1990 Australian Grand Prix start, Adelaide

F1 considered reviving ‘dropped scores’ points system in case drivers miss races

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 discussed reviving a 30-year-old rule which allowed drivers to ‘drop’ their worst results this season.

The move was considered to reduce the possibility the championship could be influenced by a driver having to miss races due to the pandemic.

The system restricted how many race results a driver could count towards their final championship points total. In its final iteration, between 1984 and 1990, drivers best 11 results from the 16 races held each season were counted, i.e. ‘dropping’ their five worst results.

The rule, versions of which had been used since the world championship began, was dropped at the end of 1990. When Nelson Piquet won the season finale at Adelaide (pictured above) he scored nine points for the win but also had to drop his 12th-best score, one point for sixth in an earlier race.

That has never happened since: From the beginning of 1991, drivers kept all the points scored at every race each year. But speaking to RaceFans in an exclusive interview, Formula 1’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn confirmed “we did consider” reintroducing the rule in talks after the start of the season was postponed due to the pandemic.

Brawn said the plan was rejected because they feared teams would find a way to exploit the rule to gain an advantage. “The conclusion we came to is, unfortunately, the teams would game it,” he explained. “They would use up that capacity to drop a couple of results.

Ross Brawn, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019
“They would never keep it in their pocket… they’ll game it”
“They would never keep that in their pocket in case the driver was ill, they would use it when they had a bad result. If they had a reliability problem or they had a crash, they would say ‘well, that’s one of our results gone’. So I don’t know how you avoid that.”

Reintroducing the rule would encourage teams to park their cars in certain circumstances, Brawn believes.

“They would say, ‘we’re not going to score points this race, we might as well drop out and save the engine’. Or ‘we’re at the stage where the points we’re going to score in this race aren’t enough’. They’ll game it.

“Formula 1, the nature of it is [that] would be used as a tactical advantage rather than the good intent, which is if someone’s incapacitated for whatever reason, then their championship doesn’t get penalised.”

Brawn acknowledged the possibility of making a “specific exception” by introducing a rule which only allowed drivers to drop a score if they were absent due to a positive Covid-19 test, but said this is “not something which is on the agenda at the moment”.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 31 comments on “F1 considered reviving ‘dropped scores’ points system in case drivers miss races”

    1. That is the thing with F1, even a totally sensible rule can get exploited outside its intended benefit.

      Sad but true.

    2. I think it’s a good idea to consider. Probably brainstorm it a bit to see if it can be exploited in a bad/negative way (yes, there’s an example of teams dropping DNFs, but isn’t that a loophole available to all).

      I would hate for any championship position to be immediately* affected due to a driver having to miss a race due to Covid-19. This season is already going to have an asterisk next to the year, I don’t want any participant also having an asterisk next to their final championship standing.

      So if it means asking all drivers to drop N results and computing the championships on what remains, I think it’s a good deal.

      * There is still the possibility that some significant health could influence the outcome even after such a rule is in place. Which is acceptable to me – there’s no point wringing our hands over a 1% eventuality (i.e. a driver is forced to skip more than N races due to illness), what would be worse is using that as a reason to not safeguard a 10% eventuality (a driver is forced to skip zero-to-N races due to illness).

      PS: Dr. Marko – no, don’t get your strategists involved on when you need to infect one of your drivers to give RBR a leg-up.

      1. @phylyp I see no reason for an asterisk next to this year. Care to elaborate?

        1. If we get 8 or more races in then indeed it is as valid a championship season as many previous ones.
          You could have an argument about the ‘World’ part though if the series doesn’t go beyond Europe.

      2. @phylyp Why this season is going to have an asterisk next to the year?
        We’ve had 7 & 8-race championships almost every season in the 50s (6 & 7-race practicly since the only race outside of Europe was the Indy 500 where few to none of the “original” drivers and teams took part) and we count them as normal.
        Drivers sharing the same car and the win, drivers dying and winning the championship posthumously, drivers (championship contenders in fact) getting injured or sick, unable to race at some races while their rivals were winning them and returning still with a chance to win, without the rest of drivers dropping their scores to make it even for those who were missing. All of those things were normal and no year has an asterisk in it. Why should this season be any different?

        @coldfly Aside from Europe we’ll probably have 2-3 races in the Middle East. No major covid-19 outbreaks there, the tracks are both in the middle of the desert, the promoters aren’t that dependent on ticket revenue because Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are mostly propaganda races and want the exposure. So Europe and Asia, 2 continents, the same as 7 other seasons that we’ve had races only in Europe and North America (some of them as i mentioned above, the only race outside Europe was the Indy 500 where neither Fangio & Ascari, nor Ferrari etc took part) and we still consider them “World Championships”.
        I didn’t hear anywhere that when Hamilton equaled Fangio on 5 championships, Fangio’s 5 championships should have an asterisk next to them due to the “peculiar” seasons he had won.

        1. @black, I was only referring to the official requirement that a ‘World’ Championship needs to race on at least 3 different continents.
          But to me, a season with 8 races is a valid F1 season with valid champions, even if just raced on 1-2 continents.

          PS – you might want to read up on the COVID-19 outbreak in the Middle East.

          1. @coldfly Brawn said there isn’t a 3 continent requirement, just 8 races to be valid (and 15 races to gat paid from the TV contracts presumably):

            Usually a world championship has to visit three continents. However an FIA source has confirmed that in the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis that requirement won’t have to be met. “In theory the eight European races will constitute a world championship”.

            Also Bahrain’s & UAE’s covid-19 numbers are about normal to a bit more than normal (given that more than half of the cases have recovered), but certainly they are in much much better situation than the UK, Spain, Italy and Belgium…5/8 races already confirmed, plus the Middle East ones are going to take place many months from now in December. FIA indicated that the first 8 European and these two races are the only ones that are “safe” and “certain” we’ll race. And as i said both tracks (Bahrain’s lies in the middle of the desert) are quite isolated from the cities.

            1. I’d add an asterisk to the season whatever happens. The main reason is that drivers are going into the unknown. We don’t yet know the total number of races and that fact alone could influence how the drivers perform and the level of risk they take. I don’t care that there were only 8 races in the 50’s this is F1 2020 where a full season is considered to be around 20 races. I don’t think there’s ever been repeated tracks before too or a several month delay to the season start. Simply put these are unprecedented times. Whoever wins the Championship would have won it fairly but I’ll always look at the championship differently to the others. My opinion of course but we already know the season is going to look and feel different so why not note it in the history books.

            2. @Benji This season sure is different than the most recent ones that we’re used to, but in F1 there have been many many “weird” seasons and we still count them as normal as we should. If we start to note seasons in the history books with an asterisk, what are the criteria and when do we stop?

              In the 50s some seasons we run on Formula 2 rules! But we still count them as normal.
              Also in the 50s drivers shared cars, if the lead driver in a team retired, the team could call in the other guy, hand the car over to the lead man and off he went again! And we still count these season as normal, imagine if something like that was proposed for 2020.
              Until the 90s the driver with the most points at all the races, wasn’t necessarily the champions, as only the best X results mattered. In 1987 Prost had 11 more points (a full win and 2pts more!) than Senna, yet Senna won by 3pts because of this rule. Is that normal?
              In 2005 the Indy fiasco happened, where 2/3 withdrew before the start, imagine something like that happening today on the last race with the championship at stake! But we still counted the season.
              In 2014 we had one race, no different than the rest 18 of them, to offer double points! Imagine if Rosberg won the championship like this. We still count 2014 as a normal season.

              We don’t yet know the total number of races

              The full calendar will probably be announced before Austria. Even if it doesn’t, i remember back in 2011 when Bahrain was canceled, it wasn’t until some races well into the season when FIA informed the teams about whether the Bahrain GP was going to happen thus how many races the season will have. I’m sure there are other examples in the past as well.

              that fact alone could influence how the drivers perform and the level of risk they take

              Well after so many months of waiting and after thousands conversations we had on this, i’m sure the drivers have a pretty good picture how to approach the season and the uncertainty around it. In 1994 after Senna’s and Ratzenberger’s deaths, drivers, teams and fans were all in shock and in just 2 weeks after they were racing again – i’m not saying that is a good thing but the events happened much faster than the coronavirus crisis. For the rest of the season drivers were in shock and many tracks changed their layout at short notice installng temporary chicanes to slow the cars down before the necessary rule change to make the cars safer.

              I don’t think there’s ever been repeated tracks before

              That’s true but irrelevant. It doesn’t change anything, a track is a track, as long all the teams have agreed and it’s in their best interest, doing 2 races in the same track doesn’t change the championship. We’ve never used to have more than 1, maybe 2, races in each country but in 1982 we had 3 in the US alone.

              a several month delay to the season start.

              That has happened, not at this scale sure but opening races have been postponed/canceled in the past. Even with a gap that massive between last season’s finale and this season’s opening race, it’s still only the 3rd longest.

              In the end of the day, as long as they hold 8 races, it’s as valid and as weird as the rest of the F1 seasons.

    3. Not sure I really agree that it sad. Trying to get every little bit of advantage (which is entirely fair when it is within the rules) is a sport within the sport, and F1 wouldn’t really be F1 without that mindset. That has some consequences, like making it hard to police, but that’s just how it is.

      1. D’oh, that was a response to @jureo.

    4. Reintroducing the rule would encourage teams to park their cars in certain circumstances, Brawn believes.

      “They would say, ‘we’re not going to score points this race, we might as well drop out and save the engine’.

      Well, maybe having the same engines for multiple races is a mistake? They are already parking their cars while the things are still capable of going forwards, every retirement in the pits is a testament to that.
      Once you take away the awkward components-for-multiple-events rules, the way teams and drivers would react to the best 16 out of 22 races counting would be to take more risks. Out of all the measures discussed as ways to add entertainment to F1, this is the only one that feels genuinely true to F1.

      1. @crammond the fact that they are parking the car in the pits does not automatically mean that the car is necessarily OK to continue. For example, if you have a slow loss of coolant from the system, there is still a good chance that you could drive back to the pits at a moderate speed and park a car that, externally, looks like it is OK, but in reality would fail if you continued to drive it.

        There are some quite famous historical examples of that – in the 1968 Belgian GP, Amon was able to drive around most of the lap with a punctured radiator after a stone, in a freak event, punched a small hole in it; nobody realised that there was a problem with the car when he parked it in the pit lane, and it was only when he explained to the mechanics what had happened that anybody worked out why he’d stopped.

        As to the idea of drivers changing their style if races could be dropped – will drivers will actually take more risks? There wasn’t any noticeable change in driver behaviour when the rule about dropping scores was removed; would drivers really suddenly become significantly more aggressive if the rule was then reversed? It’s rare for a driver to instantly change their personality due to a rule change, let alone the entire grid – I suspect it is rather more likely that the drivers probably would behave largely the same as they do now.

        Additionally, if a driver were to try a highly risky move, only for it to go wrong and to then cause a major crash, that driver is still going to be penalised for that crash. You’re not just potentially missing out on one race, you are potentially then compromising your next race as well – a grid penalty at the least, and potentially even a race ban if you were already close to the limit on penalty points. Because drivers could still get penalised or even temporarily banned if they were too reckless, I am not sure that drivers would really start taking that much more risk than they do now.

    5. A driver getting ill was never a problem before, so why should it be a problem now?

      1. GS (@gsagostinho)
        11th June 2020, 13:08

        Maybe because of the biggest pandemic in 100 years which crippled nearly all countries in the globe?

        1. From a massive overreaction. Its not even classed as a pandemic in most countries now.

          Infact when you look at the numbers of deaths its barely higher than some previous years flu seasons – and there was very little panic about that.

          1. GS (@gsagostinho)
            11th June 2020, 13:36


            1. All true. Maybe its not apocalyptic enough for you?

          2. Roger, do you have any credible sources to back up such claims, or are you just rejecting them because of your apparent dislike of “mainstream media” and therefore taking whatever position is contrary to theirs?

            Covid-19 deaths have significantly outstripped normal seasonal flu deaths in a number of countries. In the United States, the current count of 116,000 known fatalities from 2.1 million cases compares to the 24,000-62,000 range from 39-56 million infections that the Centre of Disease Control estimates as the range for seasonal flu deaths, meaning that covid-19 deaths are a factor of 2 to 5 times higher than normal (for example, 2018-19 saw 34,200 deaths from seasonal flu out of a total of 35.5 million infections).

            When fatalities in the USA are a factor of about 2 times higher than the normal maximum peak you would expect around 4 times higher than average, that does not strike me as being “barely higher” than previous years – that is significantly higher. It’s only been those nations that implemented the very measures you complain about that haven’t seen significant numbers of fatalities due to Covid-19.

      2. It’s more of a problem now because if a driver tests positive for coronavirus, it doesn’t matter if his symptoms are mild, he would have to self-isolate for up to two weeks (might depend on the country he is currently in) to avoid spreading it throughout the paddock. And especially with the condensed calendar we have, that could mean missing multiple races, in a season with a reduced number of races. Missing two races of an 8 race championship would likely be devastating for any championship contender.

        So it’s a problem now because A) it’s much more likely to occur with the current pandemic situation, and B) the consequences would be much harsher on the driver.

        1. But sadly only because of the Msm and government spin on it all. In the past if a driver came down with the flu, many just drove it out and got on with it. Nobody ran and hid from a 0.05% chance on dying, especially those that had a much higher chance of death every weekend.

          1. To add, this flu bug is no worse than past strains in terms of contagion.

            1. Roger you’re clueless.

    6. Always hated this rule in the past. Always found it silly the Senna won a title when he had significantly less points one year than his rival.

      But in this circumstance I can see it being an option for a year, but the problem again is it could look silly if no one is ill and say Lewis scores more points than Max but doesn’t win the title.

      Id say leave it as is. Actually id rather go back to 10 points for a win but thats just me

    7. Should any driver be ill with covid-19, how many miles will he have to drive to test his eyesight when he’s recovered?

      1. roughly the distance between London and Durham.

        1. Which funnily enough is about a race distance

          1. I can see it now, Dominic Cummings squinting into an early lead.

    8. *facepalm*

      One more point showing what an opposites of smart people are running F1!

      Hope they all are fired or quit when they understand their worthlessness

    9. I do not understand why it is assumed that this rule would be apply to both championships and not only to the drivers one. I would like to see drivers taking more risks aiming to win their championship.

      At least see what would have happened if you had this rule during the last 10 years. Alonso would have won the 2012’s championship? Hamilton would be already a 7th world champion? How many championships would had been disputed until the last race? The data is there.

      1. I don’t have the stats but dropping your worst results means the winner of the championship is more dependent on their number of wins, rather than consistency of high finishes. You can think of it a bit like a toned down version of Bernie’s medal system, or other similar suggestions, where the number of race wins will generally be the deciding factor. I would think if you applied this to previous championships, they would look more one sided and be decided earlier in the season in general.

        I know dropping worst results is not exactly the same, but for a medal system in the seasons you mentioned; going into the last race Vettel had won 5, Hamilton 4, and Alonso 3 races. Vettel also had 3 2nd places to Hamilton’s 0, so he would have won the championship before Brazil even if Hamilton tied him for wins. In 2016 Hamilton won 10 races to Rosberg’s 9 so would have won that championship at the final race.

        You can argue that dropping the worst results is a ‘fairer’ system, as it helps balance out any bad luck experienced by the dominant team/driver. But I’m personally not in favour of it because it reduces unpredictability, and even further favours the fastest car/driver combination, making it even less likely than an underdog could steal a championship through greater consistency over the course of a season.

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