It has been an incredible Formula One season in 2010 with so many highs and lows. After the first race in Bahrain, in which Fernando Alonso scored his first win for Ferrari, there were many fans criticising that the new rules have made the racing boring and predictable. And yet, the following Grand Prix in Melbourne was exciting thanks to mixed conditions and a debut win for the reigning world champion Jenson Button at his new McLaren team.
The early races really showcase the speed of the Red Bull RB6 but the reliability was still a concern. If Sebastian Vettel didn’t have that spark plug problem in Bahrain or his spin in Australia due to a loose wheel nut, he would have scored 50 points.
His first victory of the 2010 season came at Malaysia (the third event), when the Renault-powered Red Bull finally holding together. In fact, the race in Sepang was a Red Bull Racing one-two with Mark Webber finishing in the runner-up spot.
Webber achieved back-to-back wins in Spain and Monaco, with the street race being the highlight for the Australian. It should have been a dominant win for Fernando Alonso in the Principality, as he was the fastest driver in practice, but he pushed too hard in the final practice session leading to qualifying and damaged the car…
As for Lewis Hamilton, he was shocked by the speed of the Red Bulls especially in qualifying. The only way he could win a Grand Prix was to have both cars crash into one another and that’s exactly what happened in Turkey!
That incident between Webber and Vettel was a real flashpoint for Red Bull Racing and perhaps the 2010 season. Both were determined to take the win and neither was going to give way. Watching that incident time and again on various different television angles, I still say it was Sebastian’s fault. But the team defended Vettel with that clumsy overtaking move and blame Webber for being too aggressive!
Hamilton took his second victory in an exciting Canadian Grand Prix. Why was it so entertaining? The different wear rates from the Bridgestone tyres made it tricky for grip and it was fascinating to see the drivers plus teams adapting different strategies between the prime and option tyres.
In Valencia, we saw another Sebastian Vettel win but it was his team-mate Mark Webber who was on a high! His car did a flip in the air after crashing into the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus. It was a scary moment but thanks to the modern safety in Formula One, both drivers escaped unharmed.
The following race at Silverstone, we witness another fallout between the Red Bull drivers and this time it was over a new front-wing…
During practice Sebastian’s new front-wing collapsed and the team decided to change it by taking Mark’s front wing without talking to the Australian. Webber was livid and in the race, he got his payback by winning the British Grand Prix and telling on the team radio, “he wasn’t bad for a number two driver!”
Speaking of number twos, the Ferrari team opted to use team orders between their number one and two drivers – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa respectively – in the German Grand Prix.
By ordering Massa to let Alonso through because “he was much faster”, the team’s decision to do a position swap angered many fans. And yet, team orders have always been part of the sport since the 1950s. It was ironic that the so-called ‘ban’ on team orders came into play when the same team Ferrari did the position swap at the Austrian Grand Prix back in 2002 when Rubens Barrichello moved over for Michael Schumacher to take the maximum points…
The team defended the decision and Massa was saying he did the right thing. But the fans didn’t agree. The sport’s governing body issued a fine of $100,000 for mocking the race result in Germany.
The Red Bulls were in a different class in the following race in Hungary and many teams were criticising the new flexible front-wing fitted on the RB6. The FIA did some weight tests to see if the new wing was breaking the strict aero rules and yet it passed with flying colours.
Mark Webber rewarded Red Bull Racing with his fourth victory of the season in Budapest, but the race will be remembered over that aggressive moment between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.
Michael squeezed Rubens into the pitwall to prevent the Brazilian coming through. Rubens kept his foot down and made the pass but he was up against the pitwall so close that an inch further could have been nasty…
The next race was at the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit and Lewis Hamilton scored his third victory for McLaren. He had a moment when he slid off the circuit due to the wet surface, but he managed to avoid hitting the tyre wall, recover and take the chequered flag.
His team-mate Jenson Button was taking out of the race by an out-of-control Sebastian Vettel! It was a silly crash by the Red Bull driver as Button defended his track position at the Bus Stop chicane, and yet Vettel was sensing the opportunity to pass but he lost control of his car under braking…
Fernando Alonso also crashed out in Spa but he made amends to this bad form with some excellent race wins in Monza (Ferrari’s home race) and at Singapore.
In those two races, Lewis Hamilton lost some important championship points no thanks to his determination to get pass his rivals. The McLaren driver was out on the first lap at Monza after damaging his right-front wheel against Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. In the night race at Singapore, he attempted to overtake Mark Webber on the outside but the Australian kept his driving line and bashed into the McLaren damaging it.
Webber made it to the finish despite the wheel nearly coming off the rim edge! As for Sebastian Vettel, he drove a solid race to second pressuring Fernando Alonso all the way to the chequered flag.
Vettel was back in the winner’s circle with a dominant drive in the Japanese Grand Prix. He should have won in Korea but his car let him down – a massive engine failure. Vettel shrugged off that disappointment by winning the final two races of the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, sealing the championship for Red Bull Racing and for himself.
That final race at Abu Dhabi should have been thrilling, with four drivers in with a shout of winning the title but the nature of the circuit made it difficult for the cars to overtake and so it was down to race strategy.
Ferrari screwed up on that by focusing too much on Webber and not race leader Vettel. This bad call in the pits affected Fernando Alonso’s race and the Spaniard was unable to win his third title despite heading into the weekend as the pre-title favourite…
As for Webber that crash in Korea – in which he spun off in the wet conditions trying to keep on tabs with Vettel – proved to be very costly in terms of the championship. He was unhappy with Red Bull favouring Sebastian for the title and he simply under performed in the season finale with P5 in qualifying and P8 in the race.
And what about Lewis Hamilton? He had nothing to lose and he raced hard against Vettel to win the final race of a long 2010 season. The win and championship went to the young German after a solid performance.
So does Sebastian Vettel deserve the championship? I would say yes. Okay, he had his fair share of bad luck and crashes, but his form in qualifying has been excellent. Ten pole positions. As for his five victories, it was a master class of driving in the best car.
Other highlights in this intense and dramatic season? Nulk Hülkenberg’s maiden pole position for Williams at Interlagos; Michael Schumacher struggling in his comeback with Mercedes GP but in the final few races, his race pace improved; The battle between the three new teams – Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT; Kamui Kobayashi’s overtaking moves during the final laps in Suzuka; Korea’s new circuit that was completed just two weeks before the inaugural Korean Grand Prix.
Well done Sebastian Vettel and as for the BBC, I love the extensive coverage on the red button! All three practice sessions, race forum and alternative commentary. I really wish Radio 5 Live’s David Croft and Anthony Davidson are the main commentary feed, as the pair provides more energy, insight and enthusiasm compared to Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle. I like Martin’s racing insight but his colleague is simply useless at explaining the action unfolding during qualifying and the race! Please change it BBC for the viewers sake.
The new season is just over one hundred days away and I am already looking forward it. Not only to witness Sebastian Vettel defending his title honour with car number one on his Red Bull, but the close competition, new drivers and tyre supplier Pirelli providing the action. Roll on March 2011!