Formula 1’s decision to introduce a point for the fastest lap in a race is working as hoped, according to F1’s managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn.
It was announced shortly before the Australian Grand Prix that the driver setting the fastest lap of the race would receive an extra point, provided they finished the race in the top 10. The thinking behind the move was to try and add excitement late on in races where the top positions had already been largely decided, and in the Chinese Grand Prix that was the case when Pierre Gasly pitted for fresh tires late on and snatched the fastest lap.
“I was particularly pleased to see that the innovation introduced in partnership with the FIA for this season, that of awarding a point to the driver setting the fastest race lap, is beginning to have an effect,” Brawn said.
“The lure of an extra point, as long as it’s set by a driver who is in the top 10 at the flag, was driven by the desire to add a bit of spice to the final stages of a race, especially when the order seems more or less set.
“China worked out just that way. The top six positions more or less decided, but with Pierre Gasly a healthy amount of time clear of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, his Red Bull team decided to exploit the opportunity that gap gave for a free pit stop. They pitted the Frenchman for a set of soft tires and sent him on his way for a crack at the fastest lap.
“It was great to watch the timing screens on the penultimate lap, seeing Gasly post personal bests in all three sectors to eventually steal the fastest lap from Sebastian Vettel.
“Prior to Gasly’s stop, you could also listen to other drivers discussing their options in the closing stages with their team on the pit wall, even though none of them took any extreme risks. This was a rule invented to please the fans, and I think that we saw that it really works.”
Only once so far has the race-winner picked up maximum points this season, when Valtteri Bottas also posting the fastest lap in Australia. Lewis Hamilton has won each of the last two races, but the extra point has gone to Charles Leclerc in Bahrain and Gasly in China.