The Reuters global sports blog
Any Formula One team wishing to manipulate the outcome of a race in favour of one or other of their drivers at least now knows the going rate after this week’s hearing in Paris into the recent Ferrari furore.
Team orders? That will be $100,000 — at least until the end of the season, after which there may well be no charge at all.
In fact, there may not be any more charges this year either because we are now approaching the point in the season where drivers will be ruled out of contention and expected to support their team mates.
That will be strategy, of course.
And by next season the rule will have been re-written, or ‘clarified’.
Formula One teams conducted a global audience survey over the European winter whose salient finding was that ‘F1 isn’t broken, so beware over-fixing it’.
They suggested nevertheless that the scoring system should be tweaked to increase the reward for winning races by offering 12 points for a victory instead of 10.
The governing FIA has ignored their proposal and decreed instead that this year’s title should be settled by race wins with points serving only as a tie-break and to decide the placings from second onwards as well as the constructors’ championship.
That may sound neat enough but it jettisons some of the sport’s more cherished principles such as the idea that the championship should also reward mechanical reliability, consistency and teamwork over the course of a season.
In the past, if you had a car that expired in a haze of smoke more often than it won races then the chances were that the championship would be going elsewhere.
Now, a driver could in theory win five races and retire from all the rest and still end up as champion — five or six wins being the minimum requirement for the title over the past decade.
While Lewis Hamilton would not have been champion last year under the new system, since Ferrari’s Felipe Massa won more races, the McLaren driver could find the new system beneficial in the current circumstances with his team struggling to get their car up to speed.
Even if he is woefully off the pace and fails to score points in the opening long-haul races, all is not lost. If McLaren pull something out of the hat by mid-season, he could still win enough races to be in with a shot even if his points tally is nothing to shout about.
The downside of course is that the season could be over very quickly if a driver does as Nigel Mansell did in 1992 and Michael Schumacher in 2004 in winning the first five races in a row.
That is only going to make life more complicated for us reporters, who will now have to explain how it is that the man with most points is not necessarily leading the championship. Simply printing the points standings isn’t going to tell you who is actually on top.
An example: Massa was five points behind Hamilton after last year’s Japanese Grand Prix with just two races remaining. And yet under the new system, he would have been leading the standings on race wins 5-4.
Or how about this? BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica would have been only fourth on race wins after last year’s Canadian Grand Prix despite being ahead of everyone on points. And yet, because wins only count for the title calculation, he would have been second overall had the championship ended there and then. First, second, fourth? Confused?
One could argue that last year’s championship would still have gone down to the wire if the new format were to be applied retrospectively but it would have been a yawn rather than the nail-biting last lap thriller that we all remember.