The 2010 Formula 1 season saw a great championship battle come to a conclusion that rivalled 2007?s amazing finale. In a year that saw team order controversy thrust back to the forefront with some teammate feuding mixed in, 5 different drivers led the standings and wrote the story of the season. Well, really it was 6 with Felipe Massa leading the standings early in the year for a race but he never played a factor in the championship.
2010 had other stories as well, including the return of 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher. Not a brilliant return though, he failed to even finish on the podium, let alone win a race, for the first time since 1991.
Robert Kubica showed why he?s one of the best driver in F1 right now, blowing out his rookie Renault teammate and finishing 8th in the points with 3 podiums, a number of stellar drivers and a qualifying record that nearly paralleled Red Bull in terms of consistency.
There were 3 new teams in 2010 that struggled at the back of the pack all season and failed to score any points, but Lotus came out on top over Virgin Racing and HRT.
And Williams won their first pole since 2005 thanks to their rookie driver, Nico Hulkenberg. A driver they couldn?t retain for 2011 due to financial issues, another example of how pay drivers are becoming too prevalent in all of auto racing, let alone F1.
But the season really belonged to 5 drivers, so going over their 2010 journeys is the best way to review the season.
The 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 World Champion started off his first season with Scuderia Ferrari in fine fashion, taking advantage of Sebastien Vettel?s engine troubles to lead a Ferrari 1-2 in the first race of the season at Bahrain and become the first driver to lead the standings in 2010. It?s a lead that Alonso would hold on for 2 races until Malaysia when he suffered a late engine failure. It would eventually lead to a mid-season slump marred by uncharacteristic mistakes by Alonso, the worst being a practice wreck that saw him go from being the favourite at Monaco to missing out on qualifying and slugging it out for a disappointing 6th place finish.
For better or for worse, Hockenheim got Alonso back in the title picture after Ferrari?s ?team orders? allowed Alonso to ?pass? Felipe Massa for the win. Ferrari survived scrutiny from the FIA, other than a $100,000 euro fine, and Alonso would pick up 3 wins and 6 podiums in the 7 races afterward to take the point lead with 2 races to go. Alonso ended up going into the season finale at Abu Dhabi with an 8 point lead over 2nd place, 15 point lead over 3rd place and 24 point lead over 4th place.
Button was the 2nd world champion in 2010 to be driving for a new team, Mclaren-Mercedes, taking a big risk by leaving what became the Mercedes factory team to join Mclaren-incumbent and favourite Lewis Hamilton. The potential was there for Button to get thrashed from start to finish by Hamilton, but instead Button won 2 of the first 4 races to take the point lead, a lead he would keep after 5 races.
But Button would drop out of the point lead at Monaco due to an engine failure, a position Button wouldn?t be able to regain the rest of the season. 2nd place finishes in Turkey and Montreal kept him within a shot but slowly but surely he fell out of the championship picture thanks to only 2 podiums in the last 10 races of the season. Button probably did better in his first year with Mclaren than anyone thought he would but ended up mathematically eliminated from the championship with a race left to go and ended up finishing 5th in the standings, 42 points behind the eventual champion.
It took Mark Webber 8 seasons to get his first Formula 1 victory, and 9 years to become a championship contender thanks to Red Bull Racing. The 33 year old made the most of it during the middle of the season, with back-to-back wins in the Spanish GP and Monaco putting him in the championship lead after 6 races. But Webber couldn?t avoid being involved in his share of controversial moments in 2010; the absolute worst case scenario for any team happened in Turkey when the Red Bull Racing drivers wrecked while fighting for the lead; Webber survived Vettel?s ill-advised pass to finish 3rd. Then there was Silverstone, a good result but more controversy for Webber and Red Bull Racing after the team brought a pair of new front wings to the race, Vettel?s broke and RBR gave Webber?s to him. Webber would go on to win the race and lay down the best F1 quote of 2010: ?How?s that for a number 2?? Another win in Hungary and consistent results kept Webber fighting it out for the point lead through a major part of the season.
But Formula 1?s first foray into Korea would turn Webber?s championship hopes on their head; an early-race self-induced spin and wreck, combined with Fernando Alonso?s win, would drop him out of the point lead. A 2nd place finish to teammate Vettel in Brazil kept Webber?s championship alive as he entered the season finale in 2nd, 8 points behind Fernando Alonso.
The 2008 Formula 1 World Champion got off to a disappointing start of the year, with just 2 podiums and a flat tire causing him to wreck out of the Spanish GP while in 3rd. He fell behind not only the Red Bull drivers but even his teammate Jenson Button. But like we saw from Alonso, Lewis showed his championship form by picking up convincing back-to-back wins in Turkey and Montreal to shoot up to the point lead after 8 races. 2nd place finishes at Valencia and Silverstone and a 4th place finish in Germany kept him in the point lead after 11 races.
The F-duct proved to be Mclaren?s best weapon in its championship. The first to develop the system, it allowed them to alter the wind flow on the rear wing to help straight line speed and it made the Mclaren drivers nearly impossible to pass in a fair fight on the straights. It was valuable Button's, and especially Lewis', success on tracks with long straights.
Hamilton would lose the point lead in Hungary after a transmission failure but victory at Spa would put him right back on top after 13 races. An ill-advised lap 1 pass at Monza wrecked him out of the race to cost him the point lead, a racing incident while trying to pass Mark Webber in the middle of the Singapore race severely damaged his championship hopes, and a lost gear at Suzuka relegated him to a 5th place finish and didn?t help matters at all. A 2nd place finish in Korea and 4th place finish in Brazil kept Lewis Hamilton within a mathematical, albeit very unlikely, shot of the championship heading into the season finale, 4th and 24 point out of the lead
Sebastien Vettel was the last of the 5 to take the point lead this season, but sometimes it?s all about timing. Red Bull Racing was the dominant team all season, winning 14 poles and 8 races heading into the season finale. In an ideal season Vettel could?ve run away with the championship but driver and team mistakes made it look like they had all but thrown away the hopes of Webber and especially the hopes of Vettel for the driver?s championship
Vettel dropped out of the lead due to mechanical issues 3 times in 2010, including the first race of the season; a dominant pole and race fell away to Ferrari. Brakes cost him in the 2nd race of the year at Melbourne, and Korea was a heartbreaker as his engine failed. But Vettel had his share of mistakes to cost himself points, including wrecking his teammate Webber while fighting it out for the lead in Turkey, getting penalized for an illegal restart in Hungary and a driving error that took out both himself and Jenson Button in Spa.
Yet Vettel was able to stay within a race of the championship leader through the season and turned it on when it matters; 2 wins in the 3 races prior to the season finale brought him back into the title fold, and the Red Bull Racing 1-2 in Brazil clinched their first ever constructor?s championship. But work still needed to be done for the driver?s championship, as Vettel went into Abu Dhabi in 3rd in the standings, 15 points back.
Vettel became the 7th driver in Formula 1 history to win 10 poles in a season when he took pole in Abu Dhabi, while Mark Webber all but ended his championship hopes by qualifying 5th and Fernando Alonso put himself in great position by qualifying 3rd. The previous 6 had all gone on to win the championship, and whether it was fate or not Vettel lived up to his predecessors. He survived a strong race from Mclaren to pick up a dominant win while an early safety car period and ill-timed pit stops from Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber mired them back in the pack where they couldn?t recover; 7th and 8th place finishes ruined their championship hopes.
Fernando Alonso?s quest to become the 4th Ferrari driver to win the championship in his debut season in red just fell short, but he still showed why he is the best overall driver in F1 right now. He completely handled Massa, even late in the year when the excuse of Massa?s injury was gone, and should fight for the title again in 2011.
Mark Webber loses in what could be his only opportunity to win an F1 championship, especially considering what his teammate just went and did. RBR was willing to die on the sword and lose the drivers championships to maintain equal status between drivers, but that doesn?t mean the team can?t have its preference as to who wins the fair fight. Psychology is a major factor in F1 and if Webber doesn?t feel like he?s the favourite then he won?t drive like it. And we might?ve already seen that in Abu Dhabi.
The Mclaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button ended up falling short of having any real shot at the driver?s championship, with RBR enjoying such a speed advantage and Fernando Alonso storming to the front of the pack late in the season. Hamilton still needs to work on limiting mistakes but continues to show why he?s the best racer in F1 while Button?s cool head and intelligence allowed him to match up well with Hamilton and have a great first year at Mclaren.
And Sebastien Vettel becomes the youngest champion ever in F1, beating out Lewis Hamilton?s mark from his 2008 championship, thanks to possibly the best timing in Formula 1 history. Abu Dhabi is the first time that Vettel has ever led the points standings, and even if it?s the only time he leads the standings it?ll stand forever in the record books.
Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton and Button made 2010 and the odds are good they?ll make 2011 too, however it plays out. With maybe some Massa and Schumacher sprinkled in.
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