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Formula One championship point system in chaos

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Formula One racing's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), has sure made a mess of its points system.

Last week, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council announced drastic changes in determining the driver's championship.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone originally proposed an Olympic Games "medals" idea, but the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), which represents the 10 teams in the sport, suggested the system be fine-tuned, with 12 points awarded to the winner, nine points to second place and seven to third.

Under the present system, drivers finishing first, second and third in a race are awarded 10, eight and six points, respectively.

The FIA's World Motor Sport Council rejected FOTA's suggestion and adopted an alternative to Ecclestone's plan, whereby the winner of the most grand prix, not points, will determine the title. If two or more drivers finished the season with the same number of wins, the title would be awarded to the one with the most points, based on the current system.

Reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is sharply against the new points system.
However, the FIA reversed its decision Friday by agreeing to delay its new points system until 2010. F1 teams did not agree with the revised system, saying the change came too soon prior to the start of the season without their unanimous agreement. The season begins later this week in Melbourne, Australia.

Ecclestone supports the rules change and said it will be implemented for next year.

"It will be supported by the FIA, and it will be in the regulations, so when the people enter the championship, that's what the regulation will be," Ecclestone told the BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek program.

The change has also been widely criticized by drivers - both active and retired.

Reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is sharply against it.

"I think it's a shame what's happening to F1," Hamilton said in a team statement. "It's hard to believe these recent decisions will improve things for the trackside spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our number-one priority, but I guess we'll have to wait and see."

If the change had been in place for 2008, Ferrari's Felipe Massa would have been awarded the title over Hamilton from McLaren, by virtue of Massa's six grand prix victories to Hamilton's five.

Massa won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, but Hamilton's fifth-place finish allowed him to capture last year's title by one point over his rival competitor.

Michael Schumacher, the former seven-time World Champion, said the lateness of the announcement before the start of the season was "astonishing," but also questioned the validity of the change.

"I cannot imagine those changes to help F1, especially regarding the new (scoring) system to find the champion," Schumacher said. "I cannot see how it makes sense to eventually have a world champion who has less points than the driver coming in second, even if I also think it is a good move to try to strengthen the winner's position."

Determining a driver's championship based on wins and not points is a bad idea.

If a season consisted of one race, that would be one thing, but the 2009 F1 calendar features 17 events. Consistency has always been the key in a driver capturing a title in any particular motorsports circuit.

Awarding a championship to a driver who had five wins and repeatedly finished in the top-10 would make more sense, compared to handing the title over to another driver who had six victories but did not finish an event six times.

Points reward consistency, and also assure a championship has been decided fairly.

The new system, simply put, does not.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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