One concerning trend is that the drivers‘ champion is now almost always predetermined by the constructors‘ champion. Today, we can no longer be sure that the best driver wins the championship, we just know that the better driver of the best car wins the championship. And when Mercedes driver Lewis beat his colleague Valtteri in the last years, the rest of the field was left far behind. Admittedly, Lewis is a great driver. One of the best in F1 history – just rewatch his rookie season if you’re unsure of that. But in recent years every win seemed to be predetermined by the car he was driving.
How the Car Determines the Champion
Since the F1 season of 2000, it only happened twice that a champion sat in a car that didn’t win the constructors‘ championship: 2008 and 2021. And if we tally up all the data since 1958, a champion sat in 52 out of 64 seasons in the car that won the constructors‘ championship – that’s an 81.3% of winning the season by just being placed in the right cockpit.
Schumacher won with the dominating Ferrari, Vettel with Red Bull, and Hamilton with Mercedes. Don’t get me wrong, each and every single one of them beat their competition fair and square. All of their wins were justified.
You could – of course – object by mentioning that the correlation between the gathered points by the best driver (aka the champion) and the gathered points by the best team shouldn’t surprise us: Good drivers get more championship points for the team. Thus, the champion sits in the most successful car.
But how likely is it that a team has the two best drivers in their team? Can their driver recruitment be that good? And how good is the recruitment of Red Bull in the Mercedes era?
So let’s look at the data again: The vice-champion was a driver of the winning constructor in 45% of all seasons. With ten teams this season (in the 1950s there were a lot more teams), statistically, the vice-champion should have been a driver of the winning constructor in only 10% of all seasons – if the cars didn’t matter. But of course, they do matter.
Solving the Problem: Every Driver drives Every Car
But first, let’s get back to basics. What is the purpose of the F1 World Drivers‘ Championship? We want to determine who the best F1 driver of the season is.
And what is the purpose of the F1 World Constructors‘ Championship? We want to know who built the best car und applied the winning strategy.
But haven’t we all wondered before: How good is Lewis Hamilton in a Williams? Or how good is Nikita Masepin in a Ferrari? We do know that Lewis is good with a Mercedes Engine and that Verstappen is good in a Red Bull car. No doubt, both are great drivers, no matter the car. But how do they compare to other drivers in similar cars? We know that Verstappen has beaten every teammate in at least one season, and except Ricciardo every teammate has lost in each season. We know that Lewis usually beats his teammates, except Jenson Button in one season and Rosberg in a really unlucky season.
We also saw what happened at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. George Russell was already known to be a great talent and had proven to be fast enough to beat his teammates: He dominated Nicholas Latifi in 2020 and Robert Kubica the year before in 2019. Finally, in Bahrain, Russell got the chance to compare himself to a race winner in the best car of the grid – and he succeeded. That GP indicated what no fan ever questioned: The two best drivers don’t always sit in the best cars. But the best car enables good drivers to become champions.
So, let’s split both championships up. Suppose there are 20 races and 20 seats. At the beginning of each season there is a lottery: Every driver gets to drive every car. Randomly, for example, Max Verstappen gets a Mercedes in Zandvoort and a Red Bull in Monza, a Haas for Paul Ricard, an Alpine for Monaco, and so on. Every driver gets a random seat at a random track; but every driver must have a different car on every track – and every team has every driver for two races of a 20-race-long season.
What Will this Do to the Sport?
Why doesn’t the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (more commonly known as FIA) let constructors be more innovative? Currently, there is not much freedom to experiment with radical new car designs, because that would most likely result in a bigger gap between the best and the worst team. This literally prevents innovation and, in turn, excitement for the fans.
If one new innovation gives a constructor a major advantage, the championship is not only decided for just one season, but maybe even for the next five or six seasons if other teams have a hard time catching up. With the driver-shuffling approach, this problem is gone. Sure, the constructor championship might get boring, but the more exciting driver championship will still be on. The driver championship was always the main focus of the fans’ attention; that’s why it is older (and more established) than the constructor championship.
With shuffled driver seats, there is no team order anymore. Meaning: Teammates are no longer teammates. Get ready for a fight worth watching!
And since every driver must drive 10 different cars in 20 races, they will regularly need to adapt to a new car. That means more mistakes, leading – again – to more excitement in races.
Exciting Driver Championships
This new format will show who is the best driver in every F1 car. It reveals the drivers’ true adaptability of their unique driving styles. No more „the rear end doesn’t fit my style“ or „the car development just focused on Verstappen.“ No more crying. Just racing. The best driver wins. Adapt or loose. Period.
Exciting Constructor Championships
Teams also need to adapt to drivers. This is their time to shine by creating different strategies for different drivers on different tracks. This dynamic and complex play of interactions will add a whole new layer to the sport.
Real and Honest Competition
Since both championships will be separated, winning the championship as a driver will give us fans a bare and honest result of the best driver – based on their driving abilities, adaptability, and hardened character.
So What Do We Change?
F1 Hires Drivers, Not Teams
Let the Formula One Management Ltd. hire the drivers. They drive for themselves, not for a team.
One major advantage of this proposal is that teams can no longer be pressured into paying high wages to hire and retain top drivers.
Who Gets a Seat?
Who gets which seat is the big question that torments drivers all year. In the first season of the new format, just keep the old drivers. If there is a gap, take the best Formula 2 driver by points earned.
At the end of every season, the three drivers with the fewest points earned are kicked out. The free seats are then backfilled by the three leading F2 drivers.
Survival of the fittest. Drive to survive.
Don’t regulate to much: Just the basics: This would include regulating security features, max length, max weight, max width, and CO2 emissions from 2025 onwards.
Everything else about the cars should only be limited by the phantasy of the teams‘ engineers. Let them do whatever they can come up with. Let the teams create exciting cars with technologies that are relevant to an evolving sport! We shouldn’t worry that too much innovation is bad for the sport, simply because there are no teammates anymore. Even with one dominating team, races would be exciting.
F1 Data: Champion and Runner-Up of every season
|Season||Champion||Champion’s Car||Runner-Up||Runner-Up’s Car||Constructors‘ Champion: Chassis||Constructors‘ Champion: Engine|
|1950||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo|
|1951||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo||Alberto Ascari||Ferrari|
|1952||Alberto Ascari||Ferrari||Giuseppe Farina||Ferrari|
|1953||Alberto Ascari||Ferrari||Juan Manuel Fangio||Maserati|
|1954||Juan Manuel Fangio||Maserati/Mercedes||José Froilán González||Ferrari|
|1955||Juan Manuel Fangio||Mercedes||Stirling Moss||Mercedes|
|1956||Juan Manuel Fangio||Ferrari||Stirling Moss||Maserati|
|1957||Juan Manuel Fangio||Maserati||Stirling Moss||Vanwall|
|1958||Mike Hawthorn||Ferrari||Stirling Moss||Cooper-Climax/Vanwall||Vanwall||Vanwall|
|1959||Jack Brabham||Cooper-Climax||Tony Brooks||Ferrari||Cooper||Climax|
|1960||Jack Brabham||Cooper-Climax||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||Cooper||Climax|
|1961||Phil Hill||Ferrari||Wolfgang von Trips5||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1962||Graham Hill||B.R.M.||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||BRM||BRM|
|1963||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||Graham Hill||B.R.M.||Lotus||Climax|
|1964||John Surtees||Ferrari||Graham Hill||B.R.M.||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1965||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||Graham Hill||B.R.M.||Lotus||Climax|
|1966||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Repco||John Surtees||Ferrari/Cooper-Maserati||Brabham||Repco|
|1967||Denis Hulme||Brabham-Repco||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Repco||Brabham||Repco|
|1968||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford||Lotus||Ford|
|1969||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford||Matra||Ford|
|1970||Jochen Rindt5||Lotus-Ford||Jacky Ickx||Ferrari||Lotus||Ford|
|1971||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford||Ronnie Peterson||March-Ford||Tyrrell||Ford|
|1972||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford||Lotus||Ford|
|1973||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford||Lotus||Ford|
|1974||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford||Clay Regazzoni||Ferrari||McLaren||Ford|
|1975||Niki Lauda||Ferrari||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1976||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford||Niki Lauda||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1977||Niki Lauda||Ferrari||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1978||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford||Ronnie Peterson5||Lotus-Ford||Lotus||Ford|
|1979||Jody Scheckter||Ferrari||Gilles Villeneuve||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1980||Alan Jones||Williams-Ford||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-Ford||Williams||Ford|
|1981||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-Ford||Carlos Reutemann||Williams-Ford||Williams||Ford|
|1982||Keke Rosberg||Williams-Ford||Didier Pironi||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1983||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-BMW||Alain Prost||Renault||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|1984||Niki Lauda||McLaren-TAG-Porsche||Alain Prost||McLaren-TAG-Porsche||McLaren||TAG|
|1985||Alain Prost||McLaren-TAG-Porsche||Michele Alboreto||Ferrari||McLaren||TAG|
|1986||Alain Prost||McLaren-TAG-Porsche||Nigel Mansell||Williams-Honda||Williams||Honda|
|1987||Nelson Piquet||Williams-Honda||Nigel Mansell||Williams-Honda||Williams||Honda|
|1988||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Honda||Alain Prost||McLaren-Honda||McLaren||Honda|
|1989||Alain Prost||McLaren-Honda||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Honda||McLaren||Honda|
|1990||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Honda||Alain Prost||Ferrari||McLaren||Honda|
|1991||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Honda||Nigel Mansell||Williams-Renault||McLaren||Honda|
|1992||Nigel Mansell||Williams-Renault||Riccardo Patrese||Williams-Renault||Williams||Renault|
|1993||Alain Prost||Williams-Renault||Ayrton Senna||McLaren-Ford||Williams||Renault|
|1994||Michael Schumacher||Benetton-Ford||Damon Hill||Williams-Renault||Williams||Renault|
|1995||Michael Schumacher||Benetton-Renault||Damon Hill||Williams-Renault||Benetton||Renault|
|1996||Damon Hill||Williams-Renault||Jacques Villeneuve||Williams-Renault||Williams||Renault|
|1997||Jacques Villeneuve||Williams-Renault||Heinz-Harald Frentzen||Williams-Renault||Williams||Renault|
|1998||Mika Häkkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||McLaren||Mercedes|
|1999||Mika Häkkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||Eddie Irvine||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2000||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Mika Häkkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2001||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||David Coulthard||McLaren-Mercedes||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2002||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Rubens Barrichello||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2003||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Kimi Räikkönen||McLaren-Mercedes||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2004||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Rubens Barrichello||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2005||Fernando Alonso||Renault||Kimi Räikkönen||McLaren-Mercedes||Renault||Renault|
|2006||Fernando Alonso||Renault||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Renault||Renault|
|2007||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2008||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||Ferrari||Ferrari|
|2009||Jenson Button||Brawn-Mercedes||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Brawn||Mercedes|
|2010||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||Red Bull||Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||Red Bull||Renault|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||Red Bull||Renault|
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||Red Bull||Renault|
|2014||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2015||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2016||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2017||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2018||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2019||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2020||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||Mercedes||Mercedes|
|2021||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Mercedes||Mercedes|
Photo by Bill Stephan on Unsplash