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FIA puts the brakes on rule change after uproar

FORMULA One looks set to ditch controversial plans to award the championship to the driver who wins most races after the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) performed a late U-turn on Friday.

"If, for any reason, the Formula One teams do not now agree with the new system, its implementation will be deferred until 2010," the FIA said in a statement.

The teams made clear they were not in favor, accusing the governing body of ignoring the rules by imposing the new system.

The climbdown came less than a week before the start of first practice for next week's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The Formula One Teams' Association's own proposal to reward race winners with more points was ruled out last Tuesday by the FIA's world motor sport council, which instead voted unanimously for the "winner-takes-all" system.

FOTA, founded last year to present a united front in dealings with the FIA and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, said in a statement the teams had unanimously agreed "to question the validity of this (FIA) decision.

"It is too late for FIA to impose a change for the 2009 season that has not obtained the unanimous agreement of all the competitors properly entered into the 2009 Formula One Championship," it added.

FOTA, which had carried out a worldwide poll of Formula One fans, had proposed changing the scoring structure to a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 points format from the existing 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1.

The FIA said Ecclestone, who had been pushing for an Olympic-style medals system, had put forward the winner-takes-all solution after being led to believe the teams were in favor of it.

FOTA said the teams would work with the FIA to devise a new system for 2010.

The rule change received a mixed reaction when it was announced. McLaren's world champion Lewis Hamilton said he had doubts about it.

"I think it's a shame what's happening to Formula One," said the 24-year-old Briton in a statement. "It's hard to believe that these recent decisions will improve things for the trackside spectators and TV viewers, who should always be our No. 1 priority."

Critics of the winner-takes-all system said it disregarded the importance of consistency and reliability over the course of a season and could lead to the championship ending early if one driver racked up a string of wins.

While the teams presented a common front on the scoring system, their unity could be tested severely in Melbourne with a storm already brewing over the legality of the diffusers on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars.

The FIA has indicated it believes the three teams' interpretation of the rules to be correct. Brawn, heir to now-departed Honda, has set the pace in the most recent preseason tests with Briton Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.


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