FIA put brakes on winner-takes-all system

LONDON: Formula One looks set to ditch controversial plans to award the championship to the driver who wins most races after the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) performed a late U-turn on Friday.

“If, for any reason, the Formula One teams do not now agree with the new system, its implementation will be deferred until 2010,” the FIA said in a statement.

The teams made clear they were not in favour, accusing the governing body of ignoring the rules by imposing the new system.

The climbdown came less than a week before the start of first practice for next week’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The Formula One Teams’ Association’s (FOTA’s) own proposal to reward race winners with more points was ruled out on Tuesday by the FIA’s world motor sport council, who instead voted unanimously for the ‘winner-takes-all’ system.

FOTA, founded last year to present a united front in dealings with the FIA and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, said in a statement the teams had unanimously agreed“to question the validity of this (FIA) decision. “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 One Championship,” it added.

FOTA, who had carried out a worldwide poll of Formula One fans, had proposed changing the scoring structure to a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 points format from the existing 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.

The FIA said Ecclestone, who had been pushing for an Olympic-style medals system, had put forward the winner-takes-all solution after being led to believe the teams were in favour of it.

FOTA said the teams were prepared to work with the FIA to devise a new system for 2010.

The rule change received a mixed reaction when it was announced. McLaren’s world champion Lewis Hamilton said he had doubts about it.

Critics of the winner-takes-all system had said it disregarded the importance of consistency and reliability over the course of a season and could lead to the championship ending early if one driver racked up a string of wins.

While the teams presented a common front on the scoring system, their unity could be tested severely in Melbourne with a storm already brewing over the legality of the diffusers on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars.

The FIA have indicated they believe the three teams’ interpretation of the rules to be correct.

Brawn, heirs to now-departed Honda, have set the pace in the most recent pre-season tests with Briton Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello while McLaren have recognised they have a problem. — Reuters

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