OCTOBER 8, 2002
The question of handicapping
The suggestion that there could be a system of handicapping introduced in Formula 1 next year is not very likely to happen. Formula 1 bosses Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone have long been traditionalists in their approach to the sport and to go against everything they stand for would be a big surprise - but that does not mean that things will not change.
Mosley and Ecclestone have traditionally overstated their aims when it comes to new rules and then fallen back to a compromise position - which is probably more than they would have achieved if they had attacked the issue head-on.
Having said that there is no question that there are worries about the way the sport has been going recently - particularly because of Ferrari's refusal - thus far - to allow its two drivers to fight one another. In previous years when one team has been dominant the teams involved have always allowed their drivers to fight each other and have thus kept up interest in the sport. Ferrari's fixation on Michael Schumacher may be the way to win but it is damaging Formula 1. Having said that the idea of handicapping is one which could backfire hugely with many F1 fans turning away from the sport because they will argue that the switch from sport to circus will have been completed.
There is widespread agreement that things need to change in the future but it is a question of what should be changed. A convoluted system in which handicapping begins after a driver achieves a certain number of points ahead of the rest of the field is contrived as teams such as Ferrari will simply try to work the system to their advantage and the races will be just as staged as they are currently. The fact is that - as in the past - Formula 1 will win back its audience by the revival of a rival team such as McLaren-Mercedes or Williams-BMW.
The smaller teams will probably agree with the handicapping system because it gives them more of a chance to score points and thus the question of votes for what will be important when the F1 teams meet at the end of the month. There are a variety of other ideas which will be discussed including changing the qualifying system, changing the points scoring system and so on which would help the teams.
The next few weeks are likely to see a fight over the rules - and that will keep interest in F1 at the maximum... which is what is needed at the moment.
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