Tuesday, 16 November 2010

2010 season review: racing

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.

Morris Dancer


Omnium said...

More interesting points MD.

I think the balance within the various teams of the #1 and #2 drivers was interesting all season. When Button got it right it was great fun, but somehow he perhaps seemed to lack the dogged win-all-the-time mentality of Hamilton. Massa was really surprisingly poor and that didn't help the overall team effort. Rosberg and Schumacher made an interesting pair - If they get the car right I can imagine them both doing very well - probably equally so.

The lack of testing made the early season slightly more interesting in that the lesser teams seemed to be more in touch - so we'll no doubt have an interesting start next year too.

Vettel though having achieved the title will perhaps calm down a little and be really very hard to stop. Mind you Maclaren probably won't have the rather muddled start that they had this season.

KERS and the rear wing arrangements could well make next season a really good one.

Morris Dancer said...

That's a very good point I, er, missed entirely (although the article's pretty long anyway).

It's hard to assess Massa, as he may still have been recovering mentally from the crash he suffered, and the Hockenheim incident can't have helped him.

In Brazil Schumacher deliberately let Rosberg past, as he was on new tyres to Schumacher's old and had the better chance of catching and challenging Button. I suspect they're more equal than might be thought, and that they get on pretty well.

I hope Vettel gets a little more luck and a bit more consistency. If he can iron our the wrinkles he'll be the best man on the grid, I think.

jamei said...

Great summary. Next season should indeed be as good as this, and I think tyres will be a big factor (again). The Pirellis will be quite different I think, possibly favouring different cars and also leading to more pitstops. The tests later this week may reveal something.

I disagree about the new teams though. Teams like Arrows and Minardi were around for many years at a similar place at the back of the field. I think Virgin and Lotus did very to develop some consistency for their first season considering they started from nothing. Lotus seem a very professional outfit and look to have the right people on board, and Virgin seem to have more money arriving, so I hope both teams can start scoring points next year. HRT though are a joke, but there have always been hangers-on in F1 barely keeping it together since the 50s.

Morris Dancer said...

Thanks, jamei.

Some teams will always be at or near the back of the grid. The issue for me is the substantial (and constant) margin. Not scoring a single point (for all three teams together) in a season is pretty pathetic.

Anyway, I hope Lotus and Virgin improve (Lotus does seem geared up for a serious approach) and HRT is either axed or improves pronto.

David said...

Keep up the good work. Read these every race weekend.

Morris Dancer said...

Cheers, David.

Predictive review is basically done, and I intend to post it at the weekend.

The betting review (last one, honest) will probably be the weekend after that.