London: Formula One is to introduce a cost cap from 2015 and, perhaps more controversially, will offer double points in the final race of each season from 2014 in an effort to keep the championship alive until the end.
The two changes were among a whole raft announced by Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, on Monday night following a meeting in Paris of the sport’s new rule-making body the F1 Strategy Group and they were immediately approved by the Formula One Commission.
While the cost cap, the level of which has yet to be defined, is arguably the most significant change, it is the introduction of double points at the final race, which attracted most attention on Monday night, with many fans dismissing the idea as a gimmick.
The rule will apply to both drivers’ and constructors’ championships, meaning the winner of the final race next year in Abu Dhabi — which is already a controversial choice of venue for the final race of the season — will earn 50 points, with 36 for second place and so on through the top 10.
Had the system been in place in recent years, Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 drivers’ title would have gone to Felipe Massa while Fernando Alonso would have won the 2012 drivers’ title from Sebastian Vettel.
With most teams outside of the major manufacturer-backed outfits struggling to keep their heads above water, a budget cap is likely to be welcomed in principle by the majority of Formula One participants.
Former FIA president Max Mosley was the last person to try to introduce a cap, back in 2009, but he was forced to abandon the concept when the Formula One Teams Association threatened to form a breakaway group.
Mosley’s intention was for a cap at £40 million and it is likely that the agreed figure will be a lot higher this time around, with certain elements, such as driver salaries, outside the cap.
Whatever parameters are agreed, there will be major question marks as to how the governing body intends to police the cap.
“A working group will be established within the coming days comprising the FIA, representatives of the commercial rights holder and team representatives,” the FIA said in a statement. “The objective of the working group will be to have regulations approved by the end of June 2014.”
Other rule changes announced on Monday night include the introduction of permanent numbers for drivers, which they will keep for their entire careers.
As world champion, Red Bull’s Vettel will have the choice of No. 1 if he wants it, with this year’s championship order determining the choice of numbers after that.
The association of certain numbers with certain drivers — think Valentino Rossi and 46 in MotoGP or Nigel Mansell’s red five — is deemed to be a powerful marketing tool.
The concept is already used in MotoGP, with Italian Valentino Rossi famed for his No. 46, while the late Canadian Gilles Villeneuve is still associated with the 27 on his Ferrari.
The FIA did not say what would happen to a number when a driver drops out of Formula One or whether certain particularly evocative ones might be retired.
The principle of a five-second penalty for minor infringements was also accepted for 2014, with teams to discuss how it should be applied.
Next year there will also be five-second penalties handed out for minor infringements, the FIA said.
Separately, the F1 Commission agreed to a change to the 2013 Sporting Regulations, on safety grounds, allowing Pirelli to carry out a three-day test in Bahrain next week, from December 17 to 19.
Six teams — Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso — accepted the manufacturers’ open invitation to attend the test.