A quick history of the Formula One scoring system

Formula One has had a number of different scoring systems, but this season’s seemed very radical. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Essentially, under the new system, the top ten finishing cars in every race receive points with the winner taking a whopping 25 points. Last season the winner only got 10 which will help most of you see why the F1 statistics within the sport are now distorted beyond all hope. Personally I’m happy that so many teams now have a realistic chance of scoring points since teams that go dry for years (not scoring any points) despite putting up reliable cars are often likely to leave the sport (it’s a different matter altogether if a team’s car can’t even finish races).

But yes, the scoring system has certainly come a long way. From 1950 until 1959 only five drivers scored points with the winner receiving only 8 points for their effort. From 1960 onward until 2003 six drivers were awarded points and during this period scoring points was truly a sign of achievement. Of course the points system didn’t go entirely unchanged from year-to-year during this time. From 1961 until 1990 the winner received 9 points and from 1991 until this year the winner would receive a nice even 10 for each victory. A victory was indeed very significant during this system since until 2003 the driver who finished second only received 6 points – thus closing the gap as the season went on would have been very difficult if you were consistently only second.

Between 2003 and 2009 the scoring system was at its most rewarding with eight drivers receiving points. There’s been a lot of talk that this made racers unwilling to take risks because it wasn’t worth trying to reach for the sky when finishing eighth or sixth and scoring points was almost guaranteed in a middle-tier team. However, I think people also tend to forget that during the first half of the ’00s McLaren and Ferrari were dominant (the latter in particular) with only Renault or Williams-BMW posing a serious threat to either one winning the championship. The gap between the best three teams and the middle-lot was quite huge which is why so few teams would ever even hope to reach the podium (though every once in a while someone from the middle-lot surprised us). 2008 and 2009 were probably the most high quality years for racing as there wasn’t a single team who failed to score points.

But it wasn’t only the different scoring system that made scoring points harder in the old days. What also affected scoring was the fact that only a certain number of race results would be counted towards the championship. During the first four seasons of F1 only the four best results of a driver counted towards the championship total. This was later extended to five, then six, then brought back to five and kept on going back and forth until 1966. From the late 60s up to the early 80s a varying number of races from season to season got counted into the drivers’ championship. A non-selective points scoring system was first trialed from 1981 until 1984 before slipping back to a selective 11 best results system for the latter part of the 80s.

However, from 1991 onward every single finished race has counted towards a driver’s standing in the championship and in my view this is a good thing because I really don’t see the point in driving races where the results wont matter by the end of the season.

Now, Brawn GP became the first F1 team to win the Constructors’ Championship on their maiden season last year. Those of you who are wondering how that is even possible due to F1s’ 60 year history, but in fact, the Constructors’ Championship was first driven in 1958, eight years after the first season. With the likelihood of any new-comer team winning the championship on their first season being slim-to-none you can see why it took so long before we ever saw such an event occur.

One last interesting tidbit is the fact that from 1950 up to 1959 the driver who set the fastest lap time in a race also received one point to his drivers’ score tally.  Last year, there were suggestions that an extra point should be awarded to the driver who takes pole-position in the qualifying, an idea that sounds eerily similar. And while an interesting idea, I doubt a single point would make that much of a difference – because when push comes to shove at the end of a season; it’s who retires and who doesn’t during those last few races that determines the championship.