Last week there was some talk amongst F1 fans, encouraged by Martin Brundle on twitter, about the idea of awarding points for pole position and also for fastest lap. In general, there seemed to be a lot of support for both concepts but I think there are some genuine downsides that need to be taken into consideration.
I don’t believe either suggestion actually adds any value to the sport, but my main objection is that both unnecessarily complicate the championship picture.
Every Grand Prix has two stories. There is the story of the race plus the story of the championship which helps give it context. If you give drivers two additional methods to score points, you complicate the overall championship story and I believe this detracts from it. You will be in a situation where, instead of knowing that Driver X must finish on the podium to maintain the championship lead, you also have to take into account what might happen during qualifying and what laptimes a driver might set during the race. It risks making it too complicated for casual fans to follow, and I don’t believe the extra variables add any real value for hardcore fans either.
Imagine how complex the championship permutations would have been at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix if we also had to account for pole position and fastest lap. Keeping track of who was in line for the title was challenging enough as it was. The drama and excitement would have been sullied with extra complications.
This is why, in 1991, the FIA removed the rule that allowed drivers to drop their worst rounds from their championship total. That old feature was an unnecessary complication that made the title chase harder to follow.
It’s not something I feel strongly about, but I have a few other specific concerns about awarding points for pole and fastest lap.
Pole position itself is reward enough. The driver who scores pole gets to start on the clean side of the grid and has the best opportunity to control the race from the front. That is a huge benefit and I don’t understand why that should be complimented by a point as well.
A point for pole position is not going to make drivers push any harder in qualifying. They are already on the ragged edge, pushing themselves and their car to the limit, so the chance to score a point is not adding any extra incentive. Extending the race points down to tenth place in 2010 gave smaller teams something to aim for and made the lesser positions more valuable, but adding a point for pole position is not going to have the same effect.
A point for pole is not going to encourage more participation in Q3. As the rules currently stand some drivers will opt out of taking part in Q3 in order to conserve their tyres. This won’t change if you give away a point for pole because the lesser teams, who don’t have a chance at getting that extra point anyway, will still opt out of the session.
The championship could be decided on a Saturday in a total anti-climax. This exact scenario happened in GP2 in 2008 when Giorgio Pantano won the title by scoring a point for pole position in qualifying. It robbed everyone of a more entertaining title finale, and nobody got to see it happen because the GP2 session was not televised. This is an important point to note for F1 fans because many countries don’t televise F1 qualifying, and many other countries don’t televise it live. The championship could be decided in an anti-climax that most fans were unable to watch.
A point for pole position, when qualifying is not a totally separate event from the race itself, would be counter-intuitive. At the moment drivers must start the race on the tyres they qualify on which means qualifying and the race are linked together. As such, some drivers will compromise their qualifying position on harder tyres to give themselves a better chance of scoring points in the race. The rules encourage them to do this, and the whole idea of making drivers start the race on their qualifying tyres is to create some extra strategy on Saturday. It doesn’t seem right that rules which encourage drivers to compromise qualifying performance for a benefit in the race would co-exist with a point for pole position which encourages the opposite.
The current regulations mean that a point for fastest lap would be an unfair lottery. For the last three years, fastest lap has gone to the driver with the freshest tyres at the end of the race. It is no longer a measure of someone pushing hard during a Grand Prix. You can only set fastest lap at the very end of the race when all of the fuel has burned off, so you would be giving a point away to whoever happened to be on fresh tyres and clear of traffic during the final three laps. Anyone who is involved in a late race incident, and makes a pitstop with three laps to go, has fastest lap handed to them on a plate. Where is the value in awarding them a point? You may as well pull a name out of a hat.
There is no need to change for change’s sake, and I think points for pole position and fastest lap are a bad idea. However, I'm happy to be convinced otherwise if you think I've got the wrong idea. What are your thoughts? Do you think there should be points for pole position and/or fastest lap? As always, feel free to comment via Facebook below.
This page was written by Martin Porter and posted by James Wilson