Sunday, 25 September 2011

How do you solve a problem like Sebastian?

A while ago over on Significance I looked at what happened if you compared different Formula One scoring systems with that year's drivers' championship. Yesterday, Sebastian Vettel came within 1 point of snatching the title with a whopping five races to go. In 14 races he's won nine times, come second twice and fourth once, amassing a ridiculous 309 points out of a possible 350.

As it stands, Vettel is 124 points clear of his nearest rival Jenson Button, who would have to win every single remaining race and hope that Vettel scores nothing if he is to win the drivers' championship. In short, the season is as good as over, but is the scoring system to blame? A couple of years ago the FIA tweaked the scoring system to try and encourage second-placed drivers to 'race to win'. Previously you got eight points for second and ten for first, which (it was perceived) didn't offer enough incentive to try and push on for first place. Now you get 25 points for winning and 18 for second, a greater incentive that - in theory - will encourage more aggressive racing.

So what happens if we run this season's results (so far) under the older system? If you're happy to assume that the scoring system doesn't significantly affect how a driver races (quite a big assumption, I admit, but this is Just For Fun) you can enjoy this table:
As my previous dabbles with comparing scoring systems suggest, it doesn't make much difference. Admittedly, Vettel would have already won the championship by now, but only just (a 51 point lead with 50 points available), and no-one in their right mind thinks he won't win this year anyway.

If you ask me, we need something more radical than a tweaked scoring system to make things exciting. My proposal: do away with qualifying and have the cars line up in reverse finishing order from the previous race. It's simple, it would certainly increase overtaking, and no-one likes qualifying anyway.

Addendum: have a bonus table, including the results under the old(er) system of ten points for first, six for second. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vettel is even further ahead on this one.

1 comment:

  1. I feel there was an oversight in the planning process for this year's races. Part of the reason for removing fuel stops was to reduce the impact of strategy and make the sport more understandable and accessible for spectators. The introduction of DRS was to increase overtaking opportunities and make things more exciting.

    I think both have failed. The DRS overtaking feels artificial, and the effect of removing fuel stops has been twofold: firstly it's introduced a whole new level of strategy (tyre management) which is even more opaque than fuel strategy was; secondly, it's made car quality even more important. Under the old system a good driver with a good strategy could achieve respectable results even in a bad car. This year such opportunities have dried up and the podium has been dominated by the top two teams to a much greater extent than in previous seasons.