2010 Formula One Season: The Key Moments

Craig ChristopherAnalyst INovember 16, 2010

2010 Formula One Season: The Key Moments

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    2010 World Champion: Sebastian VettelMark Thompson/Getty Images

    The 2010 Formula One season has been run and won and we have seen Sebastian Vettel crowned world champion.

    The championship race was fascinating throughout the season, with five drivers in contention for most of the year. The battle continued without anyone being capable of producing a decisive lead and with the remarkable statistic that the driver leading the championship did not manage to win a race while holding that lead.

    It was a year of mistakes, bad luck and controversy that gave the fans a thrilling ride. The only disappointment was the quality of the racing, with cars still struggling to overtake without someone making an error.

    The fun and games of the season kept us all guessing until the end. Enjoy this look back at the key moments of the 2010 season.

Webber and Hamilton—Australia

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    Webber in the gravel after clipping HamiltonRyan Pierse/Getty Images

    Lewis Hamilton’s season can be summed up by saying that he had a target on his car. Now this would normally be a metaphorical statement based on the fact that as a former world champion, he sets a benchmark against which everyone wants to be measured.

    This year, however, Hamilton’s competitors seemed to take the statement a little more literally, with a number of fellow drivers taking the opportunity to hit his car in races.

    The first to do so was Mark Webber in Melbourne. Hamilton and Webber had been rapidly closing in on Fernando Alonso, with Webber glued to Hamilton’s gearbox. When they caught Alonso, however, Hamilton was unable to pass him and Webber was unable to pass Hamilton and frustration levels grew.

    It culminated during the closing stages of the race when Hamilton had a run on Alonso, but was blocked and hit from behind by Webber, breaking the front wing of his car. Hamilton dropped a place to Rosberg, whereas Webber was forced to pit and dropped to ninth instead of finishing sixth.

Alonso and Massa—China

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    Alonso leading after jumping the startPaul Gilham/Getty Images

    Fernando Alonso made hard work of the Chinese Grand Prix. After qualifying third, he jumped the start and received a drive-through penalty for his trouble.

    But that was just the beginning.

    As rain approached everyone dived for the pits to change tyres with Alonso narrowly behind teammate Felipe Massa. Realising that if he got to the pit box second, he would be forced to queue, Alonso cut the pit entry corner, forcing Massa off the road and got to the pit box first. Alonso finished in fourth place, Massa in ninth making the risk worth the effort.

Webber and Vettel—Turkey

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    Vettel's broken RB6Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    The egalitarian approach of the Red Bull Racing management team meant that Vettel and Webber were free to race—on the proviso that they did not take each other out. In Turkey, the boys forgot that cardinal rule and collided when Vettel attempted an overtaking move against Webber to try to take the lead in the race.

    It’s now an established fact that Vettel veered right after hitting a small crest and both he and Webber left the track, gifting first and second position to the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Jonson Button. Webber was able to rejoin, but bore the brunt of team scorn for not allowing his more favoured teammate room to complete the pass.

    It was the first glimpse into the tensions between the two drivers and proved to be the catalyst for a public spat that would continue for the next couple of races.


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    Webber's view before the landing

    Although F1 drivers earn a lot of money, the prudent ones plan for their retirement and life after F1. Mark Webber used the European Grand Prix to audition for a job with the Krusty Demons or, more appropriately, Red Bull’s X-Fighters.

    Doing back somersaults in an F1 car is fraught with danger and rarely has a happy ending however, the fact that Webber was able to walk away at all, must be considered a minor victory.

    Lotus driver, Heikki Kovalainen, is probably no longer on Webber’s Christmas card list after trying gamely to defend his position against a far superior car. The difference between the cars was never more obvious than when Kovalainen braked 30 yards earlier than Webber causing the Red Bull to slam into the back of the Lotus and then head for the heavens.


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    Hamilton leaves Alonso in his wakeAndrew Hone/Getty Images

    In the safety car period immediately following Webber’s spectacular exit, Hamilton managed to pass the safety car—illegally as it turned out—which prompted a torrent of complaints from Alonso.

    The stewards took an inexplicable 20 minutes to decide to penalize Hamilton, by which stage he had built up a sufficiently large buffer to serve his drive-through without losing his second place. This, you’ll be surprised to learn, also generated a torrent of complaints from Alonso.

Webber, Vettel and Hamilton—Silverstone

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    Vettel loses out after botching the startMark Thompson/Getty Images

    The 2010 British Grand Prix was held at the newly rebuilt Silverstone circuit, but the good news about the track was quickly swamped by more Red Bull infighting. Still smarting from being blamed for the collision in Turkey, Webber was incensed by the team’s decision to remove the newly developed front wing from his car, to use as a replacement for his teammate’s failed unit.

    To add insult to injury, Vettel did his very best to run Webber into the wall at the start. He missed, ran wide, clipped Hamilton and collected himself a puncture. Webber went on to win the race, leading to the now infamous “Not bad for a number two driver” quip. Christian Horner, however, had the last word by firing back, “well perhaps you can smile now then”, or words to that effect.

    Elsewhere in the race, Alonso overtook Robert Kubica by cutting the first part of Club corner, picking up a drive-through penalty rather than yield the position back to Kubica. A safety car period before Alonso could serve the penalty meant that he was badly disadvantaged and meant he missed out on a points finish.


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    The Ferraris were long gone as Vettel muffs another startAndrew Hone/Getty Images

    Apparently not a quick learner, Vettel again blew his pole position by persisting with the start tactic of trying to intimidate the other front row driver out of the first corner. This time, not only did he lose out to Alonso, but also Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa who beat everyone to the first corner.

    But that was a mere curtain raiser to the main event that followed.

Alonso and Massa—Hockenheim

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    A bit of tension on the podiumMark Thompson/Getty Images

    After winning the drag race to the first corner from third place, Felipe Massa unwittingly set himself up for the biggest controversy of the season.

    After leading for the entire race, Massa was struggling to hold teammate Alonso at bay. On the 49th lap,

    Massa received a less than cryptic message from his race engineer, Rob Smedley, "Okay... so... Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message?" To show his displeasure, Massa slowed dramatically coming out of the turn four hairpin, allowing Alonso to pass. Smedley came back on the radio with, “Good lad -- just stick with it now, sorry.”

    Ferrari received a $100,000 fine, but Alonso got an extra seven points. The controversy still smoulders.

Alonso, Vettel and Button—Spa

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    Storm clouds gathered in BelgiumPaul Gilham/Getty Images

    Spa never fails to deliver interesting races and 2010 was no exception. The notoriously fickle weather again played a part, with rain punishing the slightest error.

    Sebastian Vettel had a horror race, visiting the pits on five occasions due to penalties, punctures and damage. Vettel eventually destroyed Jenson Button’s race by slamming in to him in one of the most inept and injudicious overtaking attempts seen in F1 for many years.

    Fernando Alonso made a crucial late error, dropping a wheel onto the trackside Astroturf and spinning into the wall, but Hamilton and Webber maintained control, avoided the carnage and came home first and second respectively, seemingly setting themselves up for a championship showdown.

Hamilton and Massa—Monza

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    Hamilton's damaged McLaren goes off-roadMark Thompson/Getty Images

    Just when the championship race seemed to be getting clearer, Fernando Alonso kicked into gear, securing two consecutive victories, while Hamilton’s luck ran out and his championship hopes began to evaporate.

    With only five races remaining, and the points race still quite tight, there was no room for timid driving. Formula One, however, is also extremely unforgiving of mistakes. Hamilton, desperate not to lose touch with Alonso and Button tried an extremely courageous move on Massa going in to the Variante della Roggia, breaking a steering arm and crashing out of the race.

Webber and Hamilton—Singapore

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    Hamilton ends up walking home for the second race in a rowKer Robertson/Getty Images

    As Alonso’s star continued to rise in Singapore, with a second win in as many races, Hamilton’s season started to crumble. After the disappointment of Monza, Hamilton could ill afford another DNF. Sadly, however, that’s exactly what he got.

    With Webber struggling to get up to speed again after being stuck behind a back-marker during a safety car period, Hamilton seized the opportunity to try a passing manoeuvre around the outside of Webber. The two collided, with Webber’s right front wheel impacting Hamilton’s left rear and again, Hamilton suffered terminal damage. Ghosts of the 2007 season must have been haunting the McLaren garage.

Vettel and Webber—Korea

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    Vettel plays fireman Seb on his RB6Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Red Bull went into Korea needing to reassert themselves on the championship and halt Alonso’s relentless drive towards the championship lead. Everything was seemingly going to plan with Vettel and Webber again locking out the front row of the grid.

    The race started in damp, gloomy conditions and Webber was first to throw it all away, clipping the grass and spinning into the wall on the greasy track. To add insult to injury, Webber spun back across the track and collected the unfortunate Nico Rosberg, who was left with nowhere to go.

    Vettel, however, was comfortably controlling the race until the Red Bull’s Renault engine decided that it had done enough and converted itself to a trail of molten metal a few laps from the end. Alonso stayed out of trouble and finished the race to claim his third victory in four races in the rapidly descending gloom.

Ferrari Strategy—Abu Dhabi

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    Someone needs a hug!Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Fernando Alonso started the season finale with an eight point lead and, after out-qualifying Webber, needed only to finish in the top four to claim the title.

    Webber, after qualifying fifth, needed to take risks to have any chance of securing the title and so pitted early to swap to the prime tyre, however he missed the opportunity to come in during the early safety car period meaning that he came out behind drivers who had already got their pit stops out of the way. It was a roll of the dice for Webber and it was quickly apparent that the risk had failed.

    Ferrari then made the crucial error that cost them the 2010 championship. The brought Alonso in to change to the prime tyre, covering the Webber move, but brought him back out behind Vitaly Petrov and Rosberg, both of whom had pitted earlier. Alonso was unable to get past Petrov and spent the rest of the race cursing the Russian as his championship hopes went down the gurgler, allowing Vettel to go on to claim the title.

    In a season of incidents and mistakes, Ferrari saved the best for last.