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Formula 1

What happened last time F1 used dropped scores?

by Matt Beer
2 min read

Should Formula 1 bring back dropped points scores, it would mark the return to a system that was commonplace during the first 40 years of the world championship and changed the destiny of the drivers’ world championship twice.

The last driver to win the world championship under a dropped points system was McLaren’s Ayrton Senna in 1990, when drivers counted their best 11 from 16 races.

That season, Senna only scored 11 times but title rival Alain Prost managed to do so on 12 occasions so lost two points from his total thanks to dropping his worst finish – 5th in the Canadian Grand Prix – meaning the Ferrari driver finished seven points behind rather than five.

Two years earlier, the dropped scores rules had had a direct impact on the world championship outcome with Prost scoring more points overall but McLaren team-mate Senna – who counted eight wins and three second places – taking the title.

Prost scored 105 points to Senna’s 94, but thanks to the Frenchman having to drop three second places while Senna only lost a fourth and a sixth this was reversed to a 90-87 defeat.

The best 11 results rule was in place from 1980 for the drivers’ championship, although did not affect the constructors’ standings in which all points were counted from 1978 onwards.

From 1967-1980, the season was split into two blocks of races with drivers and, until the final two years of this span, constructors were allowed to drop one points score in each half.

Ayrton Senna Alain Prost 1988

For example, in 1978 this meant 14 scores were counted – seven from the first eight and seven from the last eight races – while in 1970 11 were counted – six from the first seven and five from the last six.

But during this period, the destiny of the world championship wasn’t impacted given so few points scores could be dropped.

From 1950-1966, the world championship season wasn’t split, with simply the best four, five or six scores counted depending on the number of races. The same rules were used for the constructors’ championship when it was introduced in 1958 – albeit with only one car scoring, a rule that stood until 1979.

During this period, the destiny of the drivers’ title was only impacted in 1964 when BRM driver Graham Hill scored one more point than Ferrari’s John Surtees, but had to drop his fifth place from the Belgian GP as only the best six results counted. Curiously, the rule actually handed BRM the constructors’ championship as it only had to drop four points compared to Ferrari’s nine.

BRM also lost out in 1965 thanks to dropping 16 points to the four Lotus lost, giving the latter the title by a margin of 54-45.

The rule also ensured Jim Clark achieved two ‘perfect’ seasons, in both 1963 and ’65, counting the maximum permitted points scored – even dropping a victory for the seventh win he took in the first of those campaigns.

However, dropped scores did render one of grand prix racing’s most famous images less of a dramatic story than it might have been, as Jack Brabham had to drop the three points he scored for pushing his Cooper across the line fourth after running out of fuel in the final race of the 1959 season at Sebring, and would have been world champion anyway.

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