Memorable moments of the 2010 F1 season – Part 2

As the teams came away from the flyway races into the European leg of the season, it was clear that this was going to be a special championship. From the Ferrari 1-2 in the season opener to Jenson’s two race wins against the expectations in tricky conditions, Hamilton’s scorching recovery drives, and the sheer pace of the Red Bulls, the four unique races had produced surprising results. We waited for the European races to consolidate the pecking order. After a processional race in Barcelona which saw Webber joining the growing list of championship contenders, lets have a look at the rest of the European races along with the Canadian GP and the Singapore GP as well.

Kubica in Monaco’s qualifying session

Robert Kubica is one of the best on-the-edge drivers in Formula 1. A driving style that gives us both spectacular overtaking and sideways action, but also enormous scope for mistakes. But when it all comes together, the Pole is a joy to watch. This year’s Renault was only the fifth fastest – which meant that all the strong points finishes scored by Kubica were quite commendable performances. The Renault not only lacked the grunt of the Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari engines, but also the top speed of leading teams. The Monte Carlo circuit, with its slow speed corners and driver-rewarding layout, was a likely to be a good race for the Renault driver.

Practice pace was strong, and he was tipped as the dark horse of the weekend – though many thought that the Enstone squad were just showing off. Come qualifying, and Robert proceeded to show his detractors just how wrong they were. The Polish driver put in a stonker of a lap to get the Renault up to P2. Behind the all-conquering Red Bull of Webber and ahead of the latter’s illustrious team mate. he showed that it wasn’t a flash in the pan with a superlative run to third in the race. But the qualifying lap still stands out – a brilliant effort and a well deserved result.

Webber’s race performance in Monaco

After Mark Webber’s pole to flag win at Barcelona, there was a dramatic reassessment of Webber’s capabilities, which was a bit unfair in my opinion. Webber has always been quick – it’s just unfortunate he hasn’t had a winning car for so long in his career. In Monaco everyone was busy discussing how Superfast Seb would destroy everyone in Q3, or how Alonso and Kubica would be strong challengers for the win. Nobody saw it coming when Mark blitzed the field and put the Red Bull on pole.

Even then, we assumed that Vettel would smoke him and Kubica off the start and snatch the lead. That never happened, and Mark Webber dominated the streets of Monaco, lap after lap, despite numerous safety car interventions, and won the crown jewel of the F1 calendar. Vettel tried to make a race of it, but could do nothing but sit in the Aussie’s wake as he set the track on fire with his fastest lap spree. Confidence is everything in this game. Webber would agree.

Hamilton Vs Button at the Turkish GP

This was the single most dramatic weekend of the season. At Istanbul, it was a straight fight between the Red Bulls and the Mclarens.  The Red Bulls had unbeatable traction in the corners, while the Mclaren F-duct provided startling speed on the straights. Webber, Vettel, Hamilton and Button ran in a tense, closely bunched up group for much of the race, running away from the rest of the pack.

Just when we thought it was going to be an uneventful finish, WHAM! Sebastian Vettel, in a brain-fade moment, made the mother and father of all screw-ups, trying a hasty move on the inside of Webber, and sending them both off the track. The Red Bull team stared in disbelief as their drivers threw away an easy 1-2 and gifted 43 points to arch rivals Mclaren. Webber made it back onto the track to take third place, while Sebastian retired on the spot and indicated that Mark was a loony.

So we thought it was going to be an easy walk in the park, a comfortable 1-2 for the British squad. But minutes later, Jenson and Lewis went wheel-to-wheel and every single one of us stared with pounding hearts and bated breath. But as if to add insult to Red Bull’s injury, the Mclaren boys showed everyone how it’s done, on-the-edge but in control, with clean passes and fair racing. Lewis eventually triumphed, but coming on the back of Red Bull’s disastrous shunt, it was one of the finest moments in motor racing, with unparalleled excitement, tension and expectation.

Webber winning at Silverstone

After the controversy in Turkey, and the spirited defense of Vettel by some of the team’s big guns, Mark Webber knew he was a No.2 driver in the team, no matter how he drove or what they said publicly. His thoughts were confirmed when a fresh controversy in the team went in favor of Vettel. Red Bull had developed a new front wing, but there wasn’t enough time to produce more than one each for the drivers. When Seb’s wing failed in practice, the team decided to take Mark’s wing and give it to the German, on the basis that he was ahead of the Aussie in the championship standings. Vettel used it to good effect, grabbing pole by 0.14 seconds. As commentator Alex Yoong observed : “Red Bull gives you wings.. and then takes them away. “

Webber was furious, but decided to save his best for Sunday afternoon. On a day when Ferrari had wretched luck with the safety car, Mclaren capitalised and both Lewis and Jenson drove strong races to finish second and fourth respectively. Rosberg, Barrichello, Kobayashi and Sutil drove really well but the star of the day was undoubtedly Webber. Beating his team mate off the line from the dirty side of the grid, Webber then had Lewis all over his diffuser for some time – but nothing was going to stop Webber that day, as he drove with fire and determination to clinch his best win thus far.

The best moment of the weekend was Webber on the radio after the race – “Not bad for a No.2 driver..”. It was a solid slap in the face for the team, and the entire F1 fraternity agreed that the result was indeed poetic justice.

Alonso’s performance at Monza

Ferrari arrived at Monza under massive pressure to turn their season around. The team had had a disastrous Belgian GP, with Rubens harpooning Fernando at the start and from then on it went badly wrong for them. Despite Alonso’s confidence that he would win the championship, everyone was ready to write off the Italian team and its Spanish star. Alonso was quick all through the weekend, and he nailed the first lap perfectly in Q3. Such was his pace that he aborted his second lap after it turned out the others weren’t going to beat him.

There was only one Mclaren in the mix – and it wasn’t the one everyone expected. Hamilton retired on the opening lap, after a silly move on Massa went wrong. But Jenson carried the fight to Ferrari by beating Alonso at the start and hung on to the lead until the pitstop poker began. Mclaren blinked first, and brought Jenson in for his tyre change on lap 37. Whereupon Alonso put in a superb in-lap and came in next time round. It was going to be close – really close, and the pressure on the Ferrari pit crew was tremendous. But the Maranello squad rose to the occasion, and performed a blindingly quick tyre change.  Alonso emerged side by side with Button into Turn 1, and held on to the lead. Massa did reasonably well to finish third, making the tifosi very happy indeed. For Alonso, this was what he needed to restart his championship challenge, and he delivered just as a champion driver would.

Kubica on new tyres at the end of Singapore GP

One of the strategic patterns that emerged during the course of the 2010 season was that the top runners always had soft tyres for the first short stint and used the hard compound for the rest of the race. By contrast, the midfield runners invariably opted to run a massive first stint on the hard compounds, switching to the options at the very end of the race. The aim was to have a very quick car at the end to pounce on any of the leaders lagging behind, due to problems in the race. And it worked, with some of the best overtaking maneuvers taking place towards the end of the result, usually a defenseless  car on worn-out hard tyres being the victim.

In Singapore, Kubica was in the midfield fight, running strongly in seventh place when a rear puncture forced him to pit. He rejoined in 13th place, but more importantly used the opportunity to take on a fresh set of tyres. From lap 52 till the end, he was absolutely scintillating, combining new found grip and superb racecraft to catch up to the mid-field squabble. He dispatched Buemi on lap 52, along with his team mate Petrov. He brushed aside Massa on the next lap and blew past Hulkenberg on lap 54. The next lap he nailed Sutil with a stunning move and reclaimed seventh place. It was an astonishing comeback – in space of four laps, Kubica gave us a few glorious moments – of the art of the past they call ‘racing’.


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