Bahrain Grand Prix start

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

2010 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. I think the one with the stewarding could be discussed. Its nice to have an actual racing driver helping, as he can spot thing others wouldnt or would see.

    Though I think that far too many times, the stewards have not been nearly fast enough to take a descision. So driver have received penalties too late in the race or for the next race. It is just not fair to punish Schumacher for something he did on Hungaroring (that is “impossible” to overtake on), on Spa (overtaking actually possible) I want them to make faster decisions.

    All the other things I agree on, and I can’t wait to see if next year will live up to it.

    1. +1

      It’s one of the greatest “what if’s” for 2010. What if Ferrari hadn’t forced Kimi out? And what if Kimi had found his 2005 mojo (or at the very least carried the momentum from the second half of 2009)

      And considering what Kubica was able to achieve this year, I’d imagine Alonso would be pretty competitive if he’d stayed at Renault.

  2. 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.

    Keith, apologies if I’ve misunderstood the quote, but listening in to drivers radios in real time is just infeasible, isn’t it. Aren’t the radios aired with a delay so that the message and reply components can be pasted together? It would look ridiculous on tele if we were treated to half a minute of silence in the middle.

    1. but listening in to drivers radios in real time is just infeasible, isn’t it

      I don’t want to get into splitting hairs – when I said “real time” what I meant was “without an enforced delay”. For example if you watch American series like IndyCar you can hear the radio chatter during the pit stops – and they’re telling the driver to go at the same time you see him leaving the pit box.

      At the moment it feels a bit like an afterthought: “oh, here’s something one of the teams said a lap ago”.

  3. I don t agree with “stewards being positive this year”… They were very inconsistent in their work and in judging on track situations… One driver was penalised for cutting a chicane once and another was even not penalised for cutting it three or four times… Fittipaldi and co. was probably sleeping in Monza…
    Johnny Herbert was maybe the best steward this year from my point of view…

    1. One driver was penalised for cutting a chicane once and another was even not penalised for cutting it three or four times… Fittipaldi and co. was probably sleeping in Monza…

      I’m assuming the “One driver was penalised for cutting a chicane once” you’re referring to was Alonso at Silverstone.

      As precedent shows very clearly, if you gain a position by going off the track you have to give it back. It’s crystal-clear cut. When it happened there was a chorus of “he’ll have to give the place back” in the live comments:

      Whereas Hülkenberg went off the track but he didn’t gain a position and it’s doubtful he gained any advantage. Sure, Mark Webber said he did but he would say that, wouldn’t he?

      1. No, you are not right… I was refering to Alguersuari who was penalised in Spa and again in Monza… Hulkenberg, who was behaving on track much nastier didn t receive any penalty, even no warning… And btw. Webber, who was driving behind him was using his hand to show what he is thinking about that sort of driving and he also complained a lot to the team radio… So it was a big inconsistency in decisions coming from the stewards…

        1. No, you are not right

          Well you could have made it a bit easier by referring to your example directly instead of being vague about it.

          I’m not sure I’ve seen video of the Alguersuari ones – I remember trying to find footage of the Spa one and not being able to. If anyone has seen it please post links.

          Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Alguersuari go off at the chicane at Spa and pass Liuzzi by doing so? If so then it’s the same case as the Alonso one I described.

          You may think Hülkenberg’s driving was “nastier” but the fact is he didn’t gain a position or, it seems, an advantage with what he did which is why he wasn’t penalised.

          1. No, ALG was 10th, Liuzzi was 11th… There was NO position gained… And it happened at the end of lap 42… Times on didn t show any advantage by cutting the chicane… But ALG had a very impressive last lap, which was over 4 seconds faster then Liuzzi s… So, I think it wasn t neccessary to penalise him… If you need the FIA document, I can send you a link…

  4. I too was glad to see the back of the refuelling ban (and I expect my mates were glad to see the back of me moaning about refuelling), but I think next year is going to get worse not better.

    The adjustable rear wings can only be used by the car behind, so it could give a disadvantage to someone in front, especially at the classic slipstreamer track Monza, but even more than it ever was.

    For anyone who’s played driving games with rubber-band catchup features, it’s very annoying to see slower cars still catching up when you’re clearly faster in equal equipment.

    I don’t have a problem with adjustable rear wings, but like the tyres and KERS, it should be fully open to use at any time by anyone in any amount rather than enforced by the regulations.

  5. Younger Hamilton
    25th November 2010, 17:23

    typo fix-too quickly on the ‘Restraint from the Stewards’ part,Keith

  6. Younger Hamilton
    25th November 2010, 17:25

    to be a about

    Typo again Keith take out the a.

    1. …and fixed again, thanks!

  7. Younger Hamilton
    25th November 2010, 17:37

    I cant remember what made the season so great apart from the exciting races but all i know is the races,twists in pace and the Championship and the Technical Side is what made the Season Brilliant and 2010 is gonna be a year marked in the F1 History Greats

  8. On real-time radio transmissions; while they would be great, they have to worry about broadcasting bad language live. Personally I’d rather the drivers and engineers speak their minds and we find out about it later, like this

    1. I get the broadcasters’ hang-up about bad language, but if it were offered online with suitable disclaimers in place that would surely be fine?

      1. Oh, but you know Bernie’s hang-ups about anything to do with the Interwebs! Unless there’s some fresh thinking at FOM that goes beyond changing the fonts and layout of on-track info, I don’t see real-time radio transmissions being available anytime soon.

        (On a side note, I’m glad that they’ve shifted to a count-up of laps from zero, instead of last year’s count-down to zero. It feels more intuitive)

      2. you couldn’t have drivers saying ‘****’ and ‘****’ at 1 o’clock on a sunday afternoon!

        1. Would make a refreshing change from sponsors’ names, “the car / team was fantastic” and “for sure”!

        2. Hey, it’s 10pm here in Aus – so no problems for us ;)

          1. dyslexicbunny
            27th November 2010, 0:50

            Well it’s usually early, early morning in the States so I should expect phone sex lines to advertise too. :-D Gotta match profanity and sleaze.

      3. I agree it should be offered online Keith, but only after the race. Even if they did upload it in real time you would only be able to follow one driver at a time, and I doubt there would be much demand for it.

        1. I think that would be the beauty of it, you could really follow a single driver.

          Eg a Vettel supporter could listen to Vettel’s radio while a Alonso supporter could listen to his.
          A McLaren fan would be able to listen to Lewis or Jenson. It would be great.

  9. I don’t think the two-compound rule is flawed in itself. Bridgestone messed things up by making stupidly long-lasting tyres. Vettel did most of the Italian GP on Options, if I rememeber correctly. And the RB6 isn’t even the gentlest on its tyres. If Bridgestone were a little more “aggressive” with their tyres strategy would become important enough, without becoming the overpowering criterion as was in the refuelling era.

    And for everybody who complains about the BBC’s “poor” coverage, be thankful that you’re not watching the races from India. Ad breaks just around pitstop time. Plus Steven Slater makes Legard looks like a bona fide motorsport pundit. He almost always mixes up teammates. Always mistakes STRs for RBRs. And he has these annoying done-to-death catchphrases about the unpredictability of F1.

    I watched the BBC’s coverage of the Canadian GP over an internet feed, and the commentary was a revelation to me. Updates from the pit lane. Real-time interviews with team personnel. The grid walk. Post-race recap with Humphrey, Coulthard and Jordan. You guys are spoilt and you don’t know it!

    1. I am also jealous of people in the UK! I have to say, watching from the US is no picnic, either. It’s just wrong that I should know more about who is being shown on screen than certain SpeedTV commentators. And we’re lucky to be able to watch just part of the post-quali and post-race press conferences, if there’s time before NASCAR coverage begins.

      Also, is every practice session televised on the BBC? Because only the Friday afternoon session is televised here. Very frustrating indeed…

  10. I would also add to this list the new entries. Although without the highlights of more ‘screen time’ I think more players on the field is going to set the seen for a more exciting future in F1. Additionally, this season, they had their moments, and the fight for 10th was just as gruelling as that for 1st!

  11. 2010 definitely was a great season, but the main reason that was the case was Red Bull not fulfilling its potential rather than the championship battle being ‘intrinsically’ epic.

    The great aspects of the season are obvious: the five-way battle for the championship until the penultimate race, the four-way battle for the championship at the last race, the fact that the championship leader changed a lot of times and never won the race whilst being in the lead etc. Crucially, the racing was good, too: there were some great races, such as Australia, China, Canada and Belgium, and some very good races, such as Turkey, Singapore and Korea.

    However, the reason why the season was so interesting was down to mistakes. The RB6 was such a dominant car it would have been an absolute travesty had they not grabbed both titles. Qualifying was easily predictable this year, and if it had not been for Red Bull’s mistakes, the season would have been utterly boring. The Austrian team would have won most races and the championship would have come to an end much earlier. It seems hard to label a season in which at every race I prayed for Red Bull to run into trouble as magnificent.

    In essence then, although the season was hugely interesting, it was not down to the fact that there was a constant battle for the top positions, but due to Red Bull throwing away their chances. Note that none of the best races this season was won by Red Bull. One of the main reasons why Australia, China, Canada and Belgium were so breathtaking was that Red Bull was not dominant or ran into some problems. Similarly Turkey, Singapore and Korea were races at which Red Bull was either outperformed or again, ran into some problems.

    What 2010 lacked to be called legendary was driver prowess. McLaren and Ferrari only stayed in the battle due to Red Bull making mistakes. Although Hamilton and Alonso showed great skill when the races did not go accordingly to Red Bull’s plans, that skill was not directly utilised against each other. There were no epic battles for podium finishes, because most of the time either Red Bull got them or failed to do so, in which case a McLaren or Ferrari driver used the opportunity and kept Red Bull modest in the title race.

    Let’s hope that 2011 will equalise the cars, making driver skill more significant than having to rely on the opponent to make a mistake. Had it not been for Button’s domination at the beginning of the season, last year’s championship fulfilled that criterion more than this year’s. I loved the fact that at one point there were six consecutive race winners. As already said earlier, this year was, unfortunately, rather monotonous, as the differences between the cars were much bigger than last year. In the first half of the season, when Red Bull did not not win the race McLaren did, whereas in the second half of the season Alonso kept the title battle close when Red Bull faltered.

    Considering that Red Bull was miles ahead of Ferrari and McLaren in 2009, there is a chance that in 2011 the three cars will be much closer to each other than they were this year. If Renault and Mercedes, who have started working on their next year cars quite a while back, make relatively competitive cars as well, 2011 might be a close season not due to teams losing points that should not have been lost, but because of the drivers outperforming the competition.

    1. totally agree with you, great post

    2. You make a very good point here. I do however remember a comment on here (I forgot who posted it), saying that it was perhaps the pressure of three teams in the mix that added to a certain degree of mistakes.
      Having leaders change all the time, the unstable nature of the RB6 in some races and on top of that the nerves of the drivers certainly seems to have added to these mistakes.
      Different backgrounds of the drivers spring to mind aswell.
      – Hamilton came out of difficult year (so did McLaren as a whole).
      – Button needed to confirm in one way or another if he was not be seen as a freak error.
      – Vettel chased a WDC in 2009 and missed out due to several factors.
      – Webber is in his thirties and doesn’t have too many years in F1 (+ the sheer dominance of the RB6 was a golden opportunity).
      – Alonso finally returned to a team and a car capable of delivering.

      I don’t think we should underestimate the eagerness of all five drivers to book a WDC, not just because it’s a WDC, but for other internal and external reasons aswell. Mixed up with team rivalries and what not (weather for instance), and you have a good cocktail.

  12. Every year i have watched F1, has been a classic year. 2010 included

  13. I don’t agree with three closley matched cars, the red bull was by far the best car. Qualifing became boring becasue the majority of times it was a reb bull on pole. If anything a red bull driver should have had the championship wrapped up earlier, it was amazing that alonso and hamilton was able to take it to the last race.
    I didn’t think this year was any better than 07 and 08

  14. i think one of the things that made it so close is that none of the front runners were faultless. there was some reliability issues chucked in there as well which tightened things up. every driver made mistakes which really hurt their championship but also benefited from otherss mistakes too.

  15. Honourable mention to the F-duct. It was a work of genius and created a technical arms-race which, with testing banned between races, was good fun and a great test for all the teams.

    Despite the engine “freeze” and refuelling ban it gave us absorbing races between cars with visibly different strengths. Button taking on Monza with a massive rear wing was fascinating, and he so nearly pulled it off.

    Also some comedy “no hands” driving! Shame the cars were so ugly, but they’d have had the fins on anyway.

    I hope next year’s adjustable wings end up working like a button-operated version of the F-ducts, stalling the wing, and not as terrifying as they sound.

    1. dyslexicbunny
      27th November 2010, 1:02

      Great point Bullfrog. I didn’t really think about the arms race and the lack of testing. Getting working F-ducts and EBDs is quite difficult to get working when you can’t run the car until Friday.

  16. Prisoner Monkeys
    25th November 2010, 23:04

    Something interesting I just picked up over at F1 Rejects: the top six drivers finished the championship in reverse order to when they led the championship. Massa, sixth, led the championship after Malaysia. Button, fifth, led until Monaco. Hamilton, fourth, led until Hungary. Webber, third, led until Korea. Alonso, second, led until Abu Dhabi. And Vettel, first, didn’t lead until the end of the race.

    1. Ha Ha, that is a nice statistic.

  17. A great season for sure but I want another ingredient to add there.That is the track are improved all over the world (mainly Tilke Dome) like they are improving Abu Dhabi. Another thing they could have done is to decrease the effect of aerodynamics in F1.The front wing is a very critical piece why not just have that front wing as a single unit only other then add more wing to it which will for sure decrease it’s effect over turbulence.

  18. All six points are quite valid, but you casually dismissed the most important one: the impact of rain on racing and qualifying. Strategy and tire management became even more important in varying and unpredictable weather conditions. The decisions about when to pit for a change of tires (or even whether to pit at all) had a greater influence on the outcome of this championship than in any other within memory. It may have made the fans in attendance unhappy (no one likes the feel of sitting outside in wet clothes), but it made for fascinating TV. I hope we get more of the same in 2011.

    1. I didn’t “casually dismiss” anything. I ignored it: rain has fallen on races before.

  19. Where in this page I can find the HI-RES photo of the RBs, the McLaren and the Ferrari which appears so small on the left of the section “Three closely-matched cars”? Please let me now that photo looks awesome!!!!

  20. I’d say the refuelling ban helped a bit, but not too much. But I am glad you omitted the restructuring of the points system, as it has been detailed on many occasions that the outcome would have been very similar even if we had the old points system – maybe even closer.

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