F1 to award point to driver who sets fastest lap in a grand prix

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel
Lewis Hamilton (left) and Sebastian Vettel are again expected to be two of the main protagonists in the battle for the F1 drivers' title

Formula 1 has confirmed it will change its scoring system this year by giving a point to the driver who sets the fastest lap in a grand prix.

The move is part of an attempt to make the sport more appealing and so grow audiences.

Drivers will only receive the extra point if they also finish in the top 10 in the race.

It was formally confirmed on Monday after the FIA's world motor sport council (WMSC) approved it last week.

F1 managing director Ross Brawn said the idea could "improve the show while maintaining the integrity of the sport".

Brawn, the former Mercedes team boss and Ferrari technical director, said: "We have been considering this solution - which represents a response to detailed research carried out with thousands of our fans around the world - for a number of months.

"How many times have we heard the drivers on the radio ask the team about who holds the fastest lap?

"Now it will no longer be only a matter of record and prestige, but there will be a concrete motivation that will make the final part of the race even more interesting. Sometimes it is useful to remind ourselves of the heritage of our sport to move forward. "

The rule will be in place for the start of this season at the Australian Grand Prix, 15-17 March.

It will be the first time a point has been awarded for the fastest lap since the first 10 years of the F1 world championship in 1950-59.

The feeling among senior figures in F1 is that the change may add extra interest towards the end of a race, when the action can tend to die down following the end of all the pit stops.

Bosses accept there could be negatives to the idea - such as a championship being decided by a fastest-lap point, or a title contender's team-mate - who is not in championship contention - setting a fastest lap to disadvantage a rival from another team.

But the feeling was that all teams and drivers would be aware of this issue and any of them could choose to take action.

The idea was one of many that were put to fans in surveys conducted by F1 last year.

The feedback was that it was an idea worth discussing, and F1's senior stakeholders at the strategy group of six leading teams, FIA and F1 concluded it should be adopted.

After the world council voted it through last week, an e-vote of the strategy group and F1 Commission, a body that includes representatives of the FIA, F1, Ferrari, sponsors and circuits gave unanimous approval on Monday, according to the FIA.

What difference could it have made in previous seasons? - analysis

Last year, the answer is none whatsoever, in terms of the outcome of the championship.

But in 2008, it would have made Felipe Massa champion rather than Lewis Hamilton, who famously pipped the Brazilian at the last corner of the final race and won the title by a single point. Massa had two fastest laps in 2008 and Hamilton one.

But that's a fallacious argument, because in 2008 there was not a point for fastest lap - and, had there been, the teams and drivers would have conducted the season differently based on that knowledge.

That was a point made to BBC Sport by a senior figure in F1 on Friday when asked whether the sport's bosses had done any research into the potential effect of this change before deciding on it.

What did inform the decision was a desire to increase F1's entertainment value. Everyone in F1 accepts the show could do with being improved.

The feeling of F1's owners Liberty Media is that there is no silver bullet, and that lots of changes - big and small - are needed.

Big ones are coming in 2021 - to revenue distribution, to team spending and to the cars themselves.

This is a small one. Some will argue it is unnecessary, even a gimmick. The counter-point is that it might add a new dimension to races and the season and make for an extra talking point.

The verdict will come at the end of the season.

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