Recently, never-shy Bernie Ecclestone suggested a new master plan for F1's driver points system. Medals. As in Gold, Silver, Bronze?
So are we saying that from 2009 (if Bernie gets his way), Grand Prix winners will be handed a little gold disc instead of a magnificent trophy and anyone finishing lower than third will receive no driver points for their efforts?
Isn't that silly?
Well, put blatantly like that, it certainly sounds a little strange and perhaps even rash to replace F1's points system with something that appears entirely inappropriate. But for a moment, let's ignore the aesthetics of it and examine what Bernie was really getting at.
At Interlagos the other week, Felipe Massa won a beautifully judged victory in front of his home crowd, his sixth win of the season. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton slithered past a very wobbly Timo Glock at the last corner to finish fifth and...become World Champion. Lewis' final victory tally stood at five.
Now on the one hand, the season finale was amazing entertainment and this article is not going to attempt to dispute Hamilton's deserving Championship credentials.
On the other hand, there were many watching the Brazilian Grand Prix (including this writer) who felt that Massa somehow didn't deserve to lose, given his stunning drive. And that Mclaren's conservative approach was completely at odds with what becoming a Champion is all about.
Surely the Champion should be the driver with the most victories. The man who dominates the finale, should take home the biggest prize shouldn't he?
And that's what Bernie Eccelstone is getting at.
Since the points system was changed in 2003, it has become to easy to challenge with consistency. Raikkonen almost became Champion in 2003 winning only once, in Malaysia, and Button raced to third in the 2004 standings, despite not winning a single event. This year and last, Lewis raced to second and first in the standings, despite winning fewer events than some of his rivals.
And in each case this can be entirely attributed to a Grand Prix win being less of an advantage than was previously the case.
Yet, the system was changed in the first place for the precise reason that he who won the most races usually became Champion.
It was hoped that by lessening the impact of a victory on the points table, the title race would become more open. Notwithstanding the 2004 season, this is exactly what has happened. '05,'06,'07, and '08 have all seen exciting and close Championship battles.
So what's the problem?
Put simply, Bernie wants to ensure that he who wins the most races becomes Champion. But that the title fight stays close and exciting. And to some, it would appear that recently used points systems are an inadequate way to achieve that balance.
So, setting to one side Bernie's terminology (let's face it it's pretty unlikely that drivers would actually be given medals!) what he's saying is that the podium positions are all important and that if you want to be Champion, you simply can't play safe for fifth place as Hamilton did in Brazil. If you want that title, you have to go all out to get in the top three. At every race.
I don't know about anyone else but, tradition aside, that sounds quite exciting to me.