If and when Lewis Hamilton adds to his tally of nine Formula One grand prix victories next season, the Briton could be given a gold medal rather than a big cup and ten World Championship points. Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s commercial rights-holder, confirmed yesterday that he is serious about dropping the points-based drivers’ championship in favour of a medal-based title race, which he believes will make for more exciting racing.
Under such a system the winning driver will receive a gold medal, with silver and bronze for second and third places, rather than points. Anyone who finishes fourth or below would receive no points in the drivers’ title race, either, but their finishing positions in each race would be important for their overall ranking. Scoring for the constructors’ championship would continue on the basis of the present system.
Ecclestone is determined that a new system be in place by the first race of the 2009 season, in Melbourne on March 29. “The FIA and all the teams are behind it and it will be done,” Ecclestone said. “Everybody understands gold medals and silver and bronze. Nearly all sports are done that way.
“The whole point will be, when they get to Melbourne for the first race, the guys will want to leave there with a gold medal. They don’t want to leave with ten, eight or six points.”
Ecclestone believes that the medal system will reward drivers for going for a win rather than settling for the minor places. “The need for it was highlighted at the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of this season when Hamilton only had to finish in the top five to win the title, not win. So this will encourage overtaking,” he said.
The new system will require approval by the FIA at the World Motor Sport Council meeting in December. The world governing body confirmed that the matter had been discussed by Ecclestone and Max Mosley, the FIA president, but said that the fine details had yet to be worked out.
In Barcelona yesterday, Formula One teams took to the track for the first three-day winter test at which hybrid cars, combining elements of the 2008 generation and the new-look machines for 2009, were tried out for the first time. Next season’s cars, which are designed to improve overtaking, will feature very wide front wings and high, narrow, rear wings.
Hopes that next year’s Canadian Grand Prix might be saved appear to have been dashed after last-ditch negotiations between Ecclestone and officials from Montreal failed to make progress. Gérald Tremblay, the Mayor of Montreal, said that “unreasonable demands” by Formula One had exceeded taxpayers’ ability to pay for the race.