Sunday, August 12, 2012

F1 Alternate Standings: NASCAR Style

DISCLAIMER: Idea quite shamelessly stolen from BackmarkersF1's "Alternate WDC". However, this is much more ambitious and pointless. So there.

"If you and I are running in an election and I make the rules, no matter how popular you are, I'll screw you every time". That's a rough approximation of what our professor of American politics told us during the first lesson. While it concerned elections and other forms of political decision-making, you can surely extrapolate that to any other form of competition, such as sports.
As a professional sport that operates mostly through championships and continuous events, autosport is hugely rule-dependent. While to the casual observer, that rule dependency is mostly seen in steward decisions and technical regulations, the sporting regulations side of it all also plays a huge part. Since racing is rarely a standalone event, the different types of it are full of complex points systems that follow a recurring pattern but differ in scale and selectiveness.
Let's take, for instance, the two subjects of today's little example - NASCAR and F1. It is quite natural that the two championships would have different scoring systems due to inconsistent grid sizes and the number of events. However, while F1 only rewards less than 42% of its grid with points, the American series hands them out to every participant. And, while both series place extreme value on winning (as is epitomized in NASCAR's campaign titled "Nothing Beats First Place"), the advantage a race winner gets is not proportional. It's 25 for first, 18 for second in F1, yet 46 for first and 43 for second in NASCAR (bonus points not included).
As such, it would be a fun exercise to see just how much impact a series' scoring system has on the standings. And I'll do just that since it's a Sunday, there's barely any racing and I got jack shit to do. This is F1 2012 by NASCAR rules.

First, I do feel I need to clarify what the NASCAR scoring rules are:
  • As the maximum amount of drivers taking part in a NASCAR race is 43, that's the amount of points the winner gets. The points awarded for finishing in a certain place follow an arithmetic progression, with each next finisher receiving 1 point less than the previous. However, to encourage fighting for the win, NASCAR award 3 bonus points to the driver in first place, effectively making it 46 for the win, while the amount for every other place is unchanged. This scoring system awards consistency to a much greater extent than F1 as every finish is valuable and DNFing is a bit of a disaster.
  • To counter that, NASCAR doesn't exactly have a distinction between being classified and non-classified. To receive points for the race, you don't have to complete a certain percentage of the race distance like in F1. If you started, you're getting your points - you're just not getting a lot of them if you happen to end your race in a wall.
  • Each driver, who finished at least one lap of the race in first, will get a bonus point after the race. The driver who lead the most laps during a race gets another bonus point. As such, you effectively get 47 or 48 points for winning.
Obviously, I took a few creative liberties with applying this system to F1. Even though HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan could not qualify for the first race of 2012, I awarded them the points as if they finished in 23rd and 24th (based on their qualifying results). I did the same for Timo Glock, who didn't start the European Grand Prix due to being ill (even though he didn't take part in qualifying either), and Vitaly Petrov, whose car gave up on him before the start of the British Grand Prix.

The revised standings

The implementation of a new scoring system has had a pretty sizeable effect on the virtual standings. While the first three places remain virtually unchanged (even though Alonso's lead is not quite so sizeable), the rest of the field is significantly different. Here's the list of the major changes:
  • Due to Raikkonen's impressive consistency, he'd be occupying 4th in the championship, ahead of Lewis who had a 19th place and a retirement.
  • Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado would be much lower in the standings due to their proneness to accidents.
  • Same goes for Michael Schumacher, whose terrible run of luck would put him last out of the drivers who don't race for the new teams.
  • Even though the new teams would now be capable of scoring points, that would impact the standings rather predictably. The Caterham drivers would occupy 19th and 20th place with Heikki ahead. The Marussia drivers would be in 21st and 22nd with Timo ahead. The HRT drivers would be 23rd and 24th with Pedro ahead.
  • Due to being fairly consistent finishers, Perez, di Resta and Massa would do much better in the standings.
  • The positions of teammates in the standings in relation to each other would largely remain the same with the only exceptions being Williams, STR and HRT.

The Chase

One of the most fun aspects about the regular season of NASCAR is the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Chase is sort of like the playoffs in other American sports, effectively splitting the NASCAR season in two. The first 26 out of 36 races are a bit like the regular season with drivers trying to qualify for the Chase. At the end of that, 12 drivers are selected, their points reset to 2000 (not counting the bonuses they receive).
When that happens, the fight for the championship effectively starts with 12 drivers having realistic chances of taking it.
The 12 drivers who are eligible for the Chase consist of the 10 who occupy the top 10 places in the standings at the time and 2 "wild cards". The wild cards are the drivers who occupy a place from 11th to 20th and have the most wins. If drivers are equal on wins, whoever has the most points goes through. If they're equal on points as well (as Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman currently are), then the standard procedure of "most second, third, fourth, fifth etc. place finishes" is applied.
If we apply to F1 and keep the proportions in check, the "regular season" part of 2012 would be 14 races long and would end with the Singapore Grand Prix. Rather unexpectedly, people like Massa and di Resta would be set to make the Chase, despite their rather ordinary seasons. However, both Grosjean and Hulkenberg would be extremely close to making it as well.
The "wild card" spots would go to Hulkenberg, as he has the most points out of the 11-20 drivers, and Maldonado, thanks to his win in Spain.
Perhaps we should be thankful that the F1 scoring system is as it is.


  1. I always thought of the NASCAR pointing system as a bit of a mess -_-. Racing is about winning, if you give points to absolutely everyone, they end up losing their value.

    1. That's true, yeah. Doesn't stop them from wrecking each other though. Weird.

      Still, the Chase system more than creates for situations where people want to win really bad.