The introduction of double points for the final round of a Formula 1 season was met with universal backlash from fans of the sport. It was the answer to a question which no-one had posed. Nobody saw it coming.
It came about, of course, as a ploy to keep the championship fight alive for longer and in turn increase Formula 1’s revenue – more interest, more money. But naturally those with an ounce of common sense were quick to point out the obvious. Yes, the 2013 season ended with a whimper after the Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull roadshow kicked into action. The reaction of the majority was to congratulate that particular double act and acknowledge that they had simply done a better job than their rivals. In five of the previous seven years, the title fight had gone down to the final round with two of them being nail-biting thrillers as the crown ebbed and flowed between two rivals.
The rule to introduce double points was a decision made by Formula 1 teams, Formula One Management and the FIA. Opinion in the Formula 1 paddock is split over the rule change. Those with pre-determined agendas have naturally been supportive; others such as Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa have been ambivalent, while reigning champion Vettel is completely in opposition to the rule. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that senior figures inside the sport did not expect such a negative reaction to the rule amendment.
“I think obviously the shitstorm we got afterwards was something not expected,” Wolff said at the first test at Jerez last week.
"Was it the right move or not? 99 per cent of our fans and spectators, and this is what counts, told us it was the wrong move so perhaps it is something to revisit.”
“There is a lot to criticise but things need to be done, and with the audience dropping you need to try out things. This maybe wasn't the right thing, but maybe we need to find out.”
Caterham’s Tony Fernandes labelled the decision a “fake fix,” while Christian Horner also spoke out against the change.
“I think of course the fans' opinions matter but I don't think it's any secret that I wasn't particularly in favour of it,” he said at Jerez.
“I can understand why the governing body and the promoter are keen to keep the championship alive, or hoping the championship is kept alive until the end of the last race.
"But two out of the last four years have gone to the last race under the previous points scoring system. We need to look at three for argument's sake, to take away an element of lottery over that last race.”
It’s little surprise to hear Horner echoing Bernie Ecclestone’s comments, but in his words he does have a point (excuse the pun).
When the news broke about double points, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko revealed that the original plan was for double points for the last four races of the year.
While not having double points would be the most preferable solution, it’s highly unlikely to be dropped prior to the start of the year. As it’s here to stay, double points for the final four races would at least remove the lottery element from the season finale. The title may well be wrapped up by mid-November, but it’s feasible that a driver could lose a lead between 25 and 49 points in Abu Dhabi, thanks to matters outside of his control. It filters down the grid too. A midfield team could leap ahead of a rival thanks to a good result, which would lead to the question of whether it would be deserved.
Equally, there’s the circuit in hand. Double points are unpopular, but it’s accentuated by the season finale taking place in Abu Dhabi, a circuit regarded as the polar opposite of the classics adored by Formula 1 fans.
Horner’s proposal is a good idea in the circumstances. But let’s go one step further. Double points could be awarded to the classic races, or the toughest races. Races in Monaco, Britain, Belgium, Italy and Singapore are either regarded as iconic events, or the toughest to win. So why not make a couple of those races double points as well? Or even allow teams’ joker races to nominate for double points once or twice a year, prior to that particular race weekend?
Having double points races towards the end of the year rewards those who have either started poorly or developed strongly as the season has progressed. At this moment in time, Mercedes teams might feel confident in nominating an early flyaway race for double points, while Renault’s customers may wish to wait. It would add another psychological element to the championship battle – go early and try and get a lead or wait until later and play catch-up.
More double points races or joker rounds is of course a totally barmy concept completely at odds with the history of the sport, but in the circumstances they might just be a better solution to the current situation.