Three new champs under medals system, FIA reveal

fiaSir Stirling Moss, along with fellow title bridesmaids Didier Pironi and Felipe Massa, would have been crowned champion under Bernie Ecclestone’s proposed medal scoring system, an analysis by Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, has revealed.

The former Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Vanwell and Cooper driver was four times a championship runner-up during his glittering ten year career in Formula One. He narrowly lost out to Mike Hawthorne in the 1958 championship despite taking more wins than the British driver and in the 1955-57 campaigns he was usurped by the legendary Argentine driver and tripple world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

Moss’s aggressive all-or-nothing racing style carried him to several historic victories over his peers, but a lack of restraint and conservatism at times is viewed as one of the factors that cost him ultimate championship success.

Fifty years on and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is trying to re-introduce the Moss mentality to grand prix racing through a medal scoring system.

The scheme, which some say is more about trying to align Formula One with the Olympics and secure government funding than anything to do with the racing spectacle, has been pursued relentlessly by Ecclestone and would see the drivers’ championship awarded to the winner of the most wins or gold medals, not the driver with the most points.

Currently there is only a two points difference between finishing first and second. The medals system, it is argued, would increase over-taking by encouraging drivers to be more aggressive and race to win, rather than to settle for second place and preserve the car.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport and only the best driver should win the title,” Ecclestone said at the end of last year. “Being a Formula 1 world champion is not about being a consistent and reliable runner-up. It s about racing hard, taking chances and not settling for second best.

“It shouldn t be possible for someone to be crowned world champion without winning a single race, but that really could happen unless we change the scoring system.”

Moss himself welcomes the proposal but says that medals should be underpinned by points to ensure that all drivers and teams can battle it out over the course of a season.

“I think that so as long as the drivers are awarded points as well I think it will be terrific,” he told Forumula1.com.

“I think you need to keep both. I understand where Bernie is coming from, and it would be most important to have gold, silver and bronze medals, but you need to have points in there as well because it makes quite a difference in terms of drivers and teams building them up over the course of a season.”

The FIA announced at the end of last year that market research would be carried out to assess the appeal of the idea. An initial analysis by the FIA highlighting the historical impact of the scoring system shows that the outcomes of past World Championships would change considerably. Only 22 of the 59 World Championships to date would have the same top 3. The other 37 World Championships would be different. The World Champion would be altered on 13 occasions.

The medal system would create three “new” World Champions who did not win the title using the various points systems. The overall effect would be to reduce the number of World Champions, concentrating the titles in a smaller group. The results that would change are largely before 1990. The last 20 years would be largely unchanged.

In the overall assessment the list of World Championships per driver would be altered as follows:

1958 Stirling Moss instead of Mike Hawthorn
1964 Jim Clark instead of John Surtees
1967 Jim Clark instead of Denny Hulme
1977 Mario Andretti instead of Niki Lauda
1979 Alan Jones instead of Jody Scheckter
1981 Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet
1982 Didier Pironi instead of Keke Rosberg
1983 Alain Prost instead of Nelson Piquet
1984 Alain Prost instead of Niki Lauda
1986 Nigel Mansell instead of Alain Prost
1987 Nigel Mansell instead of Nelson Piquet
1989 Ayrton Senna instead of Alain Prost
2008 Felipe Massa instead of Lewis Hamilton

The FIA was also quick to point out that under the proposed medal system Bernie Ecclestone’s former team, Brabham, would not have won the world championship

Key historical changes:

  • Brabham under the ownership of Bernie Ecclestone would have won no Drivers Championships.
  • Stirling Moss would have been the first British World Champion.
  • Jim Clark would have won four titles, rather than two. He would have won three consecutive titles in 1963-64-65.
  • Mario Andretti and Alan Jones would each have won two titles instead of one.
  • Niki Lauda would have lost two of his three championships and would have just one title to his name.
  • It should be noted, however, that the 1977 result is skewed by the fact that Lauda left Ferrari as soon as he had won the title and did not compete in the final races. If the scoring system had been different the result would almost certainly not have favoured Andretti.
  • Nelson Piquet would have lost all three of his World Championships.
  • All four World Champions between 1981-1984 would have been different.
  • Alain Prost would have won five World Championships but they would be different to the four that he actually claimed. His titles were won in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993. With the medal system they would have been 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1993. He would have won three consecutive titles in 1983-85.
  • Nigel Mansell would have won three World Championships instead of one, adding to 1986 and 1987 to his 1992 triumph.
  • Ayrton Senna would have won the 1989 title and thus would have had four consecutive titles between 1988 and 1991.
  • The duration of the World Championship battle would have been altered in 22 of the 59 seasons. The medal system would have had no effect in 37 of the 59 World Championships.

Championship length

Fourteen World Championship battles would have been shorter (1955, 1970, 1978, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004).

Eight World Championship battles would have lasted longer (1973, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2005).

In terms of World Championship final race showdowns, there would have been five lost (1955, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000) but six gained (1977, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1991 and 2005).