December is traditionally the time to reflect on the past Formula One season, a season that started with a boring race in Bahrain, but ended on a high with no less than four competitors from three teams fighting for the title during the very last...
The ten most glorious moments of 2010 in Formula One
December is traditionally the time to reflect on the past Formula One season, a season that started with a boring race in Bahrain, but ended on a high with no less than four competitors from three teams fighting for the title during the very last race in Abu Dhabi. German Sebastian Vettel took the crown, and recently the youngest Formula One champion in the 60-year history of the sport collected his trophy during the annual FIA Gala in Monaco. But it was a long an winding road to the title for the 23-year old champion, as it was for the other title contenders, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
Below are the ten most glorious moments of the 2010 Formula One season. This is not a top ten, the events are ordered chronologically, and the numbers one to ten do not refer to the most or least glorious moment.
1. Ferrari's one-two at Bahrain
Any driver who starts his first race for a new team wants to win that race, Alonso's debut for Ferrari during the Bahrain Grand Prix couldn't have been better, and the Spaniard showed the world why Ferrari had been so eager to contract him. Although Vettel took pole position on Saturday and led the race on Sunday, his luck abandoned him as his engine suddenly lost power due to a malfunctioning sparkplug, which opened the door for Alonso and Felipe Massa. Alonso finished first and Massa crossed the finish line in second position, scoring the first one-two victory for Ferrari in 2010.
Not only was Alonso's first Ferrari win a glorious moment, runner-up Massa celebrated his return to Formula One after his dreadful accident in Hungary in 2009. "I am very happy with this result and I want to thank all the team and our fans. It is my best opening race of a season since I started in Formula One and, given all the problems we had, I am very pleased," the Brazilian commented after the race. After his accident many believed Massa wouldn't be the same Massa again, but his second place proved his was still as quick as ever, and the Bahrain Grand Prix was a dream start for Ferrari.
2. "Yata, yata" for Button in Australia
After winning the title in 2009, Button moved to McLaren in 2010 to join the 2008 world champion Hamilton. Many had predicted Button would not be competitive this year, as they believed the double diffuser on the 2009 Brawn GP car was the sole reason he had won the title. Button proved his critics wrong, he swiftly adapted to his new team and new car, and during a chaotic Australian Grand Prix Button was the only driver who kept his cool in the very difficult wet conditions, and won his first race for McLaren. After the Safety Car came on track during the first laps of the race, Button decided to switch from intermediates to slicks, and although he almost went off in his first lap on slicks, he had made the right call, and by the time the rest of the field realized the slicks were faster, it was already too late.
For spectators the race became a true slipping and sliding festival, and many of the favorites went off the track several times, losing valuable places. Button remained in control of his car and in control of the race and crossed the finish line in first position. "It was a necessary move to pit for slicks. I was struggling for grip on the intermediates, and the rears were destroying themselves very quickly, so we figured it must be time for dries," Button said about his golden pit stop. "To not only be on the podium, but to be on the top step, after just two races, is amazing. This victory means so much to me. A Grand Prix win in a McLaren. Sounds good, doesn't it? Right now, I just want to run around and scream." And that is what he did, as he had learned from his Japanese girlfriend, Button shouted, "Yata, yata", which means 'I did it, I did it!'.
3. Webber takes Monaco
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of those races every Formula One driver wants to win. The narrow streets of the principality with the multi-million dollar yachts moored in the marina has always been an irresistible attraction for drivers, teams and fans alike. Drivers have compared racing in Monaco with driving a motorbike in a living room, just one tiny mistake and the race is over. In the past great champions like Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna wrestled their cars through the streets of Monaco.
During this year's race there were many incidents, Nico Hulkenberg crashed in the tunnel on the first lap, Rubens Barrichello crashed at Beau Rivage after a rear suspension failure, and Jarno Trulli and Karun Chandhok crashed at Rascasse. Webber had started the race from pole position, and Vettel followed him like a shadow. The Red Bulls were unbeatable in Monaco, and although Vettel had a very good start, he was not able to match the pace of his team mate, who crossed the finish line in first position.
Webber said, "It's a special day, the greatest day of my life I suppose. As a Formula One driver you really hope that you win races and if you have a choice then the blue riband event is very, very special for any driver. To join Ayrton Senna and the likes round here is a very special thing." But it was a tough race as well, "I had a lot of work to do, the track changed a lot, there were back markers and lot of safety cars. Getting restarts and tire pressures right, all the basics that could test you were in front of me today."
The crash of Trulli and Chandhok nearly spoiled the party for Webber, he arrived at Rascasse just seconds later, and found both cars blocking his path. "I saw Trulli doing a lunge down at Rascasse and thought 'what the hell is going on here'", he commented. Webber was the first Australian to win the Monaco Grand Prix since Jack Brabham won the race in 1959.
4. Kubica's determination rewarded at Monaco
Renault's Robert Kubica already scored his first podium place of the season during the Australian Grand Prix where he finished in second position, his sheer determination again resulted in an excellent third position at Monaco. During qualifying he had taken second position, with Webber ahead of him, and Vettel just a fraction of a second behind him. During the start he lost his second position to Vettel, and after that he drove a pretty uneventful race. "I knew it was always going to be difficult starting from the dirty side of the track. Normally I would have defended the position, but Webber got quite a slow pull-away from the line and I thought I might have a chance to overtake him. Unfortunately I got some wheel spin and it was too late to close the door to Vettel," Kubica said.
The Pole managed to keep out of trouble, his Renault had an excellent race-pace and on his prime tyres he was even faster than Vettel. He kept his cool during the restarts, and Massa and Hamilton who were right on his tail, got no chance to overtake him. "Finishing third in Monaco is a super result for us after an excellent weekend. Nobody was expecting us to finish on the podium here, but we were up at the front all weekend and the whole team really deserves this result," Kubica said after the race.
5. From pole to finish, Hamilton wins in Canada
Hamilton's season started slow, but he won his first race of the season in Turkey. The Formula One circus then moved on to Canada's Gilles Villeneuve Circuit. The Canadian Grand Prix had been axed in 2009, and all teams and drivers were looking forward to return to the circuit that bears the name of one of Formula One's greatest race talents. Hamilton's season had so far been very disappointing for him, but in Canada he was the good old Lewis again. His win in Turkey had given him wings, and during a thrilling qualifying session in Canada he scored his first pole of the season during a last-second flying lap.
But he almost lost his pole again, right after his pole winning lap his engineer told him to park his McLaren at the side of the track, as he feared there would not be enough fuel left in the tank for the FIA stewards to take a sample. Other teams thought this was not according the regulations, and argued Hamilton had gained an advantage by running a car that was too light. The FIA gave McLaren an official reprimand and a $10,000 fine, and warned all teams that in the future a car must be able to get back to the pits under its own steam. A sigh of relieve could be heard in the McLaren garage, and Hamilton would start the race from pole position.
The race on Sunday turned out to be one of the best races in Canada of the last ten years, it was a action-packed race, with many collisions and incidents. Hamilton however, stayed out of trouble during the first part of the race, but during the pits stops, he almost collided with Alonso in the pit lane. Hamilton went on to win the race, it was Hamilton's 13th career victory and his first back-to-back success in almost two years.
But the victory didn't come easy according to Hamilton, "The race was one of the toughest so far, but that's what you want, it was another one-two for us, so I'm happy and proud of the team. It was a tremendous challenge, probably the ultimate challenge for me throughout the year so far." But although he won the Belgium Grand Prix as well, the race in Canada was without a doubt Hamilton's glorious moment of the year.
6. Webber at Silverstone: "Not bad for a number two driver!"
Webber was not a happy man when he arrived at the Silverstone circuit for the British Grand Prix. His collision with Vettel in Turkey was still haunting him, there were constant rumors about who is, or should be, the first driver at Red Bull, and his flying lessons in Valencia hadn't done him any good either. The team colleague stand-off took another unexpected turn at Silverstone. Vettel had damaged his new front wing during the last practice session, and just before qualifying team principal Christian Horner decided to give the last remaining new wing, which was until then mounted on Webber's car, to Vettel. Webber was furious about the decision, and the rivalry between both Red Bull drivers reached the boiling point. As a result of the wing-swap, Vettel took pole position, and Webber took second place.
On Sunday Webber again proved a pole position is no guarantee for a race win, Vettel messed up his start and Webber shot right past him, disappeared at the horizon and was only seen again when he crossed the finish line 52 laps later as the winner of the British Grand Prix. "Not bad for a number two driver," the Australian shouted over the radio after winning his third race of the season.
"To win there in F1 is the icing on the cake. The British Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races on the calendar; every driver wants to win it and I've now got the trophy sitting on my mantelpiece," an emotional Webber said after the race. And indeed, Webber had worked hard for this victory, he had scored fastest lap after fastest lap, dominated the race, did not make any mistakes, and won in style. And thus his win became a sweet revenge for the mishaps earlier this season.
7. Ferrari party at Monza
For Ferrari the 2010 season had started with a win in Bahrain, but after that everything went downhill for the Italian team. The team order controversy led to another one-two victory in Germany, but Ferrari was heavily criticized by the media. To add to their misery, they were far behind in both championships, and with only six races to go they were running out of time. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was not happy, he had already warned Massa he had to up his performance. Although Alonso had repeatedly said he would win the championship, by the time he arrived at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, he must have been a worried man, plagued by doubts.
Thus Ferrari was very poised to win before the tifosi home crowd that had gathered at Monza to cheer on their favorite team. The pressure was high, but this time Ferrari's performance was flawless. "Victory is the best medicine," di Montezemolo had said just before the race when asked about Ferrari's troublesome season. Ferrari did what they had to do, Alonso took pole position, Massa took third position, while Button took second place during qualifying. But during the first lap of the race things almost went wrong, Button snatched the first place from Alonso during the start, and Hamilton bumped into Massa and almost took him out of the race, but luckily for Massa, eliminated himself instead.
Alonso was able to keep up with Button, and when Alonso pitted one lap after Button, he was able to fend off a charging Button and led the race from then on. There was a slight hick-up during Massa's pit stop, but he rejoined in third place and also finished the race in third position. Alonso won the race, Button finished just 2.9 seconds behind the Spaniard. Alonso about the deciding pit stop: "The pit stop was super: we gained the tenths that made the difference. Today, it was the mechanics who won the race and they produced a real miracle." A truly magnificent weekend for Ferrari, and Alonso's win revived his chances to win the title.
8. Kobayashi shines in Japan
Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi was hired by BMW-Sauber this season after he drove two impressive Grands Prix in 2009 for Toyota. Team principal Peter Sauber never regretted his decision, although Kobayashi had a few disappointing races this season, his most memorable moment of the year was without a doubt his performance at Suzuka during his home Grand Prix. The young Japanese driver had already shown his talent during the races at Silverstone and Valencia, where he finished seventh and sixth respectively. The Sauber team not only praised him for his determination and commitment, Kobayashi was also an inspiration for the struggling Swiss team.
Due to the heavy rain, qualifying was postponed until Sunday morning, but Kobayashi struggled during qualifying and had to start the race from the 14th place on the grid. Sauber decided to stick with Kobayashi's favorite race strategy: start on the hard tyres, stay out as long as possible, and change to the soft tyres during the last part of the race when the car is light. The strategy again worked, by lap 37 he was in sixth position, and on lap 38 he changed to the soft tyres and rejoined the race in 12th position. During the first part of the race he had already shown he is a master in overtaking, and is not afraid of anything or anyone, and his favorite overtaking place, the hairpin, had already been the scene of many thrilling overtaking maneuvers.
With now only 14 laps to go, Kobayashi again showed his determination and driving skills and overtook Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Barrichello and his new team colleague Nick Heidfeld before he finished in sixth position. A truly amazing performance, and the little Japanese driver once again established his name as the 'Kamikaze pilot' and it was therefore no surprise Sauber offered him a well-deserved contract for 2011.
9. Hulkenberg takes pole in Brazil
When Hulkenberg joined the Williams team in 2010, not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined he would take his maiden pole position after just 17 races in Formula One. Hulkenberg stole the show during the final qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix, he kept his head cool during a wet qualifying, outsmarted everyone and snatched the pole from Vettel with a little over one second to spare. It was also the first pole for Williams since the 2005 European Grand Prix.
"My first pole position is an emotional and hopefully historic moment as I want to be in F1 for many, many years," the German said, referring to the fact his position at Williams was already in doubt. "I am still shaking from the thrill and I just want to enjoy it and get on with the job tomorrow." The German continued, "I didn't expect to be on pole today but the team gave me a car that worked really well in these conditions and I hooked up a tidy lap. My engineer came over the radio and told me I was on pole, but I couldn't quite believe it. It's such an amazing feeling."
When asked if his pole position could help to keep his seat at Williams, he remained cautious. "I don't know, I hope so," he said. Michael Schumacher was also happy to see his compatriot starting the race from pole for the first time. "I hope his masterstroke came just at the right time for him," the seven-times world champion said. Of course Hulkenberg knew he wouldn't be able to maintain that first place during the race, "We have to stay realistic for the race, and I'm aware that there are drivers behind me fighting for the championship, but we are fighting for position and we will be doing everything we can to get a good result." On Sunday he drove a solid race, and finished in eighth position, while his team colleague Barrichello finished in 14th position.
10. Vettel takes the title in Abu Dhabi
After a tough season with many ups and downs, including three retirements and an ongoing clash with his team rival Webber, Vettel was the man to beat during the last race of the season at Abu Dhabi. He took the pole position, his tenth of the season, after he had won the Brazilian Grand Prix a week earlier. Still, on Sunday, a number of teams didn't realize it was in fact Vettel, and not Webber or Alonso, who was in the best position to win the title.
A calculating Alonso had said ahead of the race he only had to finish in second position to win the championship, and was so sure of his case that he and his Ferrari team forgot all about Vettel and Hamilton, who started from the front row of the grid. During the start Vettel remained in the lead, and was followed by Button, Hamilton, Alonso and Webber. Alonso already made a mistake by letting Hamilton pass him during the start, and his Ferrari team completed the disaster by believing Webber, and not Vettel, was the biggest threat. Ferrari decided to follow Webber's strategy, and the rest is history.
Vettel of course knew Button and Hamilton were not a real threat to him, and he decided to stay out on his first set of tyres for as long as he could. When Webber and Alonso had made their pit stop, they were way back in 11th and 12th position, stuck behind Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg. Vettel already must have been driving around with a big smile on his face. In fact, from that point on he was able to control the race, and although Alonso and Webber were able to get closer, they didn't come close enough to win the title. Vettel went on to win the race and the 23-year old German became the youngest Formula One champion ever.
The race at Abi Dhabi was a worthy conclusion of the 2010 Formula One season, and one to remember for teams, drivers and spectators, an amazing season with more action and overtaking than one could ever dream of. Vettel saw his dream come true, while Alonso, Webber, Hamilton and Button saw their dreams shattered, but it's all part of the game, a game that will be continued next year on March 13, when the lights turn green for the first race of the season: the Bahrain Grand Prix.