F1 world title rule scrapped

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The Independent Online

Formula One's ruling body backed down today and agreed to put off a new points system for the sport until next season after the teams objected.

The Formula One Teams' Association said FIA's decision this week that the championship will go to the driver with the most race wins instead of highest points total was invalid, prompting the governing body to reverse course.

"If, for any reason, the Formula One teams do not now agree with the new system, its implementation will be deferred until 2010," FIA said in a statement just hours after the teams announced their objection.

The U-turn came just over a week before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 29 March, heading off any possible team boycott.

FIA said that it made its decision on Tuesday under the impression that the teams wanted the switch from the established system of giving the title to the driver with the most points.

Such was the strength of criticism from the teams and drivers, including world champion Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, FIA may not be able to implement the change next year either.

"It is too late for FIA to impose a change for the 2009 season that has not obtained the unanimous agreement of all the competitors properly entered into the 2009 Formula 1 Championship," FOTA said.

The teams said their proposal to award more points for victories would make the sport more attractive. They want to reopen talks with the ruling body over a compromise for next season, showing no indication that they would accept the winner-takes-all system.

The teams want to award 12 points rather than 10 for a race win, making individual victories more worth chasing.

"FOTA had made a proposal that was carefully based on the results of a global audience survey, which allowed listening to preferences of the public," FOTA said. "All the teams firmly believe that these indications should be properly taken into account.

"The teams wish to reaffirm their willingness to collaborate with the FIA in order to jointly define a new point system for the 2010 season within a comprehensive set of measures aimed at further stimulating the attractiveness of the F1 sport."

Hamilton, who would have finished second behind Felipe Massa had the new system applied last year, Alonso and record seven-time champion Michael Schumacher have both criticized the change.

Hamilton clinched the title after an overtaking maneuver on the final bend of the final lap of the final race.

With the new system, Ferrari's Massa would have been the 2008 champion because he led McLaren's Hamilton 6-5 in race wins. Hamilton won the title by one point.

"It's a shame what's happening to F1," Hamilton said in a statement provided by his McLaren team Friday before FIA backed down. "It's hard to believe these recent decisions will improve things for the track-side spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our priority.

"Whatever the points system, I know that all F1 drivers will always race our hearts out."

Schumacher had already expressed his astonishment that the change was announced less than two weeks before the start of the world championship.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had pressed for the change, which reflected an earlier idea of his to award gold medals for race wins and give the title to the driver with the most medals.

He said it would encourage overtaking and "real racing."

"For the first time in recent years we have the teams, drivers, sponsors and fans all working together for the good of our sport," said Hamilton, apparently also concerned at a budget cap that could handicap bigger teams including McLaren. "Now we just need the governing bodies to listen to us and help us."