One of the talking points of the Formula One season so far has been the decision by the sport's chiefs to award double points for the final race of the year.
The idea is to spice up the action by making it more likely the championship battle goes down to the final round. But the idea has been largely lambasted by fans, who see it as an artificially contrived gimmick – and who rightly point out that it would have actually increased Sebastian Vettel’s winning margin last season.
Still, if F1 fans think that’s contrived, they should take a look at the new system just introduced by the NASCAR Sprint Cup. This year, the hugely popular American stock car series will feature a new championship format that guarantees a four-car, winner-takes-all showdown in the final round.
Now, NASCAR has always been a branch of the sport that has put the focus on creating fan friendly drama and excitement. So when Matt Kenseth won the 2003 title by a big margin despite winning just one race all year, it wasn’t really what the sanctioning body wanted. They wanted a champion to have to win races – and for the title to go down to the final races. For 2004, they introduced the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
While NASCAR has always denied the Chase was inspired by the playoff format used in most American sports, it certainly achieved a similar goal. Originally, the top ten drivers in the standings after 26 races had their points totals reset, and then battled for the title over the final ten races. It was artificial, but it certainly helped build interest in the final races.