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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