Smart Formula One Changes Can Generate Authentic Excitement In 2022

After the debacle of last year's finale, some sensible changes are coming into play
10:50, 16 Feb 2022

After the utter chaos that unfolded on the final day of the 2021 season - as the manufactured one lap race handed Max Verstappen his first title - the sporting world has collectively taken a deep breath, accepted what happened, and can now look ahead to the new Formula One season, which begins on March 20th. 

With Lewis Hamilton and newly-crowned world champion Max Verstappen set to resume their battle on the track in Bahrain, there have been a few subtle changes this year, all of which should make for a fairer but equally as exciting title spectacle. After the frustration of last year’s finale for Mercedes, these rule changes should lead to a little less conversation, and a little more action, please. 

One of the major changes to the sport this year will be the Sprint events. Silverstone’s Sprint event provided one of the most controversial moments between Hamilton and Verstappen in 2021, and this year they have moved to make the system more inclusive, but even more exciting. 

Imola, the Red Bull Ring and Interlagos are the three tracks selected for the Sprint events this time around, with once again just three of the 23 races hosting Sprints. This once again feels like a sensible number given the idea is still in its initial stages of development, and any more than three would have moved the sport further away from its traditional roots. 

One positive change from the organisers is that they have changed the points system to award points to the top eight drivers, rather than the top three. It’s also more lucrative, the driver who finishes P1 will now receive eight points compared to three, while the driver in P8 would receive just one point. This means more points will be on offer for more of the grid, which will raise their level of competitiveness for these events as a criticism of last year was that it was simply an extension of points for the top teams. Now everybody has a reason to battle on a Saturday afternoon. 

One positive change from the organisers is that they have changed the points system to award points to the top eight drivers, rather than the top three. It’s also more lucrative, the driver who finishes P1 will now receive eight points compared to three, while the driver in P8 would receive just one point. This means more points will be on offer for more of the grid, which will raise their level of competitiveness for these events as a criticism of last year was that it was simply an extension of points for the top teams. Now everybody has a reason to battle on a Saturday afternoon. 

Another slight tweak is that during Sprint weekends, the pole position will now be attributed to the driver who posts the fastest time in qualifying, which takes place on Friday. This is a change back to the ‘good old days’ as last year, that honour went to the driver who won the Sprint. Again, this should be seen as a positive change. Qualifying’s importance has been reinstated and the extra points on offer for the Sprint are more than enough reward, without the need for pole position.

“Following a review of the three Sprint events that took place in 2021 and a recognition by all that the format created positive benefits for the sport, three Sprint events were proposed for 2022, acknowledging this as a sensible number in light of the pressures already on the teams for this season with the introduction of major changes to the regulations," an FIA statement said.

“The Commission unanimously approved the three Sprint events for the coming season, incorporating a number of updates to the format based on the feedback of fans, media and teams.”

So we are happy with the Sprint events, but what about the other changes? Well the FIA have also made a sensible judgement when it comes to abandoned raes. 

Firstly, an agreement was reached regarding how many points are awarded in the case of an abandoned race. In 2021, after the Belgian Grand Prix was called off due to rain after just two laps behind a safety car, drivers were awarded half points. That meant Max Verstappen got 12.5 points for ‘winning’ a race that didn't happen - points that were vital in his eventual success. 

The whole community was overwhelmingly unhappy with this outcome, given how hard each title contender had fought for each point they had earned. Now to avoid a repeat of this scenario, new rules have been brought in. In order to qualify for the points, the race leader must run at least two laps without safety car assistance, meaning fans are guaranteed to see at least some racing action. Although personally I feel this lap quota is still too low, at least it is a step in the right direction, with reduced points being awarded, depending on how much racing action we get.

These agreed changes need to go through the formality of the World Motor Sport Council meeting, but for now, it all seems positive ahead of another nail-biting season of Formula One. Let’s just hope this year’s finale doesn’t end in the same controversial circumstances. 

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