The six ingredients of F1???s classic 2010 season

2010 F1 season review

Bahrain Grand Prix start

The 2010 F1 season got off to a less than inspiring start at Bahrain.

Who would have thought the following 18 Grands Prix would give us dramatic races in wet and dry conditions, nine changes of lead in the championship and a dramatic turn-around in the final race?

These are the six things that made F1 great in 2010.

Three closely-matched cars

Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari

Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari

Having two closely-matched teams at the front is usually the best you can hope for Formula 1. In recent years, it’s often been a story of McLaren versus Ferrari with the rest somewhere further back, sneaking the odd win here and there.

But in 2010 we enjoyed a genuine three-way fight. While the Red Bull RB6s were usually quickest in qualifying, over a race distance it often a close run thing between them and the F10s and MP4-25s.

That meant we had five drivers still in the running for the title with two rounds to go, and an unprecedented four-way shoot-out in the season finale. Remarkable stuff.

Team radio chatter

Only in the last couple of seasons have we been able to hear radio broadcasts from all the teams during the race. F1 is finally starting to catch up with the likes of NASCAR and IndyCar in terms of revealing what’s going on between the pit wall and the cars to television viewers.

These radio broadcasts framed some of the most memorable moments of the season: Hamilton’s frustration at his strategy in Melbourne, Webber describing himself as being “not bad for a number two driver” after winning in Silverstone, and of course the infamous “Fernando is faster than you.”

This the best addition to F1 coverage in recent years. Still there’s much more that needs to be done with it. For starters, we should be able to hear the radio in real-time instead of delayed and have access to all the drivers’ radios, perhaps via some kind of online service.

The refuelling ban

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

I’ve been a broken record about refuelling over the past few years and now it’s finally gone I’m very pleased.

The brilliance of the refuelling ban was captured in a radio message between Sebastian Vettel and his crew at Montreal. Vettel assumed his strategy would move him in front of the cars he was following. His team pointed out that, no, he would have to overtake them.

The refuelling ban has reduced the teams’ dependence on strategy to get them past other cars – now they have to make their moves on the track.

We simply would not have had anything like as exciting races in Canada and Turkey under the old refuelling rules.

And on top of that, we finally have proper, exciting, low-fuel qualifying back too. Aside from the irritating “use both tyre compounds” rule, it’s looking pretty good at the moment.

Restraint from the stewards

Refereeing is a controversial area in any sport. But the standard of stewarding in F1 clearly improved in 2010, and for that we may well have the long-overdue introduction of drivers’ representatives to thank.

That’s not to say they got every call right this year. But problems that did arise were quickly addressed and fixed: such as when Michael Schumacher got caught out by a clumsily-worded rule at Monaco, and the nine cars that got penalties for going too quickly when the safety car was deployed in Valencia.

Some problem areas remain, such as the delay in handing down penalties in some cases – Lewis Hamilton’s at Valencia being an example.

But on the whole, when it came to the decisions taken at the track by the stewards, we saw a welcome new degree of restraint. Let’s hope it’s here to stay.

Much less politics

It was a bad year for those who thrive on paddock intrigue rather than what the sport is supposed to be about: racing.

Budget caps, double diffusers, the FOTA breakaway, deliberate crashes – political strife overshadowed the sport on far too many occasions in 2009.

After years of headlines about ‘spygate’, ‘spankgate’ and ‘Singapore-gate’ the 2010 season brought welcome respite from the rows.

There were still some points of conflict, of course: condemnation of Ferrari’s team orders at Hockenheim and insinuations about why the RB6 was so fast. But that adds up to rather less than the sport has been through in recent years.

Is this a positive sign of how F1 will be conducted throughout Jean Todt’s FIA presidency? Or just a fleeting peace before the resumption of hostilities as the next Concorde Agreement is thrashed out? We wait to see.

A fitting conclusion

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2010

The season that never failed to surprise simply had to end with one final twist.

Going into the final round at Abu Dhabi the talk was all around whether Fernando Alonso could collect enough points to grab a third title, and whether Red Bull would swap the positions of their drivers to guarantee Mark Webber the title.

But in one of those great sporting upsets Sebastian Vettel snatched it from both of them. Webber slipped down the order and Ferrari and Alonso were so distracted by beating him they forgot they had to keep Vettel in range too.

It also spared us a winter of arguments about a certain seven points scored by Alonso at Hockenheim, which was no bad thing either.

Do you agree F1 had a classic season in 2010? What made it great? Have your say in the comments.

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91 comments on The six ingredients of F1???s classic 2010 season

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  1. Definitely. The only thing that wouldve made it more fun was mounting Machine Guns on the Cars. :-)

  2. It was good a ‘classic’ but for all that I ended up slightly disappointed. I think it was because of Red Bull were just too far ahead car wise. Good job the results didn’t come for them early on. If the rest had been a bit closer it would of possibly been the best of all time. Even went others end up on top I always felt it was only a matter of time before RBR top the champs, it kept us guessing to the end though

  3. Meh. There were very few interesting races and even those that should have been exciting turned out to be very boring indeed. Alonso claiming “these are the worst conditions ever” in Korea, yet the race was boring. A Williams on pole in Brazil, yet there were only really 2 laps of excitement from that. Even Alonso starting last in Monaco turned out to be boring because he overtook most of his opponents when they were pitting.

    Sure it was nice having the top drivers so close to each other in the points, but really, the league table isn’t what’s important. The racing is, and 2010, just like 2009 was a giant fail in that area.

    Starting to wonder if we will ever get seasons like 2007/2008 again.

  4. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 25th November 2010, 12:43

    I would definitely agree Keith, a classic season for all the reasons you’ve said. It had the drama of 2008, the closeness of 2007 and an overall quality of races not seen since maybe 2005 (from what I hear of them at least).

  5. Good Article.
    and yeah, with all the actual racing, i almost forgot that there should be some political war in the background.
    just a tonne of racing, and an awesome season

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th November 2010, 14:22

      I don’t know about “should”. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we do next year.

      • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 25th November 2010, 16:44

        As much as I hated all the politics of the Mosley era, they were fun to observe

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th November 2010, 19:14

          Sure, it offered a lot to talk about. This year the only things besides the actual track action were on the cars, Kimi coming back or not, HRT money, Ferrari moaning about the new teams and the most interesting Lotus – Lotus strife.

          But then again, the average level of action on track was so much better than it has been in the last 3 years, or more. So I happily give up on the politics, if we could enjoy another season or 2 of this level of sport.

  6. I’ve been following F1 since the late 1960′s and I’m very surprised by BBT’s and Neil’s comments as this was one of the best ever seasons that I can remember. If they were not happy with this season then what on earth do they want! But for me after decades of racing being decided in the pits it’s been great seeing regular overtaking again.

    • Scalextric said on 25th November 2010, 15:24

      Me too. The varying pace of car development between the teams affected results, the varying capacity of Ferrari and McLaren to match Red Bull on differing types of tracks added to the interest, technically and the occasional tyre issues (Canada being tough on tyres, Button making his last longer than expected on occasion, changing dampness on occasion) all added to the new story lines and hence the interest. But the racing was also actually fun to watch. Classic.

    • To be honest, I agree with them partially:
      The racing itself is getting a bit dull, with new horrible track and close to no overtaking.

      Without the close championship and the Red Bull infight, this would have been one of the worst seasons ever.

      • Maybe I was watching different races to you. I saw more on track overtaking and real overtaking atempts throughout the field than in the five previous seasons put together. Ok there were no races this year that I’d put in my top 10, but there were only two bad ones and most were good, which is much better than most seasons. We even had a couple of drives through a large part of the field, which doesn’t happen often either. And a 5 way shot at the world title was the icing on the cake. True the reasons for all this were due to reliability, weather etc, but in all the seasons I’ve followed F1 I’ve never seen a perfect season for any team. So breakdowns, offs etc are just part of any race.

  7. Antifia said on 25th November 2010, 13:06

    I certainly agree with the first reason. Three cars almost evenly matched was a treat (and it could have been even better if Felipe and Merc had lived up to pre-season expections). I am not so sure about the other ones though. The “fitting conclusion” is rather subjective. I was supporting Vettel, so I liked the end result, but I don’t think it is something that is valid for everyone. Regarding the “refueling ban” improvement, and without revisiting the discussion, I’ll just say that I am with the 50% of the fans that have a different opinion on the subject. The Stewards/Politics thing has always entertained me and, depending on the circunstances, it can even help to create a more closely fought championship. Ok, hearing the team radio can was fun too.

  8. In terms of armchair entertainment, the cringeworthy behaviour of eddie jordan was a real highlight. For next season it would be nice, if the most technologically advanced sport in the world, could have more advanced broadcasting. I can watch football in 3D and that sport is run by imbeciles, so surely F1 can do it!

  9. Owen G said on 25th November 2010, 13:20

    For me the lack of on track overtaking among the leaders to decide races is what stops me from considering this season a great one.

    Sure the championship lead changed regularly but how often was this due to mechanical failures or accidents? And how often due to one of the main contenders catching and passing another for a win or podium?

    • US_Peter said on 25th November 2010, 19:11

      I think the lack of overtaking at the front has a lot to do with the relative competitiveness of the cars. Top drivers in top cars are hard to overtake, even for another top driver in a top car. Basically someone has to make a small mistake.

  10. Ronman said on 25th November 2010, 13:20

    Forget Classic, from a sporting perspective, it’s the most epic season ever…in my memory at least…

  11. Andy W said on 25th November 2010, 13:33

    It was a great season, for all that it was a bit sparse on great races (lots of good and very good races, but looking back i can’t think of any races from this season that will go down as classics – at least not off the top of my head). Fascinating challenges and for the most part the action was on the track and between the drivers, shame that the WMSC fluffed up the Hockenhiem team orders scandel.

    I also loved how Red Bull were proved right in Abu Dhabi in not instigating team orders and swapping drivers on the track which was so much spoken about (and yes I am pointing a finger at a number of articles on here as well as elsewhere) how Red Bull and McLaren MUST take the Ferrari approach.

    To my mind the weakest part of the 2010 season was the fact that I had to put up with the attrocious commentating of a certain Mr Legard on the BBC…. Please Auntie drop the dead weight and give us the top notch commentating team that the rest of your coverage and the sport deserves! I would love to hear what Brundle and Croft could do together, even Brundle and James Allen would be a welcome return – although I am sure I would soon get sick of all the Allen knockers… the guy is understated in his commentary but at least he knows what he is talking about and who is driving which car and the relative strategies that make up motor racing…. something that after 2 years is still far beyond the grasp of Legard.

  12. Kris H. said on 25th November 2010, 13:41

    I’d say the wet weather present during at least 6 races added to the great element of the unknown this year. For those who think there was not enough on-track passing, jeez, when has there ever been in F1? 2007 was so dominated by two teams, the other 16 cars might have well stayed home – I thought that year was 10 times more boring than this.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 25th November 2010, 14:17

      I’ve always said that most of the excitement in 2007 occurred of track. For the inter team tensions and politics it was a classic, but aside from 5 great races (Montreal, Nurburgring, Fuji, Shanghai and Interlagos) there was little on track excitement

  13. antonyob said on 25th November 2010, 14:24

    yep the mtv kids want it to be 2nd position takes 1st on the line at each race or its not great. i suggest you watch 125cc bikes or something.

    An epic season, probably the finest of the modern era. The driver pool of talent is the deepest since the 60′s probably and the number of world class drivers means a race win is a proper achievement.

    The only fly in the ointment for me is the increasing prevalence of desert tracks or tracks where 20 people turn up. i sat at Becketts for 1st practice at the British GP and 130,000 people had joined me. More races, more tracks in the heartland please and also a certain Legard has spoilt many a race with his constant drone and error strewn commentary.

  14. TrueF1Grit (@truef1grit) said on 25th November 2010, 14:40

    Your missing “Team Mate Rivalries”. They were fair and all performed on track, Vet v Web, Ham v But, Alo v Mas, Kob v (Experienced teammate who “should” out-perform him).

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th November 2010, 19:18

      True, that does add some tension, emotion and gives just that little extra to the track action.
      Also don’t forget the Mercedes inner team standing there, with Rosberg subtly pulling the leader mantle towards himself.

  15. The absence of refuelling was a big shame imo. But I said enough about that at the time, and cannot be bothered going over it again.

    • I Agree, i think they could tailor something where by all those in the top 10 have to start with the same amount of fuel, thereby keeping the current quali as it is, then they have to pit the first pit at a specific lap, although obviously some may have to pit earlier than others. I used to enjoy it that way, although i do get what Keith is saying, the racing should take place on the track and not in the pits!

      • How about no pitstops altogether? :D

        • I would like to see mandatory pitstops done away with – does a driver go for a no-stopper to get track position but have to manage their tyres’ condition, or go hell for leather and use up two (or three) sets of tyres?

          But only after the teams are forced to get together and come up with revised aerodyanmic regulations that allow two cars to drive through a high-speed corner nose to tail…

          • Pedro Andrade said on 25th November 2010, 17:58

            I agree that mandatory pitstops should go, but at the present I don’t think it would work all that well. Most of the times the harder compound lasts through the whole race distance without much problem (take Petrov at Abu Dhabi, for example).

            Pirelli should sort that out. What made Canada interesting was not the difference between compounds, but rather how fast both of them were degrading. I get it that tyres that don’t last long seem bad publicity, but that’s the way to go. I’ve seen somewhat suggest something like: one hard compound and a softer that degrades quickly but performs great. And then let the drivers decide how they want to play with them.

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