Why F1 should be wary of giving points for fastest laps

Formula One looks set to award a point for the fastest lap this season, pending approval from the relevant parts of the sport's governance. It might seem like a new invention to spice up the racing, but it's actually an idea ditched 60 years ago...

An award for setting the fastest lap would revive a points structure abandoned at the end of 1959. The precise reason why the system was dropped has never been fully explained. A reasonable suggestion would be that the awarding of a single point for each fastest race lap actually made little or no difference to the outcome of the first ten world championships.

The one exception is 1958. Mike Hawthorn beat Stirling Moss by a single point despite Moss winning three more races than Hawthorn. The Ferrari driver tipped the odds in his favour by setting five fastest laps to three for the man destined never to become world champion; without that fast lap bonus, Hawthorn would have been one point behind.

Otherwise, between 1950 and 1959, Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina, Alberto Ascari (twice), Jack Brabham and five-time champion Juan Manual Fangio would have won the title regardless.

That said, fastest lap was always worth going for, the single point having more value than today thanks to the winner receiving just eight points and, invariably, only a limited number of his best results would count. Points covered only the first six -- not that the structure needed to extent much further since the average number of classified finishers over the period was less than 10 for races usually lasting more than three hours.

Many arguments against the reintroduction of the fastest lap bonus today centre around a late pit stop for fresh tyres, even by the slowest runner, skewing the results.

In the 1950s, that was not an issue since, by the time the handful of mechanics had reached for the jacks and begun to attack the knock-on hubs with hammers, today's car would be long gone with its fresh set of boots.

Pit stops took the best part of a minute and, even allowing for the field being spread out (anyone below the first three would usually be a lap down - at least), there had to be a good reason to risk such a lengthy delay over and above the scheduled mid-race stop to replace worn rubber.

It was also necessary to take into consideration the fact that the pace setter of the day would be so quick that the difference in lap times would often be measured in whole seconds rather than the blink-of-an-eye variations today.

Speaking of fingers... We're also talking about pre-computer days when laps would be recorded by timekeepers with a good view of the start/finish line and equipped with hand-held stopwatches. It was not possible to go beyond a tenth of a second - which led to some interesting anomalies.

The fastest lap of 1:50.0s in the 1953 British Grand Prix was set jointly by Ascari's Ferrari and the Maserati of Froilan Gonzalez on, if you please, laps 4, 5, 6, 41, 44, 54 -- and six more which I won't detain with you here. Better than that, a year later the Silverstone timekeepers awarded fastest lap to Moss, Ascari, Fangio, Hawthorn, Onofre Marimon, Jean Behra and -- anyone else? Oh yes, let's not forget the winner, Gonzalez.

In case you're wondering, the fastest lap point was split proportionally. Try working that lot out when doing your sums and then explaining why, for example, Behra was showing at the bottom of the championship table with 0.14 points.

Probably best if we leave the subject well alone -- both then and now.