Is This Market Research Into Bernie's Medal Idea?

Is This Market Research Into Bernie's Medal Idea?

To be perfectly honest, I’m feeling a little confused right now. You see, late last year Bernie Ecclestone proposed a radical shake-up in the way the driver’s world championship is won. Ecclestone, having presumably been inspired by the Beijing Olympics in the summer, wanted to eradicate points from the drivers campaign and replace them with medals. This in itself is not confusing, but what happened next is…

Ecclestone felt sure his idea would encourage overtaking as the world champion would be decided by the driver with the most gold medals (or in other words, the most wins). This, according to Bernie, means that drivers would be more willing to overtake as the difference between first and second place would be that little bit more crucial.

However, Mosley wasn’t so keen on the idea and after a little bit of debate where Ecclestone didn’t get his way, it was decided to defer any decision until after some market research had been completed. And this is where it does get a little confusing.

Almost immediately after Ecclestone failed to get his idea passed through the FIA’s approval process, the sport’s commercial rights holder put an article up on the official Formula One website (which Bernie controls) outlining the idea behind medals. Included at the bottom of the post was a voting poll, very similar to those you occasionally see here on BlogF1. It wasn’t labeled as official market research or anything similar, but at the time caused some furrowed brows while some us attempted to work out exactly where Bernie’s voting thingy fell in the grand scheme of things.

Little more happened over the holiday period and to be honest, most of us had hoped that the idea had been forgotten about. Alas, we are not quite that lucky and today the FIA has published some analysis. What is fantastic about what the FIA have published is that we can clearly see who would have won a championship with medals in comparison to who did win it with points. We can also see if a new driver would have been world champion or even different multiples of world champion had they raced under the medal system.

What it isn’t though is market research. And that is what I really want to read. It is all well and good getting an intern to sit down at a computer and run through all the championships applying Bernie’s scheme, but that doesn’t tell us what you, I or indeed the FIA want. For the record though, the statistics tell us that:

  • Stirling Moss would have taken Mike Hawthorn’s title in 1958
  • Jim Clark would have taken the ’64 and ’67 titles from John Surtees and Denny Hulme respectively
  • Mario Andretti would have won the 1977 championship instead of Niki Lauda
  • Alan Jones would have beaten Jody Scheckter in 1979
  • Nelson Piquet would have lost all three of his titles, once to Nigel Mansell and twice to Alain Prost
  • Didier Pironi would have been the 1982 champion and not Keke Rosberg
  • Nigel Mansell would have been a triple world champion, winning Alain Prost second title in 1986 (before taking Piquet’s and his own)
  • Ayrton Senna would have also stolen a title from his nemesis, Alain Prost
  • And of course, Felipe Massa would have won in 2008, beating Lewis Hamilton
  • Michael Schumacher would still be on 7 titles
  • Juan Manuel Fangio would still be on 5 titles
  • Alain Prost would have equaled Fangio’s record though
  • Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna would each win 4 titles, two and one more than in reality
  • Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart and Nigel Mansell would each have won 3 titles

Also of note, 14 championship battles would have been shorter with medals, the eventual world champion having wrapped up the title sooner than they actually did under the points. 8 championships would have been longer and we would have lost 5 final race showdowns had the medal system been in place since 1950.

The full results can be downloaded from the FIA website, and while they do make for interesting reading to someone who enjoys statistics, I’m still eagerly awaiting the market research to see what you all think. Or at least, those who were asked. Presuming of course, some of you were asked…

Further Reading…

Oliver White


  • I’m not a big fan of the medals idea, but this is a fairly pointless piece of research. What we want to know is if the perception that 2nd place is worth far less than 1st place (which it would under the medals system) discourage drivers at the top end of the grid from ‘settling’ for 2nd / 3rd / 4th.

    Because the system would effect the mentality of drivers during the race, you can’t analyse the effect the rules would have on races already run under the current rules.

    In my opinion, the ‘award’ of 1st and 2nd place is too similar, but medals aren’t the answer.

    How about 20 points for first, 14 for second, 10 for third, etc etc.

    Means we wouldn’t have to have one system for drivers and one for constructors.

    I guess the problem with that is economy of points. How drivers, teams, sponsors are paid / charged per point earned.

  • No, it’s just a dig at Bernie. You missed the best line of the FIA article:

    “Brabham under the ownership of Bernie Ecclestone would have won no Drivers’ Championships.”

    I didn’t miss the line (Autosport certainly pointed it out very clearly in their article!), but the neurons didn’t register the dig (between Max and Bernie). 😀

    this is a fairly pointless piece of research

    Yep. I didn’t even bother making a pretty table out of it last year when this could have been worked out. I’m actually quite surprised it’s taken the FIA this long to apply Bernie’s idea to current list of results.

    Because the system would effect the mentality of drivers during the race, you can’t analyse the effect the rules would have on races already run under the current rules.

    I’d go along with that, it seems logical to me. What we really want to know is, do the fans want it or not. And I think the general consensus is no.

    Means we wouldn’t have to have one system for drivers and one for constructors.

    Which is quite possibly the craziest part of Bernie’s idea.

    I guess the problem with that is economy of points. How drivers, teams, sponsors are paid / charged per point earned.

    Maybe this is just a clever way for Bernie to reduce payouts to the teams and thus save money? And when I say “clever”, you know what I mean.

  • I just would raise 1st place points to 12 instead of 10, to bring back the glorious 4-points-difference we once had… but still enabling points for the “Top 8”.

    The Medal System is a horrible Idea in my opinion, especially because the only interesting positions then would be the top-3/4 instead of the first 8 or 10…

  • but still enabling points for the “Top 8”

    I quite like the idea of the top 8 earning points – it gives the smaller-budgeted teams more of a chance to score the odd the point.

    I just would raise 1st place points to 12 instead of 10, to bring back the glorious 4-points-difference we once had…

    The gap between 1st and 2nd is a bit of a double-edged sword though. It was supposedly brought in to help relieve the dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, and if that was the reason, it certainly helped. The smaller the gap, the more chance of a final race showdown, which is good for viewing figures and fans in general. But some say it makes the win less worthy, and also means you don’t have to go all out for the win all the time.

    I admire Alonso for both his title wins, but he did win them tactically. Many of the races he drove in those two seasons were to second place. It won him the titles though, so fair play.

    I personally don’t mind the current system. To those who say the points difference demeans the victory, I say the driver gets a bigger bottle of Mumm and a bigger bonus on his paycheque. With regards to the racing, well some races have been boring while others have been electric. 2008 was a great year with only two or three really dull events. And it came down to the last lap of the last race. Can’t get much better than that! 🙂

  • No matter what system they use, someone’s going to be unhappy. Apply any system retroactively and proactively, and someone will say “ah but then so and so wouldn’t have/won’t become champion.”

    And what is it they’re trying to fix anyway? Show me first “market research” that says the points system is a major problem in F1.

    I just had a thought… Bernie wants to put more weight on wins so he can control the championship more easily. Think about it, he’ll just need to impose one or two drive-through “penalties” on a driver to take him and his team out of contention.

    How’s that for a consipracy theory?

  • I have finally found something I like about the medals system. In the first four lines of changes Ferrari lose four titles. That I heartily approve of although I am a bit surprised at Max highlighting this.

    I like the idea of Clark winning 4 titles. That is a much better reflection of his performance than the two he won. In addition he missed out on the 62 title on the last day of the season.

    The idea of Pironi being world champion I cannot accept. Particularly given the circumstances of 1982.

    Bernie reckons medals will encourage overtaking and Max thinks KERS and push to pass will. Last weekend I watched the A1GP race from New Zealand which has a medals system and push to pass and there was not an overtake in the whole race despite cars running very close together.

    The previous points system was fine and should never have been changed. The current system discourages going all out to take one more place. There was no reason to change it and it is typical of F1 to put in a long term cure to a short term perceived problem.

  • This looks like a political document rather than one intended to be market research – or indeed research of any kind. And now I’ve re-read it, it does look like it was specifically meant to weaken Bernie’s position and give the FIA more power over him.

    If the FIA claims this is market research at a later date, I will probably fall out of my chair laughing.

  • I have a crazy hypothetical scenario I would like to put forward to those who think medals aren’t too bad of an idea. Before I begin though, I am well aware that the chances of this actually happening are very slim, but F1 does throw up surprises every now and then; Vettel at Monza in ’08, Panis at Monaco in ’96, Hill at Spa in ’98 and almost Hungary in ’97…

    What if the F2008 had suited Raikkonen to a T. It was a perfect car for him. And therefore, not entirely to Massa’s liking as they differ in their approach to style and setup.

    Thus, Raikkonen has a momumental year and is on the verge of winning every race of the season. Team mate Massa is doing his best, but can only manage the lion’s share of second places.

    It comes to the final round, and something similar to Spa ’98 happens. Most of the field are wiped out and Yuji Ide wins the race in an FIA-legal Fred Flintstone car. Ide gets promoted to second in the championship and all of Massa’s determination and never give up attitude gets flushed down the toilet because of a freak win.

    A silly scenario, I admit, but freak wins do happen from to time. And I wouldn’t want to be demoted because of one opponent’s win in exceptional circumstances. That isn’t really racing, that’s just the luck of the draw (assuming a Spa-style startline shunt or similar).

  • The other thing that springs from your scenario Ollie is it forces teams to focus on one driver. Given that in any normal year a top team is going to win 5 or 6 races if only those results count you need one of your drivers to have all of them so immediately half the drivers in cars capable of winning are not allowed to by their employers. To me that is liable to decrease overtaking.

    When I looked at odd seasons I took the opposite scenario of 1982 where 11 different drivers won races and no driver won more than 2 races. Under the medals system Pironi would be champion which personally I cannot stomach the thought of but his results were 2 wins, 2 seconds, 2 thirds and a sixth.

    He missed the last 5 races of the season due to the career ending injuries he suffered in Germany. One of his two victories was the San Marino GP which was contested by about a dozen cars due to the FISA/FOCA war. Pironi only won that race by breakig team orders. Should the world championship really go to someone who only scored points 7 times in a season on the basis that he won 2 races one of which was not contested by McLaren, Williams, Lotus etc.

  • Quite possibly the worst idea any human being has ever had.

    You might aswell pack up F1 and throw it in the bin now if you actually think Medals will be added.

    The points system will remain – Noone is stupid enough to actually believe medals will work.

    Because it wont.

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