- The Inside Line
The point to double pointsKate Walker August 4, 2014
With the teams all busy getting down to the important business of enjoying a well-earned - and much needed - break, there is little to be getting worked up about in the wider world of Formula One.
But as someone who always needs to be worked up about something, I found myself musing on the double-points fiasco set to cap off (ruin?) what is looking like one of the most thrilling seasons in recent memory.
It was always obvious why Bernie Ecclestone wanted to bring in the double: money. Not only would the idea theoretically guarantee an audience until the bitter end of a potentially uncompetitive season, but the special status now afforded to the last race of the year brings with it the opportunity to auction the slot, selling it to the highest bidder.
What was less obvious was why the FIA would go along with an idea whose very essence is the dilution of one of the sport's traditions, giving equal weight to every round in the championship.
As ever, the principle of Occam's Razor applies: the simplest solution is usually correct. And in the question of double points, the FIA's motivation was exactly the same as Ecclestone's: money.
Despite negotiating new terms with the commercial rights holder in a deal announced at last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, the FIA remains strapped for cash - their spending isn't restricted to their championships, but also includes all manner of costs relating to administration; member clubs; programmes designed to improve safety, education, and training; and much more besides.
At present, the Federation's biggest money spinner is in its entry fees, with teams paying sums of money calculated using the number of constructors' points scored in the previous season and drivers doing the same with their own points haul. The more points there are, the more potential cash the FIA can accrue. As a result, we're unlikely to see the much-ridiculed rule disappear any time soon.
But there is a fix that should keep everyone happy should double points lurk in the regulations long term: If double-points are vital to the FIA's finances and integral to maintaining declining fan interest till the end of the season, then why not change the format of the final round?
By the end of the season, teams are as familiar with their cars as they're ever going to be. Scrap FP3, and swap it for a Saturday morning qualifying session. Instead of qualies in the afternoon, have a full grand prix of however many laps makes up a race at the circuit in question. Bring in a Sunday morning qualifying session - as is done when traditional qualies are rained off - and then race as normal on Sunday.
The last race weekend of the season will then be more valuable than the others, but no one race win - or retirement - will have more weight than any of the others. It's not a perfect solution by any means, but if the FIA needs the cash from the additional points it's a damn sight better than doubling up the value of a single grand prix.
Mercedes' dominance of the season thus far also raises the prospect of an interesting points manipulation: should the Silver Arrows secure the constructors' title before the final round - as is almost certain to happen - it then becomes in the financial interests of the team to prevent their drivers from racking up endless 1-2 finishes.
If Hamilton and Rosberg can be encouraged to duke it out for the drivers' crown and potentially cause a few DNFs or low-points finishes in the process, the then-champions will be able to save themselves a pretty penny. Should either driver be crowned champion before Abu Dhabi, it is then in his interest to dawdle along at the back of the pack so that the following season's super license isn't quite so expensive.
That final round is all set to be an absolute thriller. Not.