Points for Everyone!

In its perpetual quest to leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of increasing the entertainment value of Formula 1 (read: its profitability) the series has turned their attention towards the points system. Recently, expanding the number of points scorers to 12 for the 2025 season was discussed. However, this idea was put on the shelf and a potential concept to hand out points to all drivers like IndyCar is being worked on. In this edition of the Gravel Trap, the author will go over the reasons why changing the system down to P12 would have been a silly pointless change that would have backfired on Formula 1 and why the concept of handing points to all drivers would be significantly better and with the current state of the sport and foreseeable future, it is actually the best choice.

Of course, for both proposals the author could complain about yet another dilution of historical record-keeping, but that ship left the harbour ever since 25 points were handed out for a win since 2010. He could also go with more emotional arguments like accusing Formula 1 of a participation trophy mindset, but given as those arguments are eerily close to culture wars the author has no intention in participating in, that would not be in anyone’s interest.

Instead, the first observation is that in some ways the proposed change is a blatant admission by Formula 1 that it is incapable and/or unwilling to solve the issue of dominance by Max Verstappen and what eventually will be his successor. The fact that the points of the top 5 would have remained untouched in the top 12 proposal means that championships will continue to be decided early. It is Formula 1 resolving the points in the linked column by throwing its hands up and declaring that they will now rely on battles for P12 to handle the complete lack of fights between P1 and P2 on many Sundays. Of course, this will only work to a limited extent. It is always a bit unpleasant to point this out on a site specifically designed to pay deserved tribute to the unsuccessful Formula 1 teams and drivers, but the majority of sport fans care about who wins a competition. Obviously, this is not to say that fans only care about the front of the grid, but most people would prefer much more to talk about a championship battle than make fictional tables about “Formula 1.5”. It is no coincidence that phenomenon was by far its most anonymous in 2021, the one recent season with an actual title battle.

However, one of the arguments the author has seen made on X in favour of the change towards points for the first twelve finishers is that now that McLaren have re-established themselves as a top team and with Aston Martin being a pretty solid fifth place (and not looking likely to get worse anytime soon), it means that the top ten spots that currently hand out points are pretty much unreachable for the bottom half of the grid in a normal race. There is an undeniable grain of truth to this claim. Of the 60 points finishes available so far this season, 52 have gone to the five teams currently in the top five of the championship standings and that number, without wishing to be particularly disrespectful, would be higher if Lance Stroll was replaced by a driver of a higher quality. 

However, that is where the main difference between expanding the points range to 12th and just giving points to all twenty competitors comes to light. Extending the number of points finishers to twelve only really serves as window dressing in terms of points availability.. With that system, this season of the 72 points finishes available, 53 would go to top five teams, leaving the bottom five with 19 (both of those numbers again subject to the Lance Stroll conjecture) – or 26.39%. To put that into perspective, over the full season twenty years ago, the 144 points finishes went to the bottom five 27, i.e. 18.75% of the time. However, as established of those 19 points finishes only eight would be not for 11th and 12th. Compare that to the 27 points finishes of 2004, where ten were scored by what were not the final two points-paying positions added ahead of the previous season, the lower percentage does not actually come across as worse.

That is where the real crux of the issue lies. Despite its liberal use of safety cars and red flags to spice up races and designing its aero rules to slow down cars and allow more thrilling racing, the blunt reality is that there just is not enough chaos to propel cars up the order anymore on a “regular” basis. This is why the author is in favour of expanding the points to all competitors. Of course, some of those issues would be fixable with the right attitude. For example, the return of the criminally-neglected drive-through penalty would surely mix up the top 10 and, unlike red flag and safety car shenanigans, also help with safety as dangerous driving would be sufficiently punished and thus discouraged. In particular the omnipresence of “let me pass or we crash”-type move and pushing drivers off the track would be significantly reduced. Furthermore, solving the spray issue would allow proper rain races to happen again, thereby giving nature’s great equalizer a chance to occasionally switch up the running order.

However, others are so fundamentally shaped into the nature of the current sport that any notion of improvement is almost unfathomable. Reliability will never get worse again on a serious level, the fact that Formula 1 has long gone away from maximising its demands technologically for the sake of reducing the financial burden and for the purposes of increasing overtaking makes pushing designs to their breaking point regularly pretty much impossible to accomplish. With the hyper-professionalism of the modern sport even such ideas as removing team radio to leave drivers all by themselves would not really accomplish much, as seen in Class One DTM. The only ways to reliably increase chaos would also involve increasing the danger, a trade-off that is not desirable. With that in mind, the author supports the notion of altering the points system to include every driver on the grid if the point system is to be changed. There are multiple reasons why the idea would be feasible. 

First off, unlike the points-down-to-P12 idea, an everyone-scores systems means a proper rework of the points system is needed, as the only way to make such a system possible with 20 cars is either by going away from 25 points for a victory or significantly reduce the value of a victory, which is a desirable outcome to extend championships and make consistency, which inherently is the key factor the longer the calendar becomes, the actually decisive factor in the championship as well. This creates a consistent narrative in what Formula 1 is actually about. The original world championship system that only saw a few points handed out to a few drivers in a few races while also dropping scores emphasised the individual importance of each race and rewarded few great performances over many middling ones. It was a great system that worked for many, many decades and still serves purposes such as this very website’s, but the metagame of Formula 1 has shifted so far away from it that it may not really do so anymore especially since the short-sighted approach by Liberty Media towards maximising profit means that the world championship calendars will only grow in size, not shrink.

Secondly, it creates the advantage that unlike the P12 plan, it does not hurt the racing further down the pack. Since the general idea was born to encourage the kind of daredevil racing that happens in most races for PNowhere, it is unwise to disturb it. However, the idea to hand out points for 11th and 12th fails to understand the reason why drivers far away from the points drive so hard: they have no reason not to. It is a common complaint in the GPR Discord when drivers in weaker cars basically act like they are lapped when a faster car is behind them in the race order, as fighting them would hurt their own race more than it would help them keep positions. This does not apply when you are fighting someone for 14th place because you are far away from scoring and thus, say, killing your tyres means little because any scenario that will actually get you close towards scoring would be one where a driver is able to get new tyres, i.e. red flags and safety cars. By still separating point scorers from non-scorers, all that is accomplished is encouraging even more non-resistance and strategically sensible but boring-to-watch caution. That will be removed when everyone scores points, as any battling will be rewarded and yet because of the small margin in the grand scheme, drivers at the back of the grid are not inherently discouraged from going all-in. This may even have ripple effects up the orders depending on how smooth the scaling of the point system is. The difference between four, two, one and zero points is galactic in the bigger picture compared to e.g. the difference between sixteen, fourteen, twelve and ten points.

With those factors in mind, the author allows himself to propose the following point-system for all 20 cars – obviously non-finishers would be just sorted in their retirement order, just like in IndyCar:

Pos. 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Pts. 30 28 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The #F1Sprint will be ignored for this exercise since the author considers it a failure in every aspect and thus hopes for its abolishment sooner rather than later. Also the point for fastest lap becomes superfluous, as a) it would be so dramatically decreased in value that teams would scarcely bother to actively go for it unless they are near P20 anyway and given as the author has already destroyed nearly 75 years of F1 record bookkeeping, he sees little desire to add on to that by creating a scenario in which the fastest lap is now fought for between Alpine and Haas every week.

As of Miami, this point system would create the following top 5 in both standings:

1st Sergio Pérez, Red Bull 156
2nd Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 152
3rd Max Verstappen, Red Bull 150
4th Lando Norris, Mclaren 142
5th Carlos Sainz, Ferrari 126
1st Red Bull 306
2nd Ferrari 296
3rd McLaren 246
4th Mercedes 180
5th Aston Martin 155

The top four in the driver’s championship being separated by a single tenth place after six races is a demonstration that this new system would accomplish something Formula 1 has massively struggled with ever since its calendar expanded to 20+ Grands Prix – making every event feel meaningful. In turn, the constructor’s championship shows that this system would not degenerate into a series functionally ran by RNG (shoutout to the ADAC, really did a great job of fully killing any interest the author ever had in DTM), as the strongest teams are still on top. Ferrari appear closer than they are in terms of performance, however that is a direct product of Max Verstappen’s retirement in Australia. This proves that the system accomplishes its purpose: rewarding consistent finishes and good performance. 

Obviously, this system also ensures that the bottom feeders have their share of points. According to Visa CashApp Hugo Red Boss Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe at 2017 WWE Great Bulls of Fire team principal Laurent Mekies, the team has struggled in the past to explain to its sponsors that fighting for P11 does not get the team any points. Though the author in his naivete believes most business executives to be smarter in their thinking than “Zero points for this? That means nothing.”, he cannot disprove the claim either. Williams would make up the rear of the grid in this season as of the Miami Grand Prix with 56 points. Logan Sargeant would be last in the driver’s standings with 17 points and would have been the last of the drivers who took part in all races last season with 114 points. Assuming business executives are as unintelligent as Laurent Mekies paints them, that would be a lot more palatable to a business partner.

With the author’s proposal out there, all that remains to be seen is whether the FIA will make a similar choice, come up with something better or actually try to fix the problems they can fix to make the current system work. As they always are, the winds of change are blowing in Formula 1.

Sources: Autosport, dtm.com, formula1points.com, motorsport.com, Sky Sports, StatsF1