The 2010 Season Review - Part Two 22 Nov 2010
Continued from Part One
Vettel finally got a win in the bag in Malaysia where he triumphed from team mate Mark Webber, but in China it was reigning champion Button who rose to the occasion again with a wet win which showed that Hamilton would have sterling competition chez McLaren. Buttons star, however, waned almost as quickly as it had risen, and when the championship moved to Europe in May another contender pushed forward.
This was Webber, who stunned Vettel by winning not just in Spain but also in Monaco. In both races the Australian veteran demonstrated the speed we had seen in Germany and Brazil the previous season, together with hitherto largely unexpected elan and determination. Its fair to say the successes rocked both Vettel and Red Bull, where Vettels mentor Dr Helmut Marko was moved to proffer not altogether convincing excuses why his other driver had not delivered.
Webbers successes created a tricky problem for a company whose whole marketing thrust revolved around its 23 year-old star. Im an inconvenience, mate, the Aussie declared in his inimitable, no-holding-back style. And perhaps that was so.
Things reached a head between the Red Bull drivers in Turkey, where Webber was told to turn his engine down and conserve fuel just as Vettel was told to turn his up and drew alongside for the lead. He misjudged things and turned in too soon across his team mate, however, and the result was a startling collision that handed victory to McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton had inherited the lead only to lose it momentarily to Button as the 2008 champion too had been told to turn his engine down, but typically he snatched it back immediately with a bit of uncompromising toughness along the pit straight and into Turn One. That gave the two British champions their sole flashpoint of their season, but they discussed it and quickly put it aside and their relationship was the strongest among the top teams. It took the Red Bull racers a lot longer to put their differences behind them, and there never was the same level of harmony as Webber always felt that Vettel was Dietrich Mateschitzs favoured son.
Hamilton won again in Canada to lead the series, in a race where the two extremes of Bridgestones tyre options - medium and super soft - created a superb race. Then came Vettels second victory of the season, in Valencia where the big talking point was Webbers spectacular 360 degree backflip as he misjudged how early backmarker Heikki Kovalainen had to brake in a Lotus that had much less downforce. Webber struck back brilliantly at Silverstone, where he channelled his anger in qualifying when Vettel was handed a new front wing into another stunning victory.
By this stage of the season the battle appeared to have swung back in Red Bulls favour after McLarens sudden spurt, but Ferrari were off the pace. After Alonsos victory in Bahrain things had been tough, the Spaniard generally being overshadowed and making a rare but very costly mistake in Saturday morning practice at Monaco which, ultimately, might have cost him his title shot.
The F10s were totally off the pace in Turkey, then Alonso blundered again at Silverstone by passing Robert Kubica with all four wheels off the track, then failing to hand the place back until it got so far that he received a drive-through penalty. It was a silly error for a world champion to make.
But now the reds hit back in Germany, where Massa led with Alonso unable to pass until the Brazilian felt obliged to get out of the way. Generally, the Spaniard was the faster driver, but this was a strong day for Massa and it would have been a bit of a fairy tale if he had won as it was exactly a year since his qualifying accident in Hungary. For some, Ferraris use of team orders left a bad taste in the mouth.
Webber hit back for Red Bull in Hungary as the see-saw season continued and Vettel made an error by falling too far behind the safety car, impeding Alonso and getting a drive-through penalty. This was the Germans nadir, as he screwed up again in Belgium where he took Button out with an ill-timed lunge under braking for the Bus Stop chicane. Hamilton dominated there for McLaren, as Webber recovered from a clutch-induced bad start and Alonso crashed again in a late rain shower.
The Spaniard made amends by winning for Ferrari at Monza, after Button had brilliantly led the first half and, perhaps, lost out with the timing of his pit stop. That time it was Hamilton crashing out, after a first-lap brush with Massa. The McLaren driver had suffered a retirement in Hungary, and now his challenge was blunted further when he came off second best in a clash with Webber in Singapore, where Alonso drove a beautiful race to keep Vettel at bay throughout. Suddenly, the Spaniard seemed to be Webbers biggest challenger, though Hamilton, Vettel and Button were still in contention.
Continued in Part Three