I’m delighted to say that the JA on F1 2010 season Review Book is published today. I’ve offered a signed copy to the first ten readers whose Top Five drivers of the Season match my choice.
We’ve had a great response from readers sending in their Top Five, with just under 1,000 entries. Thanks to everyone for taking part.
The 2010 season was really enjoyable for fans and insiders alike. There was quite a buzz in the paddock all season with the various battles going on between teams and between team mates too.
When compiling a Top Five list, the considerations I use are; what were the driver’s peaks, in terms of outstanding performances. Similarly what were the troughs, in terms of costly mistakes or underperformances. I also look very closely at consistency across the season.
Then I also take into account the performance of the car and how that stood relative to the opposition. That means looking at the relative pace of the cars through the season and the results that were achieved with it.
No driver achieved a faultless season – the pressure was very high, the level of competition was intense and so they all made some mistakes. But there were some outstanding performances across the board and unlike last season, where it was hard to fill the top five positions, this year there were probably eight to ten drivers who had really good seasons.
There is no room for favouritism in a list like this, nor any points for historical achievement; this is all about who did the best job in the 19 race F1 season.
1. Sebastian Vettel
Vettel came of age in 2010, winning the world championship in a tense season long battle, despite the fact that it looked at times as though the title had got away from him. His record of 10 pole positions tells you that he had the fastest car this year, which is undoubtedly true, but also that he used it to good effect and invariably got the job done on Saturdays.
He didn’t always get it done on Sundays for a variety of reasons, but his race performances were consistently strong. The wins in Malaysia, Japan and Abu Dhabi were really good and he showed that he can dominate a weekend, which is what you need to do when you have a car advantage. His main mistakes were clearly in Spa, where he took out Button and in Turkey, which was more debatable given Webber’s part in it, but he took himself out there and cost his team mate a probable win.
His weakness was impetuousness, the start in Silverstone, the botched pass in Spa and I agree with Alain Prost’s assessment that winning the title will probably make him calm down a bit
He suffered quite a bit from reliability problems on his car, particularly with the engine. He would have won in Bahrain, Australia and Korea with better reliability and that would have made winning the title rather more comfortable.
It was a tough championship to win and he got the job done, you can’t take anything away from him there.
2. Fernando Alonso
It was very hard to decide whether Alonso should be ahead of Hamilton and no doubt this will prove an emotive issue among some readers. Alonso had a slightly faster car for most of the season and finished 12 points ahead of his great rival.
The reason I put him ahead is partly because he passed Hamilton twice on track in the final races, showing his intent. Then also because of his five wins and five podiums, to Hamilton’s three wins and six podiums and partly because he seemed to me to be more of a force throughout the season. Apart from Turkey, where he struggled, he was always competitive, always pushing.
His peaks were mighty, that last gasp qualifying lap in Abu Dhabi was pressure driving at its best, so was the win in Monza. I also thought his pass on Massa in the pit lane in China showed what a competitor he is. It set the tone for the season.
He made some big mistakes, which is uncharacteristic of him and which showed him struggling at times to cope with the emotional pressure inside Ferrari. He only got on top of that once the team had sided with him in the infamous team orders decision in Germany.
One of Alonso’s worst mistakes was the crash in practice at Monaco which compromised his weekend. There were others, like Spa and the jump start in China. But the real damage to his title hopes was done in a series of races in early summer where he fell foul of the safety car. In Valencia he was very hard done by, in Silverstone he was pushing his luck by passing Kubica illegally and tried to stall for time, then very unlucky that the Renault retired so he could not give the place back.
There were some bad team mistakes, like misjudging timing during qualifying in Malaysia and of course the infamous call to pit in Abu Dhabi.
He hasn’t made many friends this season and has probably lost a few fans as a result of his attitude at times, which was a bit disappointing for anyone who knows him, but he remains F1’s benchmark driver and he edged it over Hamilton this year for me.
Many people expected him to bury Jenson Button this year, but that didn’t happen – he finished 26 points ahead, which is the equivalent of a race win, more or less. His average grid slot was P4 to Jenson’s P5.5 (not counting Malaysia, which gives a skewed reading) and he was usually, but not always, the faster driver. As you’d expect he was faster especially when the car was a bit unstable, after the difficult introduction of the exhaust blown diffuser in the summer.
He provides a lot of entertainment for F1 fans, his overtaking all year was tremendous, but it was often due to qualifying below where he should be, mostly the fault of the car or team, but not always. The McLaren didn’t develop as strongly as in the past, which held him and Button back and Lewis found himself fighting without the right weapon quite a few times. But he always gave it 100%.
He was a consistent points scorer but also, like Vettel and Alonso, he had a very dominant run, in his case the six races from Monaco to Germany, where he scored 108 points, averaging 18 points per race. Vettel did 105 between Italy and Abu Dhabi, while Alonso did 111 in the same period.
He made some strange mistakes this year, particularly the costly accidents with Massa in Monza and Webber in Singapore. He also allowed himself to be overtaken by Alonso twice in the closing stages of the season. And another point against him is the way Button outsmarted him in Australia and China as well as on set up in Monza.
4. Mark Webber
If you had asked a couple of years ago, few people would have said that Webber would fight for a world title right down to the last round. The Australian is a great competitor but had always seemed to struggle to match his speed with consistent points scoring. That all changed this year as he went on a run in the spring and kept on scoring big points. It reminded me very much of Nigel Mansell who also came good in his mid 30s. The question now is, can he do it again next year?
It cannot have been easy to operate this season in the Red Bull environment, where everything is controlled from Austria and they so clearly have the team set up for Vettel for the future. But it would be a mistake to think that this is the whole story; Red Bull is a different beast from anything we’ve seen in F1 before and part of the game for them was the decision to let the drivers race each other at all costs and all the attention that drew. You have to admire them for that. The decision not to prioritise Webber in Brazil, as most race teams would have done, was fully vindicated by Vettel winning the title at the next race. It could so easily have cost them the title.
Red Bull was the biggest story of the year and if it hadn’t been for Ferrari team orders, it would have been pretty much the only story this year. That’s the way they like it.
So Webber’s regular cries for help and barbs about being a “Number two driver”, although genuine, were all part of the game.
In terms of peaks, his performances in Spain, Monaco and Hungary were as good as anything anyone managed all year. He was more consistent than the others, except when it counted in the last three races. Up to round 17 he averaged 13.7 points per race. If he’d kept that going in the final three races he would have won the title with 260 points. However he let his average slip to just 7.3 points. One of the main reasons for that was crashing in the rain in Korea.
5. Robert Kubica
It was a very close one between Kubica, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button and if I was carrying this list on, I’d put them in that order. The reason I’d put Kubica a fraction ahead of Rosberg is that he finished just six points behind in the table in a car which was slower for most of the season. I’ve checked the data with various engineers and the Mercedes was faster on the whole.
His peaks were higher too; his driving in Monaco was sublime as was his nouse in Australia where he finished second to Button. He was always on it, basically.
There were some limited peaks in car performance like Monaco, Spa (where they got the F Duct) and Suzuka. But for most of the season he was carrying the car.
Another factor in Kubica’s favour is his performance in races relative to qualifying position. Whereas both he and Rosberg did consistently well at finishing ahead of where they qualified, a key indicator of a top driver in an average car, his positional gains were greater.
To be fair that’s partly due to Rosberg hitting a glass ceiling – not being able to compete with Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens, but it’s also an indicator of what Kubica was managing to do with the Renault
Both drivers murdered their team mates this season, Kubica by a bigger margin but then he was up against Petrov, whereas Rosberg had Michael Schumacher to contend with.
We’ll go through the Top Five lists from fans and the first ten that match the list above will be contacted for us to send them a signed and personalised copy of the book.
And please be sure to let me know your thoughts on my list in the comments section below.
All photos by Darren Heath