By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One is changing its scoring system to award a point to the driver who sets the fastest race lap, starting from this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The driver, whose team will also score an extra point for the constructors’ championship, must finish in the top 10.
The governing FIA said on Monday that the Formula One Strategy Group and F1 Commission had given unanimous approval in an e-vote. The measure had already been approved by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council on March 7.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, who drives for Mercedes as team mate to five times champion Lewis Hamilton, last season set seven fastest laps in the 21-race championship.
Formula One, which will mark its 1,000th race this year at the Chinese Grand Prix, awarded a point for the fastest lap over the first decade of its existence as a world championship from 1950-59.
Ross Brawn, Formula One’s managing director for motorsports, said the move was part of efforts “to improve the show whilst maintaining the integrity of our sport.
“We felt that the reintroduction, after 60 years, of a point for the driver of the fastest lap in the race goes in this direction,” he said.
“We have been considering this solution — which represents a response to detailed research carried out with thousands of our fans around the world — for a number of months.”
Brawn said the extra point would also make the final part of a race more interesting, when fuel loads have dropped and cars are at their fastest.
While drivers outside the top 10 cannot gain a point from the fastest lap, they will still have an incentive to go for it and help the team by denying an extra point to rivals who might have a driver in a scoring position.
Teams will therefore be more alert to who has the fastest lap, with 21 extra points — almost a race win — up for grabs in total over the duration of a season.
The extra points could make all the difference to a championship outcome.
In modern times, Brazilian Felipe Massa would have been 2008 champion for Ferrari instead of Lewis Hamilton for McLaren on fastest laps.
They finished a point apart after a nail-biting final race in Brazil but Massa had three fastest laps to Hamilton’s one, although strategy would doubtless have changed had an extra point also been available then.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ken Ferris)