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F1 Medals - changing history for the better?

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F1 Medals - changing history for the better?
Jan 30, 2009, 1:42 PM

Just received an email from the FIA press department with some great research on how F1 history would have been rewritten if Bernie Ecclestone's me...

Just received an email from the FIA press department with some great research on how F1 history would have been rewritten if Bernie Ecclestone's medals idea had been in place since the start of Formula 1 in 1950. The outcome of the world championship would have been different on 13 occasions.

Bernie thinks that the winner of a Grand Prix should get a gold medal and that the winner of the world championship should be the driver who has the most gold medals in that year. This would have meant that Felipe Massa would have won the world title in 2008. Bernie proposed this idea after he attended the Beijing Olympics last summer, but before he went to Ferrari's press event at Madonna di Campiglio wearing a Ferrari jacket.

Ironically the FIA research has revealed with the medals system the Brabham team under Bernie's tenure would not have won any world championships, losing the 1981 and 83 titles!

But looking across the span of the years you'd have to say that, with one or two exceptions, it would have given a fairer reflection to the distribution of world championships. Alain Prost would have won five, Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark four and Nigel Mansell three! Also Stirling Moss would have won the world championship. This I think, would have been a fairer reflection of those drivers' place in F1 history than what we actually have in the record books.

There would have been some losers; Nelson Piquet would have lost all three of his titles. I never thought he was a three time champion driver, not in the same league as Jackie Stewart, for example. Niki Lauda would have won one instead of three, which would probably have been wrong.

There are some other interesting details, like Didier Pironi would have won in 1982, instead of Keke Rosberg, which would have been appropriate, Mario Andretti would have won the 1977 title as well as 1978 and Alan Jones would have won in 1979.

Sport is all about how fate plays with your expectations; sometimes they are fulfilled sometimes there are spectacular reversals. People expect Roger Federer to win every match and it's a big story when he doesn't, while no-one expects Cardiff to get to the FA Cup final today, when teams like United and Chelsea have wage bills of £70 million a year. That's what makes sport so appealing. It's the only genuine suspense most people have in their lives.

People who really love a sport and go deeply into it, following their passion, have a strong feeling for what is deserved and what is not. However I often feel that F1 fans confuse 'likeability' with 'talent and ability' and many F1 journalists are guilty of this too. Nigel Mansell, for example, was ridiculed by many of the F1 specialist writers in this country who thought he was a waste of space. But any seasoned engineer will tell you that he was one of the greats. Today a lot of people think Hamilton is over-rated because they don't like him, his father or his short-cut route to the top, but the fact is he's a phenomenon.

This research document for me hands more weight to Bernie's argument than against it. I feel quite strongly that many of the results which would be changed under the medals system, would have provided the right outcome.

So maybe the idea deserves greater consideration, or at least the idea of making the driver with the most wins the champion. I'm still not sure how a medal for the top three aligns with points for the fourth to eight placed driver. It seems a messy, two-tiered system.

Against that, the sporting challenge of Hamilton needing to finish fifth in Brazil, sixth would not do it, would have been ruined by the medals plan, Massa would have been cruising towards the title and Lewis would have been adrift and all that fantastic sporting drama would have been lost. Big picture, small picture, which is more important?

This will generate a lot of interesting debate and it's the right time to have that debate because FOTA is working behind the scenes to define what is the essential DNA of this sport and that is prompting the FIA, who are fairly proactive anyway and FOM, who are less so, to address what F1 is and what we want from it. You are part of that process and now is the time to have your say.
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