Now the final race of the 2010 Formula 1 season has been run and won, the drivers and constructors titles decided, I can offer my thoughts on the season. This isn't a review of the season on a race by race basis. It's more a qualitative assessment of the performance of the drivers and personnel that mattered. I'm also biased, so I can only offer my thoughts on the personalities I've been following.
Vettel started the year as my equal favourite driver. Equal with Mark Webber. I admired his relaxed and friendly approach to F1 throughout the 2009 season, as he appeared a warm and engaging character, a driver with personality. My opinions of his character deteriorated as the season progressed. Most notable was that incident at Turkey where Vettel turned right on Webber and caused them both to spin off the track. Fortunately for Webber he was able to regain and continue through to third position. Appropriately Vettel retired on the spot. The incident didn't end there. Vettel removed himself from his car and proceeded to circle his figure around his right temple, expressing his opinion what Webber was looney and at the same time making it clear he didn't hold himself responsible in any way. Red Bull were their own worst enemy in this incident, with the moronically lopsided Helmut Marko ranting about Webber. Christian Horner, Red Bull team boss also backed his man Vettel, then he didn't, then he did. The public were not impressed and Vettel lost mega repuation points in many peoples eyes that day. I doubt his reputation has yet recovered.
Vettel can only win from pole and even then most often he can't win. Lets look at the stats: 10 poles in 2010. 5 wins. That's a terrible conversion rate. Vettel won the Malaysian GP from third, the European GP from pole, the Japanese GP from pole, the Brazilian from second (Hulkenberg had pole but Vettel got him by turn 1), Abu Dhabi from pole. So while Vettel has technically won from grid slots other than pole, he still "can only win from pole". I don't remember a race in 2010 where Vettel's driven through the field to win, or even to a decent position. Granted it's hard to drive through the field when you're starting from the front row more often than not. But still, my qualitative assessment has him as not being able to come from behind for a win, when a few of his peers can (more on that later).
Credit where credit is due, the last few races were dominant performances by the 2010 world champion. Webber looked like a second class driver by comparison. It's on that basis, and the reality that he had bad luck, that I give Vettel as a worth world champion.
The 2010 season started well for Fred. Vettel's retirement gave him a win that be probably wouldn't have otherwise got. But he was in second, the first to capitalise. Ferrari seemed to lose their way a bit from then onwards to Silverstone. I has contemplating Alonso mid season and wondering what all the fuss about him is. Why is it that so many people proclaim him as the most gifted driver in F1. To my eyes he doesn't carve up the pack like Hamilton, and he wasn't dropping the car on pole every race like Vettel.
'Nando had the audacity to come out at Silverstone and announce to the world he was going to be the 2010 world champion. I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself. Then came Germany and an Alonso win. Over the next eight races he won four times, scored a second place, and a two thirds. Going into the last round he was leading the World Championship and his 2008 runner up teammate was no where.
I get it now. Alonso avoided my radar by driving perfectly. He drives to the limit of the car, and not beyond it, and he thinks hard about what's going on in the race. He is the best driver in the world. No doubt.
My heart's favourite. 10 days younger than me, an Aussie, a straight shooting guy who's had to bust his nuts to get where he is. There's a whole lot to admire when it comes to Mark Webber. Up until he was joined by Sebestian Vettel, he also had the best qualifying record against teammates of any driver except maybe Schumacher, but no where near the one-sided benefits afford by Ferrari to the most successful driver ever. Webber had seen off Hiedfeld, Rosberg, Coulthard, Pizzonia, and more. Those first three names are more than testament to his speed. Unfortunately Red Bull and Vettel had different plans. Maybe it was age. Maybe it was just a lack of top end ability (the later most likely) but Webber had no answer for Vettel. Never really looked like he had a response. That said, of all the teams, Webber was the closest in outright performance to his teammate, and his Monaco drive was inspired (as it was with Williams in years past). Mark had good mid-year momentum going and for a while I really started to believe Australia would have a F1 world champ for the first time since I had started following F1, in 1987.
Unforunately I think Mark has missed his one opportunity. A near perfect storm of circumstance gave him this opportunity and I don't see it being repeated next year. I'm hoping that Red Bull will offer him more support in 2011, now that their backing of Vettel has been justified with a world drivers championship.
The king of aggressive driving finished fourth in a title standings and were it not for Singapore and Italy he may have been world champion. At least he can take some consolation in the reality that the McLaren was not the fastest car on the track. A season long consistent reality. I was extremely impressed with how Hamilton could carve up through the field better than any other. But I suppose that is also his Achilles' heel. Point in case both Italy and Singapore. If Mclaren build him a worth car in 2011 Vettel will have a very hard time defending his title.
Mr smooth did proved he was exactly that this year. While he definitely did not have the measure of his teammate on pure speed, he certainly had it in tyre conservation. More than once Button managed to run very long into the race thanks entirely to his smooth driving style. He scored to wins early in the season through what I class as lucky guesses with the weather. On a dry track he looked the slowest of the top five and I think deserved to finish in fifth place in the title race.
The sixth driver in the top three teams. Fillipe should have performed better than he did. He might have won that single race in Germany, but other than that he hasn't looked like being even remotely in the same league as his double world champion teammate. I don't know if Massa has "lost it" after his 2009 accident, but he surely is not the second driver Ferrari need. If I were Stefano, I'd be showing Massa the door.
I'm only going to mention Kubica because various commentators make a big deal of him, like he's the second (or third) coming. Kubica is fast and he absolutely crushed his teammate this year. That's not hard to do though, when your teammate is a rookie and flies off the track more often than not. A solid driver and definitely one to watch out for next year.
I almost forgot to include Rosberg and deciphering his performance would require an Engima. Lets start with his teammate for 2010, the imcomparable? Michael Schumacher, holder of every record in F1 worth holding. Literally. No teammate has ever weather the Schumacher storm and I don't think Schumacher has ever been beaten by his teammate in the end of year championship (excluding his part first year in 1991). This year Rosberg made Schumacher look silly, slow, and old. He didn't just beat him, he embarrassed him pretty much all season long. Rosberg did a Schumacher to Schumacher. The thing is, Schumacher is in his forties and F1 is a now a young mans sport. Look at champions of late. Lewis Hamilton, youngest ever world champ in 2008. Vettel, youngest over world champ in 2010 and youngest pole sitter, and youngest race winner. Alonso only just missed out on being the youngest at his first turn too. At the time he was the youngest ever race winner. Enter a middle aged man who's been out of the game for three years. A man that started F1 when the current world champion was meagre 4 years old!
So how do we measure Rosberg's success with the team that last year won the world drivers and constructors titles? Rosberg didnt' win a race in 2010. He never looked like winning a race. He did get a podium or two, so I guess that should be commended.
I like Rosberg. He's a neat, fast, and tidy driver, and an articulate dude (I had a chat with him at Crown Casino poker room at the 2009 Melbourne F1). But will he be world champion one day? The talk about Rosberg has swung away, with the hacks now all talking about future champ Bobby K (Robert Kubica) and the current Vettel, and 2008 Lewis Hamilton. Those drivers are now touted as the stars of the now and the future and Nico has been swept aside. I hope next year changes for Nico and that Schumachers efforts this year are evident in next year's Brawn. With the 2010 season only a day behind us it's not too early to be talking 2011 and Nico's chances for his first race win. I hope he gets it.
The young Japanese driver impressed me this year. He scored some great results and drives, given his car was a complete pile of crap at the start of the year. He made the experienced Pedro De La Rosa look antiquated and slow. The introduction of Nick Hiedfeld as teammate for the last few races provided a better indicator, and Kamui rose admirably to the challenge. Heidfeld outqualified him 4-1 and but Kobayashi outraced him (finished higher) when his car didn't let him down. I'd like to see the young Japanese driver in a better team, but I'm not sure where he can fit in.
He gets special mention for being friggin' awesome. For those that don't know, Newey isn't a driver, he's an engineer. Ok, saying he's an engineer is like say Jesus was a man. Newey is God of the garage. As Technical Director for Red Bull he worked his brilliance on the outfit and gave them the RB6 (and last years RB5), easily the class of the field. He is a man driven to perfection and as demanding and competitive as any driver to have been on the grid. Perhaps moreso. When he releases his (auto)biography, and I hope he does, I'm on it like White on Rice. Man love right there.
2010 Driver Rankings.
Below is my ranking of the current drivers in F1 (if some are excluded it's because they're not worth remembering). Order is important.
Tier A - Clear championship contenders on any given Sunday. Give them a car, any car, and they'll take care of the rest.
Tier B - Can win races in the right conditions. Good fast speed. Not considered championship material all else being equal
Tier C - Given a capable car should be able to regularly collect points. If given the fatest car could score podiums as often as not.
Tier D - GTFO
|Lucas Di Grassi