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The 2010 Season Review - Part Three 22 Nov 2010

Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 10 October 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6 retires from the lead of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 24 October 2010 The podium (L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, race winner; Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal and second placed Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 7 November 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 at the start of the race,
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010

Continued from Part Two

Vettel was in a class of his own in Japan where he repeated his 2009 victory, with Webber taking second. The German was on target in the rain in Korea’s dramatic and much-deserved inaugural race, but it was a day of disaster for Red Bull as Webber lost the points lead (and, in retrospect, his title shot) after spinning off and then a late engine failure handed victory to Alonso who took over the championship lead after a superb comeback from Ferrari.

A Red Bull one-two in Brazil set up the dramatic finale, but the management’s refusal to ask Vettel to hand a win to Webber seriously compromised the Australian’s flagging chances and cast so many questions over the team’s priorities that their victory in the constructors’ championship was arguably overshadowed. The strategy would be justified in Abu Dhabi, however, where for the first time in history four men were in contention for the title after Button had lost his chance in Brazil.

Vettel dominated ahead of the valiant Hamilton and Button in a McLaren resurgence, and Ferrari’s error in using both Massa and Alonso to mark Webber’s early tyre stop saw the Spaniard lose his chance as he became mired in the midfield traffic just ahead of the battling Aussie.

The fabulous fight amongst Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari overshadowed everything else, but there was some great racing all through the field. Renault were resurgent with Robert Kubica pedalling the R30 for all he was worth as the team won back respect lost in the aftermath of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix ‘Crashgate’ scandal, and the Pole demonstrated at Monaco in particular, but also in Australia and Abu Dhabi, that when he gets a fully competitive car he will be very hard to beat.

Williams, too, had a resurgence and just pipped Force India to sixth place in the constructors’ championship, though Patrick Head admitted at season end that the “end of term report isn’t really very good for us.” Vijay Mallya’s team were hurt by the departure of designers James Key and Mark Smith, and though Adrian Sutil showed great speed, the reliability of Tonio Liuzzi’s car seriously compromised their chances of beating Williams.

There were slim pickings for BMW Sauber and Toro Rosso, though Kamui Kobayashi maintained his reputation as one of the best overtakers in the game. And the oft-criticised new teams added to the show. In the end Tony Fernandes’ Lotus team came out on top but after an early-season snafu with a fuel tank that was too small, Virgin’s all-CFD VR-01 kept the green and yellow cars honest as both performed creditably.

Against the expectations of some, both will survive for 2011, when they have their eyes set on Toro Rosso and Force India. Some were surprised that HRT even made the grid, but Colin Kolles knows what he’s doing and isn’t afraid of hard work. At times they had their moments with Lotus and Virgin, even though their Dallara-inspired F110 was barely developed as financial problems arose.

Bridgestone bowed out honourably, after serving the sport well since 1997, and the deletion of refuelling barely made a difference to the spectacle once everybody had got over the relatively dull opening race in Bahrain.

Oh, and Michael Schumacher made his much-vaunted comeback with Mercedes. And it was in some ways as awkward as the reigning champion teams’ efforts with the MGP W01 car that evolved from the race-winning Brawn. Perhaps it was a fitting part of the fairy tale that Brawn rose so dramatically and successfully in 2009 from the ashes of Honda, then flopped so badly in 2010.

The problem was that the Mercedes understeered all season, something that Schumacher hates but which suited Nico Rosberg. The younger German convincingly out-performed the older, whose brutal track manners were in evidence once more against Rubens Barrichello in Hungary where the Brazilian was squeezed to within an inch of the pit wall at 300 km/h. There were signs at times of the old Schuey in performance terms, however, and it would be unwise to write him off just yet, or Mercedes, assuming that he gets a car that handles in the edgy way he likes in 2011.

It was somehow symbolic of the passing of the flame, however, that as Schumacher made an ignominious exit by spinning out of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel rose so brilliantly to the occasion to come from behind and don his mantle in such style.

Red Bull gives you wings, their advertising says. Vettel has certainly earned his, and the respect of three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart.

“The right man won,” the spring-heeled Scot said at the final race. “He had pole position, the right strategy, the best pit stop, and he won by a 10-second margin. You can’t do much more than that. Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso had every opportunity to do the same thing, but Vettel dominated the race in a faultless fashion. The best man undoubtedly won.”

Ultimately, however much one admired Webber’s grit, Hamilton’s unquenchable fire, Button’s smoothness, Alonso’s uncompromising determination, or the refusal of either McLaren or Ferrari to give in, it’s hard to disagree.

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