Joe-Pinions: Sports

17 July 2010 – Formula 1 Mid-Season Review (Part 1)

Posted in Auto Racing, Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 17/07/2010

Technically, the end of Lap 26 of last Sunday’s British Grand Prix was the halfway point of the 2010 Formula One World Championship.  But since I’m not really (that) daft, I’ll put this blog’s “official” mid-season point at the end of the tenth race (of nineteen) as the halfway point of the current World Championship season.

Because of the new rules package, this season looks amazingly different compared to past championships.  Look at the points totals, for one thing.  Ten grands prix in, and the championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, already has 145 points.  Until the Michael Schumacher era of domination in the early 2000s, it was fairly rare for world championship-winning drivers to amass 100 points for an entire season’s campaign; to have 145 points at halfway makes obvious the impact of the radical new points system.

To recap, here is how the points are distributed at every grand prix:

  • P1 (1st place) = 25pts
  • P2 = 18pts
  • P3 = 15pts
  • P4 = 12pts
  • p5 = 10pts
  • P6 = 8pts
  • P7 = 6pts
  • P8 = 4pts
  • P9 = 2pts
  • P10 = 1pt

The new points system may look a bit NASCAR-esque and quite radical compared to how it used to be, but in my opinion it does one especially good thing:  It gives the winner of the grand prix a justifiably big reward for his success.  Seven points is a big gap between P1 and P2.  This provides a bigger incentive (as if that was actually necessary) to fight for the victory; it places a bigger value to winning the grand prix.  In theory and in actual practice, I think this makes the drivers race harder for wins, instead of just cruising for points to protect their championship positions.

However, that’s not to say that consistent finishes are not rewarded handsomely as well.  When you look at the distribution of victories and the points earned so far this season, a pattern becomes obvious:  To stay on top of the points tally, you need to win AND to finish in sufficiently high positions (and thus earn as many points as possible).  I suppose that’s an obvious enough point, but given how some drivers have conducted their 2010 campaigns, perhaps it’s not as obvious as you might think.

There were other new rules introduced in 2010.  For the first time ever, the panel of stewards overseeing all Grands Prix will include ex-Grand Prix drivers in an advisory role.  The idea was to introduce the driver’s perspective in on-track incidents, to introduce a certain transparency in stewards’ decisions, and to hopefully decrease controversies with stewards’ decisions.

Another key rule change:  Mid-race refueling is also banned in 2010.  This means that, for the first time since 1993, Grand Prix cars had to carry enough fuel to finish the race.  This rule change, however, did not completely eliminate the need for pit stops, as there was also now a requirement to use both dry compound tires – a primary tire and softer “option” tire – brought by Bridgestone if the Grand Prix starts dry (if a GP is declared a “Wet Race,” the requirement to use both dry compounds no longer stands).  The elimination of refueling introduced a significant strategic wrinkle that the teams now had to wrestle with.

Aside from the new regulations, the 2010 season also saw the introduction of three new teams:  Lotus RacingHispania Racing, and Virgin Racing.  The new season also saw the departure of two manufacturers from the sport, Toyota and BMW.  BMW’s exit almost meant the death of the Sauber team, but Peter Sauber bought his eponymous outfit back.

Finally, 2010 also saw several rookies to the top echelon in motorsports making their debuts:  Nico Hülkenberg of Germany, for Williams-Cosworth; Brazilians Lucas di Grassi (Virgin Racing) and Bruno Senna (Hispania Racing); Russia’s Vitaly Petrov (Renault); and Karun Chandhok of India (Hispania Racing) all started their grand prix careers this year.

With the new regulations, a new points system, and new teams and drivers competing, 2010 had all the ingredients for potentially one of the more intriguing seasons Formula One has seen in years.

Next time:  Reviews of the first three grands prix of 2010.

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