Through the history of formula 1 seven different systems have been in use. In general the idea behind changing it, has been to either make it fairer or to spice up the action. Especially the changes in recent years have had the latter goal in mind. The question we are going to address this time is: would it have made a difference?

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In other words what is the impact of the different point systems when compared next to each other for a specific season? This site is centered on the ability to compare drivers over time using the different point systems. I have analysed the different outcomes per season based on the different point systems.

This analysis is a bit tricky because in the past (up until 1990) championships were governed by an additional set of rules, typically rules like 'x best results are counted toward the championship'. These rules filter out the lowest results. The assumption we take here is that the points scored under a specific system on average provide a reasonable picture of the outcomes for a specific season.

Comparing point systems
There have been 64 completed seasons, excluding the current 65th 2014 season. For each of these 64 seasons, we will check if another driver would have won the championship for a different point system.

From the 64 seasons; only 16 would have a different outcome under one of the seven point systems. Meaning a different driver would have had the most points under at least 1 system, the other 6 point systems might have led to the same driver having the most points.

This is only one quarter of the cases! This is significant in itself. So in the vast majority of the seasons, 48 of them, it would not have mattered at all which point system would have been in place! This includes the, kind of mad, current point system.

This is further emphasised by the observation that of the 16 seasons that would have been impacted by a different point system, 6 of them would have only had a different champion under 1 out of the 7 available point systems. That makes even these 6 cases a bit marginal.

If you place this in light of the possible objection to this comparison; that under a different point system the championship might have taken another route entirely (because of the potential different dynamic introduced). Than one could argue that the exact point system in itself has even less impact on the course of events.

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The not-so-normal point systems
Now let's zoom into the impact of the non-regular point systems: the current and the first one. Both systems have a deviation from the general starting point of any point system: consistent better outcomes are rewarded with more points.

Let's start with our current point system. Initiated in 2014, to make sure the championship will run as long as possible. It rewards the last GP of the season with double points. The general consensus being that this point system is quite ludicrous. And rumours are still abound that it will be reverted for 2015, with even Ecclestone indicating it will probably not stay. The current standings in the championship have fuelled the outrage/discussion even further. One reason for the ferocity of the protest is that this point system is a whole other beast than all that have come before it. Because it unevenly rewards a single outcome and therefore that event plays a bigger role and giving 'luck' a bigger factor on the (championship) outcome.

So what would have been the impact of the current PSD? Surprisingly, only 2 out of these 16 seasons would have had a different outcome based on this system alone. Or if you will 2 out of 64; around 3%.

  • Season 2012: Fernando Alonso would have been champion over Sebastian Vettel
  • Season 1990: Alain Prost would have been champion over Ayrton Senna

Note; there are 7 more seasons that would have had a different outcome under this point system, but also would have ended differently under other point systems. For reference these are seasons: 2008 (Massa over Hamilton), 1999 (Irvine over Hakkinen), 1994 (D. Hill over M. Schumacher), 1984 (Prost over Lauda), 1970 (Ickx over Rindt), 1965 (G. Hill over Clark), 1964 (Surtees over G. Hill).

The other system which is significantly different from the others is the first one ever used. It was in use from 1950-1959. Next to the regular finishing positions it also rewarded the fastest lap with a single point. Surprisingly this system would have had a bigger impact than the current one, if it were in place during:

  • Season 1986: Nelson Piquet over Alain Prost
  • Season 1979: Gilles Villeneuve over Jody Scheckter
  • Season 1974: Clay Regazonni over Emerson Fittipaldi

Note; there are 7 more seasons that would have had a different outcome under this point system, but also would have ended differently under other point systems. For reference these are seasons: 2008 (Massa over Hamilton), 1994 (D. Hill over M. Schumacher), 1984 (Prost over Lauda), 1981 (Jones over Piquet), 1976 (Lauda over Hunt), 1970 (Ickx over Rindt), 1964 (Surtees over G. Hill).

In light of the debate on adding more spectacle to the show, this does provide an interesting perspective; it makes more sense to award points for the fastest lap!

Two-way fights
Another interesting fact from this analysis that there is only a single season that would have yielded more than 2 different winners under the different systems. This would have been season 1981, where Nelson Piquet became champ.

  • Carlos Reuteman would have won under the 8 point system extended - seasons: 1960 - 1960
  • Alan Jones would have taken the spoils under the 8 point system + fastest lap - seasons: 1950 - 1959.

One more fact that the analysis revealed and I don't want to leave out is that 1994 is the only season where the champion (Michael Schumacher) would have become champion under the applicable point system alone. Under all other point systems Damon Hill would have become champion (and we all know how that season finale ended between those two drivers).

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The difference?
We can conclude from the above that it hardly matters which point system is used at all. The difference in outcome is further negated by that fact that in the end any championship is typically always a two-way fight. And (except for the current point system) each point system inherently rewards the driver that consistently demonstrates the best performance with the most points.

So the wrap it up, in the grander scheme of things it doesn't really make any difference which point system is used to appoint the champion for a particular season. And therefore the point system should only focus on providing a consistent and equal playing field for all drivers throughout the season. Hopefully the current point system will be reverted for next season. If we do want to spice things up just a little bit, we could award points for the fastest lap again, which at least adheres to the consistency principle.

Let me know your thoughts on the different point systems and which one you (still) prefer in the comments below!