This first review will be purely from a sporting perspective. Later ones will examine how good practice and qualifying are for predicting race results, and how the actual betting went.
I’ve been, lazily, into F1 for quite a while, and keenly into it for the last few years. I’ve got to say that I think 2010 has been one of the very best seasons ever, and the best I can personally recall. There were five genuine title contenders, numerous twists and turns, with driver errors and reliability problems galore, plus a final glorious sting in the tail.
This year also saw the return of seven times champion Michael Schumacher. He did start off well below par, but towards the end of the season was more competitive, given the Mercedes was a leading midfield vehicle rather than a car capable of winning races.
Three new teams joined the sport (HRT, Virgin and Lotus), and were frankly unimpressive. I’d definitely axe HRT, and probably Virgin and Lotus as well.
But the real trademark of this excellent season was the action at the sharp end between Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. Ultimately Red Bull tied up both the Constructors’ and, through Vettel, the Driver’s titles.
Unlike 2009, when Brawn had the fastest car by miles at the start, McLaren had the quickest car at the end and Red Bull was second best throughout, 2010 saw Red Bull fastest throughout the season. McLaren and Ferrari got close at times, but never really surpassed the double-title winners.
The early season saw two phenomena that dictated the standings for a time: Vettel’s shocking reliability and Button’s excellent tyre calls in changeable conditions. The Briton scored his two victories in Australia and China, sandwiching Vettel’s first victory in Malaysia. The German ought to have won in the first race (Bahrain), but his spark plugs had other ideas.
After this, Webber and Hamilton started racking up serious points. Both had back-to-back victories (Webber in Spain and Monaco, Hamilton in Turkey and Canada), and, after Alonso got the controversial and ultimately pointless win in Germany, they got their final wins in Hungary and Belgium.
Button, unlike his rivals, never had consistent reliability issues or numerous driving errors. His main problem was a lack of speed, especially in qualifying, which made his races even harder, and he gradually slid down the table as others kept getting wins. In terms of driving reliability, he was clearly the best contender of the season.
After Belgium, a horrible thing happened. Alonso started winning races. The last six were shared equally between El Grumpino and the Wunderkind, although Alonso’s Korean triumph was solely due to Vettel’s engine exploding (yet again) denying him another victory. Alonso drove tremendously well after Hockenheim. He did enjoy some luck, but earlier in the season a combination of safety cars and penalties had cost him dearly, and fortune evened out over the course of the season.
Hamilton’s challenge had veered into the concrete barrier of woe due to a series of self-inflicted (if moderately unlucky) DNFs, when a number of overtaking attempts went wrong and wrecked his races, and his hope of regaining the crown.
For a long time Webber seemed favourite for the title. However, a slip up in Korea, when he spun (and took out the unfortunate Rosberg) cost him a podium. Vettel then beat him in Brazil, and the Aussie had to finish ahead of Alonso in Abu Dhabi. Instead, the Aussie crumbled, delivering an unimpressive 5th spot on the grid, with his team mate grabbing pole. In the race, he was too slow. Even though Alonso was backed up by Petrov he never came close to passing the Spaniard or even trying to.
Alonso had the easiest job in Abu Dhabi. With Webber behind him, all he needed was 4th or better. He qualified 3rd and although he was passed by a fantastically quick Button at the start he was still fine. Then Ferrari made a huge mistake. They copied Webber’s tactical error and pitted, forgetting about Vettel (who led almost all the race). Alonso emerged behind Petrov, who drove very well and kept the Spaniard behind him for more than half the race.
Vettel made a number of serious mistakes during the season. Torpedoing your team mate never goes down well (except with the McLarens following you), and Button was unimpressed when the German accidentally took the Briton (and himself) out later in the season. But in Abu Dhabi he was just about flawless. He got pole, he led for almost all the race and he got the victory. Even better, fate was, for once, kind to Vettel. His rivals finished too far back and he was staggered to become the youngest ever world champion, and a deserving one too.
Could next season be as good as this? The F-duct is gone, but KERS is back and a moveable rear wing (meant to aid overtaking) is introduced. Renault and Mercedes will be trying to thwart the top teams from this season, and it’ll be fascinating to see if they manage it.
Recent news: Hulkenberg has parted ways with Williams. Despite a decent season for the rookie, he’s been axed, probably because the team needs more money. He stands a chance of getting a spot with a new team, or with Force India. Williams have confirmed Barrichello is being retained for 2011, which will be the Brazilian’s 19th season in F1.