The FIA World Motor Sport Council held their annual meeting in Mexico City last week and announced key changes to the way the Formula One Super Licence will be awarded. Incredibly the new criteria, had they always been in place, would have prevented all but one Formula One World Champion since 1997 from entering the sport when they did.
The changes, to be introduced at the start of next year, rank drivers’ achievements in lower categories using a points system. A driver must have enough points to apply for a Super Licence, the licence required to drive an F1 car during a Grand Prix Weekend. The proposal had been made earlier this year, but amid complaints of how certain categories were ranked, the FIA made some adjustments.
From next year onwards, in order to be granted a Super Licence, a driver is required to (among other things) have accumulated 40 points in the three previous years according to the points system below.
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- The Formula E champion will be automatically awarded a Super Licence despite 2nd, 3rd, etc. effectively meaning nothing
I decided to examine the points system and see how it would have affected the current F1 drivers. While it makes no difference now since they already have Super Licences, the list of drivers that would have been ruled out is surprising!
The changes were sparked by Toro Rosso’s signing of 17-year-old Max Verstappen, a boy with only one year experience racing cars. So I was expecting it to rule out a lot of younger drivers. But the list of drivers ruled out included race winners, and world champions! Of the current F1 grid, the following drivers had fewer than 40 points when they entered the sport:
Carlos Sainz Jr
Looking back another two seasons and you can add Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi, Jean-Éric Vergne, André Lotterer, Max Chilton, and Giedo van der Garde to that list.
I could have gone on, but I decided to just focus on notable drivers from the past. Two legends of the sport, Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli would also have needed more experience before racing in F1. Most surprising, however, both Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen also fell short of the 40 points, even when you replace their achievements with today’s equivalent.
All in all, this means that the only world champion since 1997 who would have qualified under the new regulations is Lewis Hamilton. In fact he would have 88 points, and could have entered a year earlier.
This all begs the question, is the new system necessary? Some of the best drivers in the history of the sport are on the list. There have been very few bad, or dangerous drivers in the past. The only one I can think of in recent years is Yuji Ide, who was stripped of his Super Licence after only four races after numerous crashes. Amazingly, he would still have gotten a Super Licence under the new rules! So who are they trying to stop from entering the sport?
The points system does not just apply to Formula One. A similar licence for Formula E is being introduced next season which affects the current drivers! In order to be awarded an ‘e-Licence’, a driver must have 20 points in the previous three years, OR have taken part in three ePrix in the last season, OR have previously held a Super Licence.
By my calculations this means that six of the drivers from last season are not allowed to race next season! Don’t worry, Yuji you’ll be alright since you had a Super Licence in the past.
Oliver Turvey, Simona de Silvestro, Matthew Brabham, Marco Andretti, Katerine Legge, and Antonio Garcia will not be allowed eLicences next season under the new rules. Turvey and de Silvestro raced at the end of last season and may have expected to continue into next season. Turvey had two solid points finishes in London, yet according to the FIA he is now too inexperienced to race a Formula E car.