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

  1. Victor. said on 25th November 2010, 20:38

    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.

    • totally agree with you, great post

    • xtophe (@xtophe) said on 26th November 2010, 14:06

      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.

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

  3. 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

  4. TommyC said on 25th November 2010, 22:10

    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.

  5. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 25th November 2010, 22:46

    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.

    • dyslexicbunny said on 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.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

  7. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 26th November 2010, 2:31

    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.

  8. Jack Weber said on 27th November 2010, 22:31

    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.

  9. Omar Roncal said on 28th November 2010, 2:53

    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!!!!

  10. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 29th November 2010, 4:00

    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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