Forgive Bernie Ecclestone this year if the Formula One supremo calls Felipe Massa "Champ." A natural mistake.
Should events of 2008 recur, Ferrari's Massa will win the FIA World Drivers' Championship that slipped through his fingers to McLaren Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton in November, when Massa's victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix could not trump Hamilton's fifth place. Hamilton took the title on points, 98-97, despite Massa having won more races, six to Hamilton's five.
The FIA's World Motor Sport Council on Tuesday approved an Ecclestone proposal that winner of the most races will become champion. Sort of. The Council approved the measure without according gold, silver and bronze medals, as Ecclestone had sought to encourage overtaking. The 2009 champion will be the driver who wins the most races. Should a tie in victories occur, points accumulation will break it.
"The idea is to get people racing," Ecclestone told BBC 5 Live Radio after the Council action. "The guys who know they'll win are quite happy, and the guys who know they won't win don't care."
A proposal by Formula One Teams Association to change point payouts to boost the margin between first and second failed. Points will be awarded as usual, 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 for first through eighth positions. Constructors' points do not change.
Former F1 driver and television commentator Martin Brundle, who will work this season as part of BBC TV's F1 crew, told 5 Live," You're going to see drivers pushing that bit harder." He said applied historically, the points system would have changed the outcome of 13 world championships, including giving Briton Nigel Mansell three titles instead of one. Per reconfiguration supplied by BBC Sport, Sir Stirling Moss, a four-time runner-up, would have won the championship. Jim Clark would have won in 1964 and 1967, doubling his title haul to four. Mario Andretti would have won the title in 1977 as well as '78. Four-time champion Alain Prost would have picked up titles in 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1989, and lost the title, to Mansell, in 1986. Three-time champion Nelson Piquet, father of the current Renault runner, would not have won a title.
Points schemes have changed throughout F1 history. Among them were seasons divided into halves with point tallies from halves added, and points paid on some, not all, races.
"Drivers make a number of decisions during qualifying and racing throughout a season," Brundle said. "I don't think (the scoring change) will have that much of an impact. It could be slightly confusing for the fan if a driver has a lot more points and loses the title on a countback of wins."
A name change from Honda Racing F1 Team to Brawn GP Formula One Team was approved. Brawn GP will be considered a new team. A new-team entry fee was waived.
The Council also decided issues affecting testing. Teams are allowed three one-day tests of young drivers, defined as drivers who have not participated in more than two F1 races or tested in F1 for four days in the previous 24 months. That testing can be carried out between the end of the season, Nov. 1, and Dec. 31. Teams can conduct eight one-day aerodynamic tests on FIA-approved straight-line or constant-radius sites between Jan. 1, 2009, and the end of the final event of the season.
In a move to address costs and to enable entry to the sport by new teams, the Council approved a cost cap of $42 million as an alternative to existing rules, which will remain in place until 2012. Teams who choose the alternative budget will be allowed greater rules freedom, such as a more aerodynamically efficient, though standard, underbody, movable wings, an engine not subject to a rev limit or a development freeze, unlimited updates, wind tunnel time, and materials choice. Teams operating under the budget cap must count subsidized or freebie items at full commercial value. The Council promises "rigorous auditing procedures" on that front. The cap includes everything but motorhome and FIA fines, should any be charged. That means teams choosing the cost cap need to include drivers' pay and other salaries in that $42 million. Race weekend restrictions, such as a refueling ban, will apply to all teams.
FIA president Max Mosley elaborated on the cost cap in a question-and-answer exchange posted on the federation's website. He maintained efficiency will challenge expenditure. He said Formula One Management will pay cost-capped teams on the same basis as other teams and will provide $10 million and a standard transport package to the 11th and 12th teams starting in 2010.
FOTA chairman Luca di Montezemolo blasted Council decisions.
"With regard to the decisions taken today by the FIA World Council, FOTA would like to express its disappointment and concern at the fact that these have been taken in a unilateral manner," di Montezemolo said in a statement.
Di Montezemelo, president of Ferrari, said dual rules threaten the sport.
"The framework of the regulations as defined by the FIA, to be applicable as from 2010, runs the risk of turning on its head the very essence of Formula One and the principles that make it one of the most popular and appealing sports," he said.
"Given the timeframe and the way in which these modifications were decided upon, we feel it is necessary to study closely the new situation and to do everything, especially in these difficult times, to maintain a stable framework for the regulations without continuous upheaval, that can be perplexing and confusing for car manufacturers, teams, the public and sponsors."
Taking suggestions from FOTA's worldwide survey, the Council approved measures intended to make F1 more fan friendly. They include mandatory interaction such as drivers signing autographs at their team spaces on pit lane on the first day of practice at each race, drivers speaking to media at the end of each qualifying session, drivers retiring before the end of races speaking to media, drivers finishing outside the top three in races speaking to media immediately, and at least one senior team spokesman speaking to accredited television crews during races. Additionally, weights of all cars after qualifying will be made public, and tires will be referred to by standard terms "intermediate" for wet tires and "wet" for extreme-weather tires.
In other matters, the Council addressed costs in World Rally Championship and gave preliminary approval to proposals from the FIA Environmentally Sustainable Motor Sport Commission. The Manufacturers' Championship of WRC from 2010 will include present and future world rally cars and Super 2000 models. Costs in WRC will be addressed with amended rules for 2011 and 2012. The FIA will work with all groups to develop regulations and technologies for energy efficient motorsport.