- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

LONDON (AP) - World champion Lewis Hamilton joined the criticism of Formula One’s decision to alter the way the title is decided.

Hamilton followed record seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in suggesting that awarding the title to the driver with the greatest number of race wins rather than the largest number of points was likely to do little or nothing to boost fans’ interest in the sport.

Had the new rule been in force last year, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa would have edged Hamilton for the title.

“It’s a shame what’s happening to F1,” Hamilton said in a statement provided by his McLaren team. “It’s hard to believe these recent decisions will improve things for the track-side spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our priority.”

The rule change was imposed even though Hamilton snatched victory in one of the most exciting season finales, clinching the title after overtaking on the final turn of the final lap in the final race.

“Whatever the points system, I know that all F1 drivers will always race our hearts out,” Hamilton said Friday.

Schumacher expressed his astonishment Thursday that the change was announced less than two weeks before the start of the world championship. The season begins on March 29 at the Australian Grand Prix.

Governing body FIA decided made the change Tuesday in the face of teams’ suggestion that the scoring system simply be changed to better reflect the value of a victory _ with 12 points for a win rather than 10.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone initially pushed for a medals tally before his revised proposal was accepted. Points will still be awarded and will be used as a championship tiebreaker if several drivers have the same number of wins.

“For the first time in recent years we have the teams, drivers, sponsors and fans all working together for the good of our sport,” said Hamilton, apparently also concerned at a budget cap that could handicap bigger teams including McLaren. “Now we just need the governing bodies to listen to us and help us.”

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