Should The Monaco Grand Prix Be Double Points?
With Liberty Media looking to use 2020/2021 to test new ideas for F1, should the idea of double points make a permanent return at Monaco?
In 2014, the season finale in Abu Dhabi became the first Grand Prix in Formula 1 history to be worth double points. This was done to try to encourage a championship fight to last the entire season, coming off the back of 4 straight double championships for Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, with 2013 being the most dominated – Sebastian won the title at the Indian Grand Prix with 3 races left, and won the final 9 races of the season in a row, a record that still stands today.
Upon the announcement that the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would be worth double points, the idea was immediately under fire from F1 personnel, with Caterham F1 Team boss Tony Fernandes calling it a ‘fake fix’, and then 4-time reigning World Champion Vettel labeling it ‘absurd’. Despite the backlash, the rule remained in place.
Heading into the 2014 finale, Lewis Hamilton lead teammate Nico Rosberg by 17 points. Under normal circumstances, this would be a difficult number to overhaul for Nico as Lewis would have to score no points with Nico finishing P2 or above. However, because the points had been doubled, this task became so much easier, as Nico winning the race with Lewis finishing P3 would’ve given the German the title, as the points difference between P1 and P3 was now 20 points rather than 10.
As it turned out, the double points made no difference whatsoever – Lewis was set for a dominant win and Nico ran into an ERS failure amongst other reliability issues, dropping him out of the points and thus Lewis Hamilton became World Champion. However how would the championship have played out if things had gone differently?
The start of the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as of today F1's only double points race
Because Lewis was ahead of Nico in the championship going into the finale, double points would make no difference if the Briton finished ahead, so firstly, what if Nico won and Lewis second? Well despite the advantage of double points, Lewis would’ve won the title by 3 points over Nico (370 to 367). Because of this, Nico would also lose out in this situation if the points system hadn’t changed. However, what if reliability did play its part, but hit Lewis instead of Nico? Well, even without double points, Nico would then take the title with 342 points assuming Lewis finished P14 like Nico did in real life, 8 points ahead of Lewis.
And really this is the important part – in a title decider, double points really does have the potential to dramatically change the outcome of the season, increasing the damage factors have that are outside the drivers’ control. However, this is a lot less pronounced if the double points race to happen midseason. So we return to the original question, should Monaco be worth double points?
There are 2 main reasons why I feel the event should be worth double points. The first of which is that to Formula 1, Monaco is more than just a race. The Monaco Grand Prix is the jewel in the F1 calendar, the one that they all want to win. The race’s position of importance over others is enhanced by the fact it is one of the 3 races that make up the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
Let’s take a look at the other 2 races that make up the Triple Crown, because in reality they are all very similar to each other. Over in the states you have the Indianapolis 500, and in France you have the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Both events are the ‘jewel’ in their respective series’ calendars, with the Indy 500 being IndyCar’s major event of the season, and likewise Le Mans for the World Endurance Championship. They are IndyCar’s and WEC’s Monaco equivalent, and to signify their status, both the Indy 500 and Le Mans are worth double points for their respective series. Because of this, each race becomes instantly more attractive not just for full season entrants, but for other teams and drivers to enter just for that race. This year’s Indy 500 saw 33 cars entering, up from the low to mid 20s that enter the rest of the season, and Le Mans this year saw a whopping 59 cars take part in the event despite the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obviously, it would be foolish to assume that the Monaco Grand Prix would see standalone entries due to the extreme costs involved in F1, the size of the circuit, the lack of drivers holding the required Superlicence, the list goes on. However it would make the race more important in the championship for full season entries and make each position more valuable.
This brings me onto my second point – by doubling the points for each position, you also double the points gap between each position. Suddenly, instead of the difference between P1 and P2 being 7 points, its 14. That’s pretty much worth a P3 finish at any other race (15 points).
Now why is this important? Its very well documented that the Circuit de Monaco does not suit modern F1 cars – the circuit itself is incredibly tight and twisty and current generation F1 cars are the longest and widest they’ve ever been. As a result, overtaking at Monaco is virtually impossible. However, unlike what a lot of fans think, you can still get good races at Monaco. They are what I call ‘tension races’, where if you are watching the race in its entirety for the first time, you are on the edge of your seat as anything could happen at any moment, even if there isn’t much in the way of overtaking, however you will struggle to see why the race was good in F1’s 5 minute highlight videos.
An example of this at Monaco is in fact the latest Monaco Grand Prix in 2019, with Max Verstappen hounding Lewis Hamilton for the lead for most of the race, before finally throwing a dive into the Nouvelle Chicane in the closing laps that came off unsuccessfully. In the first part of that race, Charles Leclerc showed it was very much possible to overtake at Monaco as he tried to work his way back up the order, but he also showed how it can go very wrong after hitting the wall at La Rascasse.
Contact at the chicane! Verstappen hits Hamilton in the closing stages of the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix
It is important to remember that there are opportunities to overtake at Monaco – Sainte Devote, Mirabeau, Nouvelle Chicane and La Rascasse are all potential overtaking points, however in modern F1 cars the risk vs reward factor isn’t balanced enough to make it worth going for the move. However if you double the points that each position is worth, and therefore double how many points you gain with each position, the risk vs reward factor suddenly skews to the reward, which means drivers would be more likely to try overtakes, especially in the top positions.
And thus, this is why I feel that making Monaco a double points event would be beneficial for not just that race but for the sport as a whole. I hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to let me know your opinions below.