F1 to revive bonus for fastest lap

Decision not ratified yet but expected to be implemented before season's start on Friday

LONDON • Formula One is set to re-introduce the awarding of a bonus point for the driver who records the fastest lap at a grand prix this season, after an absence of 60 years.

The decision is still subject to ratification but is expected to be implemented before the season begins in Melbourne on Friday.

The award of a point for the fastest lap was used in F1 when the championship began in 1950 and remained in place until 1959. Its revival is believed to have come about after the concept proved popular in fan surveys.

Liberty Media, F1's owner, has been clear it is willing to adapt to new ideas, in this case an incentive to add potential drama to the final third of a race.

The driver setting the time will be awarded the point only if he subsequently finishes in the top 10 of the race, while his team will also earn a constructors' championship point.

With the current scoring system, it seems more likely to have an impact on a tightly contested midfield than at the front of the grid, but in theory the extra points could decide the drivers' championship.

In 1958, Mike Hawthorn beat Stirling Moss to the title by a single point, having set two fastest laps more than Moss.

The decision has already been agreed by the governing body FIA's world motor sport council. But it still requires the approval of the F1 strategy group - consisting of representatives of teams, F1 management and the FIA - and the F1 commission, representing teams, sponsors and race promoters.

It requires a majority of support from the former and a unanimous agreement from the latter. They are expected to give their approval, however, with the strategy group already behind it.

With practice in Melbourne set to begin on Friday before the Australian Grand Prix two days later, a deadline for an electronic vote on introducing the new regulation has been set for tomorrow.

"It's another dimension to look out for and rewards speed, which is what F1 is all about," said former F1 driver Martin Brundle, now a Sky commentator and analyst.

"I like the concept, especially if somebody like a (Daniel) Ricciardo, a (Kimi) Raikkonen, or whoever, can sneak in and steal an extra point off the front runners because they're watching each other too closely and pacing themselves.

"I quite like the idea of pushing people along so they can't coast too much."

In line with being open to new ideas, the sport has also turned to online streaming giant Netflix to seduce a younger audience with a 10-part documentary series retracing the dramas of the 2018 world championship, as told by drivers, team bosses and paddock insiders.

The goal is to "bring F1 to popular culture", said Ellie Norman, F1's marketing and communications chief, about the series which broadcasts for the first time on Friday.

The documentary, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, represents the latest move by F1 to become a heavyweight player on social media, widening its public reach at the same time. F1 has also partnered Snapchat and backed an e-sport championship.

"This is an example of the change coming in Formula One," said sporting director Ross Brawn.

"Since we started this new era, something that has come across very strongly from the fans is that they want to understand about the drivers.

"The philosophy of F1 now is to engage in those areas and make the sport much more special than just what is going on out on the track."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 10, 2019, with the headline 'F1 to revive bonus for fastest lap'. Print Edition | Subscribe