It seems as if there is renewed impetus for Bernie's desired 'medal' system in Formula 1. At least from the FIA at any rate.
The idea is that, instead of points, the top three drivers in each race win gold, silver and bronze medals. At the end of the season, the driver with the most gold medals is champion. If two or more drivers have the same number of golds, then the silvers come into play and so on.
Filipe Albuquerque, Neel Jani, and Adam Carroll with their A1GP medals
Anyone canvassed at the pre-season launches seemed pretty luke warm about the plan. Most seemed worried that for the vast majority there would be no tangible reward for their efforts. It's kind of important for board members signing off multi-million dollar F1 budgets to be able to see some points on the board, although I've always wondered if anyone really gets seriously excited about a couple of points for seventh place in Turkey or wherever.
In some cases, I guess, the medal system could actually do some of the manufacturers a favour.
Take Honda last year, for example. Every time anyone looked at an F1 points table it was a rude reminder of what an embarrassingly bad situation they were in. And sometime, somewhere, there's always a hack compiling a points for dollars 'value chart' which only compounds the problem. Far better for them if Ferrari and McLaren had more medals than Muttley and everyone else had diddly squat.
When Bernie's suggestion first broke cover, a couple of journalists looked into the last 20 years and discovered that save for Felipe Massa winning last year's championship instead of Lewis Hamilton, the medal system would have made precious little difference. The FIA though, has now conducted a more thorough investigation of its own and, last week, let it be known that the medal system would have changed the landscape of the F1 world championship rather considerably. The world champion would have been different 13 times and only 22 of the 59 championships would have concluded with the same top three.
Looking back, Stirling Moss would have become Britain's first ever world champion instead of Mike Hawthorn in 1958, which surely nobody can seriously argue with. And nobody, either, could really have a problem with an extra couple of titles for Jim Clark at the expense of John Surtees (1964) and Denny Hulme (1967) although doubtless I'll get my mailbox clogged up with protestations from the irascible Big John.
Another decade would have gone by before the next change, which would have given Mario Andretti's Lotus the title in 1977, instead of Niki Lauda. This, as the FIA points out, is not entirely fair on Niki considering that by the end of the year he'd properly fallen out with Enzo Ferrari and, knowing that he was driving for Bernie's Brabham team in '78, he did a runner as soon as he'd won the title under the totting up procedure.
Niki was not impressed that the Old Man favoured Carlos Reutemann after he'd busted a gut to bravely get back into the car and defend his title just six weeks after the Nurburgring barbecue - his words, not mine - in '76.
It had turned to full-scale war by the end of '77 when the 'Old Man' made a gesture by firing Niki's loyal mechanic Ermano Cuoghi. As soon as Niki had won the title he gave Ferrari the finger and took Cuoghi with him to Brabham. Regaining the title that year was one of sport's great comeback stories. Even though Lauda was hardly dominant, he only finished his incomplete year with one victory less than Andretti, so we don't want Mario having that one, thanks very much. He took it the next year anyway, in a manner nobody could argue with in the fabulous Lotus 79.
Alan Jones instead of Jody Scheckter in 1979? Given the excellence of the Williams FW07 and some of AJ's performances that year, I think another title for the Aussie (he won in 1980) would have been fair, although, for me, the real deserving champion of 1979 will always be Gilles Villeneuve. And sorry if that offends those of you who think that Zandvoort and Dijon were dreadfully irresponsible. I bet you're all accountants anyway and no doubt you all file your tax returns on April 6 and not 23.30 on January 31, which can be done on-line now that we don't have to rely on the good old royal mail. Try it one year, you might find it exciting which, incidentally, follows excise in the dictionary. Look it up and see what it means!
Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet in 1981 would probably not have offended anyone, ditto the same result in '83. But Didier Pironi instead of Keke Rosberg in the intervening season may well have had a few jumping up and down - a resident of Surrey going by the name of Mr N. Roebuck no doubt principal among them!
1982 Dutch Grand Prix winner (and theoretical world champion) Didier Pironi © LAT
Even those with a soft spot for Lauda could not really argue with Prost being crowned champion in that McLaren dominant '84 season and titles for Mansell at the expense of Prost in '86 and Piquet in '87 would have made Nigel a triple champion which, on reflection, is probably a fairer return. A title apiece for Senna and Prost in 1988/9 is also a nonsense given the superiority Ayrton showed over Alain, and the medal system would have sorted that too, giving Senna four consecutive titles from '88 through '91.
For statos, Michael Schumacher would still have his seven titles, two more than anyone else, but Prost would join Fangio with five. Clark and Senna would have four apiece, while the triple champions would be Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart and Mansell.
What other differences would medals have made? You don't have to be an end of season circuit promoter to love those title battles that go down to the wire. We all like those. Well, 14 championship battles would have been shorter (1955, 1970, 1978, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004), while eight would have lasted longer (1973, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2005). We would have lost five final race showdowns (1955, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000) but gained six (1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991 and 2005).
But do you know what's really ironic? Nelson Piquet would have lost all three of his world titles and Brabham under Bernie's ownership would have won no drivers' titles! Still think it's a good idea, Bernie?
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