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Ecclestone's new formula for F1 finale is a folly that may yet blow up in his face

T HE International Cricket Council might like to consider giving England an extra 50 runs in each Ashes innings in order to make Tests less one-sided.

number one: Sebastian Vettel is talented, yes, but it is money that is at the root of his dominance. Picture: epa
number one: Sebastian Vettel is talented, yes, but it is money that is at the root of his dominance. Picture: epa

Not that it would have made any difference to results in the current series, you understand. England would still be 3-0 down, but it might have made matches more exciting.

Yes, this is simply a provocatively preposterous proposal. But consider this: it is surely no less ridiculous than the Formula One decision to award double points in the final grand prix of the season. This is the latest inspiration of Bernie Ecclestone, a man who once actually considered sprinklers to wet the track. Why not go the whole hog and blow snow onto the circuit? Or give each team two It's A Knockout jokers, to be played when they like?

The latest changes are no more than a transparent attempt to maximise income and TV viewing figures to the end of the season, after one in which even avid fans felt imminent death coming on. This is but more artifice from a once-great sport which has lost its way under Ecclestone's stewardship. Drivers' and constructors' championships are about consistency throughout the whole season. If the spectacle has become a procession - which it has - then the whole structure of F1 needs to be addressed.

Sebastian Vettel's runaway victory this year, by the biggest points margin in history, has ensured unprecedented ennui. Fan feed-back on F1 forums, regarding the double-points decision, is overwhelmingly negative (above 90%) with talk of spamming the FIA website and social media. Yet petrolheads are the last people Ecclestone cares to consider. This is about marketing, stupid. If sponsors remain happy with viewing figures, what's it to Bernie? It would take a major implosion of the fan base to influence him.

Moral and spiritual bankruptcy (special deals to prevent rebellion, inappropriate venues in defiance of human rights, and results rigged to team instruction) is demonstrably ok but financial consequences threaten greater impact.

The corporate world has already demonstrated itself immune to Ecclestone's charm. F1 without Honda, BMW, Toyota or Ford was once inconceivable, yet all are gone. Some threaten a return, but other corporate giants to have walked include Michelin, Bridgestone and Vodafone, as well as tobacco giants Marlboro. Constant rule-change creates uncertainty for backers being asked for hundreds of millions, as well as alienating fans.

More pertinently, the sport is inherently flawed. The team with the deepest pockets can afford greatest investment in research and development and the expertise to do it. Not to mention the best driver to pilot the product. So it is no surprise when this team wins. Vettel's undoubted talent is self-evident but there is little doubt that at least five or six other drivers would win in the current Red Bull Renault.

Doubling final points to 50 for the win will not guarantee F1 competitiveness. It would have altered the outcome just three times in the past 20 years: Fernando Alonso would have won last year instead of Vettel, Felipe Massa would have denied Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and Kimi Raikkonen would have beaten Michael Schumacher in 2003.

Imagine the uproar if the SFA and FA were to decree that the final round of league matches were to attract six points for a win rather than three? Or if tennis had handicapped Roger Federer by a game per set, or golf docked Tiger Woods two shots per round when the pair were in their prime? And let's make AP McCoy carry five pounds extra every time he rides.

What F1 is doing is far more than offering extra world ranking points as tennis does in majors. The idea would be less offensive if this were a proposal for extra points on some classic circuits, say Monaco, Monza, Nurburgring, Siverstone and Spa - but that would not serve the sport's purpose of prolonging uncertainty.

If every country were to hold its own series of two or three races, in identically prepared cars, as qualifying events for a continental championships, we could then promote the top four drivers on each continent (a total of 20 drivers), to a 20-race final like the current F1 championships, with standard points, as now. Vehicles would be identical. That would breed a new tradition, but one which would embrace the romance the sport's followers crave and determine, without question, the best driver.

The final 20 drivers would become employees of F1, not teams. They would switch cars, mechanics and pit crews after each round - a genuinely level playing field. The potential for reality TV, following a driver from, say the Knockhill qualifier in Scotland to the 20-race F1 series, would slaughter the current F1 TV ratings. For the programme could be replicated globally, following the top driver from every nation worldwide: Chinese, USA, Australia, Brazil etc, in an unprecedented motorsport meritocracy, with prize money based on results, and sponsorship opportunities available to far more drivers worldwide.

It is a fundamental principle of sport that the best person wins. The latest F1 idea flies in the face of that. They are creating a lottery which could deny the best for the sake of resuscitating flagging interest. And making the sport even more artificial than it is now.

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