula One car is in its upmost state of performance is something to admire. Engine mapping, fuel preservation and tyre strategy are all out of the equation during qualifying, at least to an extent. Therefore, qualifying supplies drivers with the simplest platform on which to compete against each other. When all this is considered, surely it is a notable achievement when pole position is claimed. An achievement worthy of reward?
A pole lap isn't necessarily entirely down to the driver though. Of course, a competitive car is required before any pole ambitions should be considered. The effort to supply the fastest vehicle in qualifying trim is an impressive achievement for constructors as well. This thought supplies reinforcement to the fact that pole laps deserve to go rewarded. The same can be said when considering awarding points for fastest laps during the race. In theory, the car which sets the fastest lap during the race has the fastest package under race conditions.
In reality, achieving the fastest lap probably does not deserve championship points. Often whoever wins the fastest lap for the race is entirely based on circumstances. For example, if the lead car has a healthy lead, the driver is not going to unnecessarily take risks in order to achieve the fastest lap whereas someone chasing down a podium position will. Therefore, championship points are probably not warranted considering it is not in fact a true reflection of the fastest car.
If we take a look at the 2011 season, I believe cold water can also be thrown over the idea of points for pole position. In a season where one car is clearly the class of the field, things will become increasingly one-sided under a points system overhaul. For example, if a mere 2 points were awarded per pole position, Sebastian Vettel would have claimed an extra 30 points during the course of the season.
In a year which was far from competitive, this would have been detrimental to the intrigue of the season. Dare I say, it may have been boring. Furthermore, many would argue that receiving first place on the grid is indeed reward enough for a superior Saturday performance considering it issues a significant advantage to the driver on the Sunday, especially on certain tracks such as Monaco.
According to the survey results though, the majority of the F1 community do not subscribe to this philosophy. The possibility of points for fastest laps and pole position could indeed create some engaging situations. For example, seeing a lead car pushing hard for more points is more exciting than moseying on throughout the race. Although, it seems more likely that the proposed points system will instead allow superior cars to create insurmountable advantages in the drivers' and constructors' titles at an earlier stage of the season.