The popular thing for a F1 reporter to do
yesterday was herald the rebirth of the 2006 world championship. If Michael
Schumacher can win two GPs on the trot then what is to stop him from recovering
the 17-point gap to Fernando Alonso and an eighth title?

Answer: the points system.

It’s a painful irony that, at the end of
2002, the geniuses who wrote F1’s rules signed the death warrant of a system
that served the sport well since, basically, the 60s. Under that regime, only
the top six deserved points, on the basis of ten for the winner and 6-4-3-2-1
for five losers.

The whiz-bang 2003 system, however, does
two things: rewards finishers to lowly eighth place, and, crucially, reduces
the winner’s benefit from four points over second place to a measly two
(10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1).

Magny Cours ’06 proves why knee-jerk rule
changes in sport are seldom a good idea. The aforementioned geniuses attacked a
grand prix winner’s advantage so that Schumacher could never again wrap up a
championship mid-season – as he did at Magny Cours in 2002. Problem is, that
very jerk of knee has robbed F1 spectators, four years later, of a thrilling
end to the 2006 title tussle.

Imagine that Ferrari keeps up the momentum
and wins the last seven races of the season. If Alonso keeps finishing second,
Schumacher will lose the championship by three points.

The current system was designed to prevent
a single driver from taking an early title bath, but a grubby side-effect is
that it is near-impossible for his pursuer ever to catch up. Arguably the
grubbiest side-effect of all, however, is that the system counsels Alonso to
settle for easy points from now on, rather than risk going wheel-to-wheel for
stingy wins.

The 2002 points system, on the other hand,
would be a treat for F1 fans. With Schumacher standing to gain four points, not
two, for each triumph, he would snatch the second-place-getting Spaniard’s lead
with a couple of races to spare.

Finales in Japan and
Brazil, then, might be white-knuckle rides rather than mathematical
processions bearing pit-to-car radio messages like “Steady Fernando, a podium
will do”.

Peter Fray

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