Formula 1 to award double points for final race from 2014

 

Formula 1 is to award double points at the final race of the season from 2014 in an attempt to heighten interest in the World Championship.

The plan is one of a number of changes next season,  along with the adoption of a cost cap - details of which are still to be finalised - from 2015.

Does the final race matter?

If the new system had been in place for the last two decades, three world titles would have been won by a driver other than that year's eventual world champion.

In 2012, Fernando Alonso would have beaten Sebastian Vettel; in 2008, Felipe Massa would have denied Lewis Hamilton; and in 2003 Kimi Raikkonen would have edged out Michael Schumacher.

Drivers will also choose a race number for the duration of their career.

Governing body the FIA also announced the adoption of a new five-second penalty for minor infringements.

But it will be the introduction of double points and a cost cap that will provoke most interest.

The decision to award double points, counting towards the drivers' and constructors' championships, at the final race of the season was made "to maximise focus on the championship until the end of the campaign", according to an FIA statement.

Analysis

It will surprise no-one that the original idea to award double points at the final race of the season came from Bernie Ecclestone. F1's impresario is close to Sebastian Vettel, but is more than intelligent enough to realise that, in an era dominated by the German and his Red Bull team, a bit of extra pizazz to keep interest going for longer each year might come in handy.

Reaction on social networks has by and large been negative. Purists, for example, object to the idea that a win at soulless Abu Dhabi next year will be worth double one at a classic track such as Spa, Suzuka or Monaco.

Inside F1 teams, though, senior figures are more phlegmatic. They are not that worried about the purists - they reckon they will watch anyway. And if this new idea, gimmicky though it is, attracts more casual fans, all the better.

In the context of the current state of F1, this and other changes such as giving drivers numbers for their careers are largely irrelevant fripperies. With so many teams struggling with cash-flow, the most important revelation is that a cap on budgets has been agreed "in principle".

In terms of keeping the grid close together, and even keeping some teams alive - the key issues in F1 right now - that could be a game-changer.

The move reduces the possibility of a championship being settled before the final race by increasing the number of points available to a driver from 25 to 50.

Two of the last four seasons have been settled with a number of races still remaining - Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won with five races to go in 2011 and with four left in 2013.

If the new system had been in place for the last two decades, three world titles would have been won by a driver other than that year's eventual world champion.

In 2012, Fernando Alonso would have beaten Sebastian Vettel; in 2008, Felipe Massa would have denied Lewis Hamilton; and in 2003 Kimi Raikkonen would have edged out Michael Schumacher.

Teams have been working to reduce costs for a number of years as a result of financial circumstances caused by the global economic slow-down.

A resource-restriction agreement was introduced in 2011 but it has been fraught with difficulties and attempts to introduce a cap on total spending by each team have so far been rejected, primarily by Red Bull.

But the idea was approved at a meeting on Monday of F1's strategy group, a rules think-tank composed of the FIA, six of the 11 teams and commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone, who represents the commercial rights holder.

An FIA statement said: "The principle of a global cost cap has been adopted. The limit will be applied from January 2015.

"A working group will be established within the coming days comprising the FIA, representatives of the commercial rights holder and team representatives.

"The objective of the working group will be to have regulations approved by the end of June 2014."

The idea behind allocating numbers to drivers throughout their careers is to enhance their ability to exploit the commercial potential of merchandise.

Sebastian Vettel wins 2012 F1 title at thrilling final race in Brazil

The statement added that "number one will still be reserved for the current world champion, should he choose to use it."

It added: "If more than one driver chooses the same number, priority will be given to the driver who finished higher in the previous year's championship."

The FIA also approved an extra tyre test in Bahrain on 17-19 December "on safety grounds" to allow supplier Pirelli to assess plans for next season, when there are swingeing rule changes affecting the cars and the engines.

Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso will all take part.