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Imagine a great and climactic multi-car scrap. One that goes on for lap after lap between different drivers representing different teams. Where positions change and contact is never than a few millimeters away. Perhaps there's a driver who makes the drive of his or her (you never know) life and emerges victorious from it. And then think of the disappointment, when you remember that it was all virtually for nothing, as it was going on way outside the top 10.
Safe to say that it's a scenario all F1 fans can relate to. So, with the winds of change blowing in the world of Formula 1, I figured now is as good time as any to ask a simple question: should points be awarded to grid positions way past the 10th spot? Well, let's explore it a bit.
Every Battle Should Matter
Now, obviously, we'd all prefer Formula 1, where the performance gap between different teams is minimal with everyone being able to fight for a spot in the top 10 purely on merit. Yet, while the performance gap of the recent years has been unacceptably huge, the reality is that it will always be there to a certain extent. Therefore, there will also always be those who struggle to crack the top 10 on a regular basis. They might be underfunded but plunky, smaller teams trying to defy the odds or ambitious projects that need time to flourish. Either way, they're a part of the show and can produce some great moments.
So, why not give it all some much needed context? You see, if points were rewarded to the first 18 places instead of 10 for example, it would mean that a backmarker team wouldn't have to hope for this one crazy lottery of a race to score. They'd have something to fight for every weekend and whatever small progress they make would be reflected in the standings. Naturally, it would also mean that the fans would get a lot more excitement out of watching these often great battles at the back of the grid.
In other words, every battle on track would suddenly have meaning and even the weakest teams would be guaranteed a source of motivation (that in turn could also lead to more teams joining the circus). However, as it's Formula 1 we're talking about, it's of course never quite as simple and there are some considerable drawbacks to consider.
Devaluing the Race for the Grand Prize
And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it's not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it's possible—Ayrton Senna
Not only does this iconic quote from Senna perfectly sum up the mentality of a racing driver, but pretty much anyone involved with this hugely competitive sport. And, well, it does make perfect sense, as this is how Grand Prix racing started. There were no points. There was just victory—the Grand Prize. Therefore, it stands to reason that giving points to practically everyone would be a step too far from that original concept. For one, we certainly wouldn't get these epic celebrations whenever a backmarker finally manages to score.
Webber celebrates his 5th place on his debut for the perpetual backmarkers Minardi.
Furthermore, it's not like rewarding points to lower positions would fix the performance gap issue. It would just end up masking it when the main focus should be on providing more equality between different teams. In fact, it was as recently as 2002, when only the top 6 was given points and, well, each of the 11 teams were able to score that year (admittedly, there were more mechanical retirements back then).
Then of course there are the technicalities. What if only 10 cars finish the race and the ones who didn't all retired before you could apply the rule of covering at least 90% of the race winners distance in order to score? Should rest of the points simply not be given out? Or should we just scrap that rule altogether and give points to someone who retired halfway through the race or drove like a complete idiot? Now, issues like these aren't insurmountable, but they certainly would add that extra bit of confusion to an already overly complex sport.
So, where does it leave us?
When everything is said and done, it all comes down to a simple line of thought. The road to victory in Formula 1 will always be long and many will never reach the end of it. Yet, this doesn't take away the passion behind these efforts. It doesn't mean that the struggles at the back of the grid can't produce some fascinating stories and moments. Therefore, it really doesn't make sense to act like they're not happening and make them amount to zero in the standings. That, I recon, is a point well worth considering when thinking about the future of Formula 1.