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The 2010 Season Review - A rollercoaster to the end 22 Nov 2010

Race winner and 2010 Champion Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010 The 2010 Formula One line up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 12 March 2010 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10 in parc ferme. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 14 March 2010 Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 leads team mate Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 28 March 2010

The 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship was touted as one of the greatest seasons ever. And as Abu Dhabi marked the only time in the sport’s long and glorious history that the battle for the title went down to the wire between four drivers, it more than lived up to expectations.

Through a brutal 19-race season, from Bahrain to Abu Dhabi via Australia, Malaysia, China, Spain, Monaco, Turkey, Canada, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brazil, nobody established dominance.

The lead see-sawed back and forth between Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Red Bull’s Mark Webber and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, with eventual champion Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel dogging their every move. It was often impossible to predict form in a year of twists and turns, as evidenced by the fact that the only time the man who became the sport’s youngest-ever champion led the series was on the day that he clinched the crown.

Incredibly, the only major political issue concerned Ferrari’s clear deployment of team orders to help Alonso past fast team mate Felipe Massa in Germany, with the minor asides of grumbles about whether Red Bull treated its drivers the same, and which team - Lotus Racing or Renault - will have the right to use the Lotus name in 2011.

The rest of the time the focus was on one thing - the racing. The most competitive season in decades thus distilled to its essence: a sporting contest fought out between teams and drivers who never let up for a moment.

Red Bull dominated from the start - at least as far as performance was concerned. Adrian Newey and Rob Marshall did a fabulous job on the RB6, especially on the aero but also with the unique pull-rod rear suspension which endowed it with great traction - much better, for example, than McLaren’s MP4-25 (or the Force India which used the same back end).

Indeed, for a long while rivals thought that there had to be some sort of secret ride height control, or that the car’s wings were flexing excessively to create extra downforce. The rules on the latter were tightened up as the season progressed, without ever reining in the RB6’s performance.

Its reliability left something to be desired initially, however, and cost Vettel dear. He set the pace in Bahrain until, of all things, a spark plug malfunctioned - they just don’t cause problems these days. Alonso inherited that win, as Vettel dropped to fourth behind Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Hamilton.

Vettel was away again in Melbourne until a brake failure. This was said to be a result of Newey lightening the discs too much, so that they could not cope with a track which is notoriously hard on braking. That time it was McLaren’s new boy Jenson Button who won, after a canny tyre change choice when the rain came.

Continued in Part Two