F1 rushed out a suite of changes to its rules last night, triggering an online response from its global fanbase that ran something like: “#F1. WTF?”
Not so much at the news that, from next year, drivers will be able to wear the same numbers throughout their F1 career, like MotoGP and David Beckham. But to the news that the final round of next year’s championship in Abu Dhabi will score drivers double points. Double points.
The reaction to this has been universally negative, just as it was to Bernie’s last great idea to spice things up — a system of gold medals for race wins. Unlike the medals, it looks like this one is here to stay, so we’ll just have to make the best of it. And there is an upside, believe it or not.
Historically (and according to F1rejects.com) the double-points-last-race system would have meant two of the greatest drivers never to win a title would have instead won three; Gilles Villeneuve in 1979 and Stirling Moss in 1956 and 1958.
Now, it might be argued that Villeneuve’s Ferrari teammate Jody Scheckter only won with the good grace of Villeneuve following team orders in 1979, but that’s not so with the showdown in Vegas that ended the 1991 series (which would have gone to Alan Jones and not Nelson Piquet under the double points rule).
Alain Prost, meanwhile, would have overcome Niki Lauda’s tiny half-a-point margin in 1984, Kimi Raikkonen would have taken the title from Michael Schumacher in 2003, Felipe Massa from Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and Fernando Alonso from Sebastian Vettel in 2012.
The latter is presumably what Bernie had in mind when he came up with this terrible idea, but doesn’t the fact so many of the championships listed above were settled at the last round undermine the reasoning behind the scheme?
Whatever. We hate it. And we hate the idea that the race will be held at the visually striking but sterile anti-racing circuit around the docks at Abu Dhabi instead of Brazil’s brilliant Interlagos track. We’ll pass your letters and e-mails on to Bernie.
Rather more fun, however, is the news that bids are now open for numbers 2-99 for all drivers competing in next year’s world championship. The number one is only available to the reigning champion, but Vettel doesn’t have to run it next year if he doesn’t want to. What with the finger thing and everything, he does rather own it right now.
Fernando Alonso (as the runner up this year) has second dibs. We’re hoping Alo’ will go for ‘27’, the number raced by Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari, Alan Jones at Williams and Ayrton Senna at McLaren.
It’s F1’s most heroic number; if Alonso doesn’t bag 27, maybe Lewis Hamilton will. With Mark Webber not around, Ham gets next dibs and if he doesn’t go for ‘27’ maybe he’ll go for ‘22’, the number his McLaren was wearing when he won his title in 2008. Then again, ‘99’ might work. As in “I’ve got 99 problems but…”
Kimi Raikkonen (next in line) might want to express his love of ice cream via a tribute to the iconic seaside treat an order himself a ‘99’. Then again a James Hunt ‘24’ (from his first two seasons in F1 with Hesketh) would go well with that tribute helmet.
Nico Rosberg will surely take his father Keke’s ‘6’. Then again, Romain Grosjean – who wore a Francois Cevert tribute helmet at the US Grand Prix this year (Cevert was killed at the US race 40 years ago) – might also have designs on that number six. If Nico does bag it, then maybe RoGros can take ‘26’ instead. As any hardcore F1 fan knows, ‘26’ was the Ligier team’s number, F1’s most French team ever.
Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg are up next. How about Emerson Fittipaldi’s ‘8’ for Massa? And anything but a ‘Red Five’ for Button, please; apart from the same colour passport, Jenson is really nothing like Nigel Mansell. For Nico Hulkberg, having missed out on McLaren and Ferrari drives in the last two years and back in a Force India, surely only a ‘13’ will do.
Red Bull are insisting Daniel Ricciardo have a ‘21’ painted on his car, just so he doesn’t forget his job is not to beat Sebastian Vettel. Max Chilton’s dad meanwhile will buy him any number he wants.