You may find it strange that the first of Vettel’s title-winning years comes in at third in the list, but if you look back at the season as a whole, it’s one he should have won comfortably and yet one that he so nearly blew and perhaps should have lost.
Red Bull had taken over as the top team following the purchase of Brawn GP by Mercedes following their strong finish to 2009, but there seemed little to choose between the top drivers.
Fernando Alonso won the season opener and Jenson Button the next race before Vettel notched his first win in Malaysia, but back-to-back victories for Mark Webber in Spain and Monaco put him level with Vettel going into the Turkish Grand Prix. Webber led in Turkey until lap 40, when Vettel attempted an opportunistic pass resulting in a collision that put him out of the race while Webber went on to finish third.
Turkey marked the start of a frosty relationship between the drivers that spilled over again in Britain, Webber furious that Vettel was given his new front wing for qualifying after Vettel damaged his own in practice. Webber won the race before remarking "not bad for a No. 2 driver," as reported by Metro.
Vettel found himself third in the standings going into the final race of the season behind Alonso and Webber, but a fine drive saw the German take the race victory from Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as his rivals faded to finish seventh and eighth.
It was the first time he had taken the lead of the championship standings in the season and showed more than anything else that Vettel could handle the pressure and rise to the challenge when it mattered most.