14th November 2010, the final race of the 2010 Formula One season in Abu Dhabi is about to begin. Eight months of on the edge action, tantalising drama and blazingly fast speeds are all about to come to a head. Over the course of that time, five men have been fighting it out for the honour of being named Formula One World Champion. That number has been narrowed to four for this race, but its still the highest number of potential champions going into a title decider in history. What has happened and what is about to happen will go down as some of the most iconic, influential and incredible moments in the sport’s illustrious history. So, with that in mind, lets look at what exactly made this set of 19 races a cut above the rest.
2009 was a fantastical season, with a regulation shakeup resulting in backmarkers taking the front of the field and the usual front runners falling back. In the end, Jenson Button took the world title with the Brawn GP team that was bordering on cessation at the start of the year. Button’s moved to McLaren for his title defence after Brawn was bought by Mercedes who are laying the foundations for one of the most dominant eras in Formula One. Button’s teammate would be 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, an undoubted talent who has been a part of McLaren for 10 years. Over to Red Bull, who benefitted from the 2009 regulation changes to have their first truly great season. They keep hotshot German Sebastian Vettel and seasoned Australian Mark Webber as they look to take their first world title in the sport. They have the fastest car on the grid, 15 pole positions out of 19 is proof enough of that, but are hindered by woeful reliability as well as the pace of the car exposing a bias within the team that would go on to haunt one driver for the rest of the career. Lastly, we head to Maranello and the scarlet of Ferrari who, following an abhorrent start to the previous season, have signed double world champion Fernando Alonso. Everyone knows how talented the Spaniard is, and none rate him as highly as his own team who are looking to paint the sport red so to speak. However, Ferrari’s management’s history of tactical has the potential end the season with the only thing red being the entire team’s faces.
The season would see all the title contenders bar Vettel lead the championship up until the final race, with a titanic tussle that not one driver would truly take control of leaving the watching world firmly glued to what happens next.
There are several sublime moments from races in this season and I implore that you look into it further, but one race which had an indelible effect on the future of the sport was the Canadian Grand Prix. The Bridgestone tyres that were brought for this race had a very strange reaction to the surface of the Montreal circuit, causing the tyres to degrade at a very rapid rate as opposed to their usual durable nature. This caused a manic race filled with on track action and varying strategies from the several teams that kept audiences on the edge of their seats. The race was eventually won by Lewis Hamilton and the event was massively well received by the fans and the FIA made the call to incoming tyre supplier Pirelli to construct their tyre to mimic the nature of the Canadian Grand Prix, thereby shaping races for the next decade and beyond.
As the drivers enter the Abu Dhabi finale, Alonso leads Webber by 8 points, Vettel by 15 and Hamilton by 24. With 25 potential points for a win, it’s still very much all to play for. Vettel storms to the pole followed by Hamilton, Alonso and Webber in 5th; which he firmly converts to the lead at the start while Alonso slips to 4th having been passed by Button into the first corner. A first lap crash brings out the safety car, causing a group of drivers to take a punt and pit in the hopes of going to then end on their new tyres. After racing resumes, Webber takes the plunge of pitting first and with his strategy team laser focused on the Australian, Alonso follows shortly after. The plan for the two is to slowly but surely make progress up the field, but after catching up to Vitaly Petrov’s Renault on lap 18, the two drivers would spend the rest of the race toiling behind the Russian’s rear wing. Meanwhile, Vettel surges further into the lead and come the end of the race, the tumultuous predicament of Alonso and Webber has provided him the perfect opportunity to become the youngest World Champion in the sport’s history. Vettel took the lead in the championship for the first time and right where it mattered most, providing one of F1’s greatest seasons with one of its maddest endings.