Memorable moments of the 2010 F1 season – Part 3

By the time we left Singapore, it was clear that Red Bull, though in front, would not have it easy. It was also clear that the season thus far could be split into three different routes to the championship from the team. The initial part of the season saw Mclaren at its absolute best, punishing Red Bull heavily for their mechanical unreliability, and taking the lead in both championships. Red Bull had a rather erratic performance curve, with a few dominant races, and a few wretched ones alternating throughout the year. Ferrari, after a horrendous first half of the season, where reliability issues and gut-wrenching bad luck hurt them badly, hit back spectacularly in the second half. Fernando Alonso was making a mighty comeback, and was putting in some magnificent drives to methodically demolish the Red Bull drivers’ advantage. We go into the final four races with the championship still wide open.

Kobayashi on an overtaking spree at Suzuka

In recent years, we have had two Japanese drivers racing in Formula 1. Takuma Sato was a very quick and very committed racer, but his banzai driving style led to several crashes, resulting in his nickname ‘Suicidal Sato’. Kazuki Nakajima was quite slow, bluntly speaking and neither driver looked as if they had the goods for a long term career in F1. But now we have Kamui Kobayashi – a rising star from the land of the rising sun. Deeply impressive performances in Brazil and Abu Dhabi last year underlined Kamui’s potential – and his speed, maturity and sublime skill at overtaking was widely noted by the teams. Kobayashi signed for Sauber and has been one of the sport’s biggest finds since Vettel.

At Suzuka the focus was on the championship contenders, who were at the head of the field, and it looked like the championship was about to get a lot closer. With the top five closely matched, we were set for a procession on a track where it is notoriously difficult to overtake despite being a proper drivers’ circuit. Someone forgot to mention that to Kamui. From 14th on the grid, the home hero produced some fantastic overtaking moves on Alguersuari, one on Barrichello and Heidfeld to move up to 7th at the finish, behind the championship contenders and Schumacher’s much faster Mercedes. The hairpin – where he did most of his overtaking – deserves to be named after him.

Such was the skill and enthusiasm of the Japanese driver that he single-handedly livened up an otherwise boring race. I for one can’t wait to see Kobayashi in a car capable of winning races.

The ‘Hulk’ on pole at Interlagos

Every once in a while, Formula 1 becomes just that bit more predictable towards the end of the season, and people already have a firm idea of who’s gonna be the hare, and who’s gonna be the tortoise. And every now and then, there comes a moment when all those predictions, expectations, assumptions are blown away in a single instance of motor racing brilliance. The well established form book is torn to shreds, and the most unlikely of underdogs triumphs against the odds. Qualifying for the Brazilian GP was once such event.

Saturday practice was affected by rain and hence the track was quite green when the qualifying session got underway. Apart from Button getting eliminated in Q2, there wasn’t any big surprise. But when it came, it came with a bang. Hulkenberg started off strongly in Q3 with a quick lap that bettered Hamilton’s and Alonso’s best efforts. Despite the Red Bulls fighting tooth and nail to get pole position, the German rookie simply produced a blinder of a lap that put pole well beyond the reach of the championship rivals. As if to drive home the point, he stayed out for one more lap, and brought the time down to a crushing 1:14.470, a staggering 1.1 seconds faster than the Red Bulls. It was one of those days that made you fall in love with Formula 1 all over again.

Red Bull wins Constructors’ Title in Brazil

Six years ago, the group of people working at Milton Keynes to try and succeed in Formula 1 was known by a different name – Jaguar Racing. To cut a long story short, Ford’s incompetence led to the sale of the Jaguar Racing team at the end of the 2004 season. The team of talented engineers and managers was just another team – making up the numbers while Ferrari, Mclaren, Williams and Renault won races. It is a cruel facet of motorsport that despite all the teams trying very hard, all the teams being very talented, the slightest of margins provides a fine line between the good teams and the also-rans. Jaguar Racing was one such ‘also-ran’.

Cut to 2010 – where the same team, with a solid budget, good team principal, drivers chosen on skill rather than sponsorship, has Ferrari and Mclaren on the ropes and struggling to win championships. Red Bull’s lack of experience in a championship fight meant Ferrari and Mclaren made a race out of it, but Red Bull was just too good to be beaten. They took the World Constructors’ Championship in style, with a resounding 1-2 at the Interlagos circuit.

Just like Toro Rosso’s success at Monza in 2008, Brawn GP’s success in 2009, Red Bull Racing’s triumph is a victory for the sport. It proves that big budgets and big team size does not guarantee results. It offers hope to teams like Force India that they will get there one day. In 2004, there was universal sympathy for the team when Ford impetuously pulled the plug on it. It seemed as though the hard-working and talented bunch at Milton Keynes would never get the recognition that they deserved. But thanks to Dietrich Mateschitz, Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and the two immensely talented drivers giving them the channels to succeed, they are now the World Champions. Despite being a Ferrari fan, I was really happy for the Red Bull team, and I wish we have more success stories like this – it’s what makes Formula 1 such an exciting sport.

Qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi GP

We went into the Abu Dhabi weekend knowing that we were seeing history being made. Four drivers in contention for the Driver’s Championship was unprecedented. With the championship being so close, qualifying was going to be crucial. We knew that Vettel and Hamilton had to get pole and try to win the race. We knew that Webber would need a good advantage over Alonso to overcome the 8 point deficit to the Ferrari driver. We knew that Alonso could afford to take less risks in order to stay in the game. Yet we had absolutely no idea how the all important grid would be after 1 hour. It was the single most exciting and tense qualifying session for as long as I can remember.

The first two knockout sessions went off without major drama, except for Kubica’s elimination in Q2 – the first time in the entire season that he failed to make it to Q3. The tension in the air was incredible ahead of the start of Q3. This was it. When the lights went green, the Ferraris and Mclarens promptly started on their first runs, while Red Bull made a gutsy decision to stick with their single-run-in-Q3 routine. The drivers were under enormous pressure.

After the Mclarens and Ferraris had made a good first run and returned to the pits, the Red Bulls headed out and immediately blitzed the lap times. Well one of them did. Mark Webber was strangely off-colour in what was probably the most crucial qualifying session of his life. Sebastian Vettel though, was just mesmerizing. With the championship on the line, pole position a necessity, and with one lap only in which to do it, the lad dug in deep, and produced one of the best qualifying laps of all time. Under a mountain of pressure, and with zero margin for error, Sebastian delivered. Not just delivered, but blew away everyone else’s time. An awesome, on-the-limit lap that was breathtaking to watch.

But the drama wasn’t over yet. The Mclarens and Rosberg beat the Ferraris in getting out for the second runs, and with each driver ahead slowing down to give himself space, for a while it seemed as though the Ferraris weren’t going to make it. The Italian team had the presence of mind to get Alonso in front of Massa to ensure that he crossed the finish line in time. Jenson’s qualifying run in Melbourne ’09 was nothing compared to the tension here. Alonso crossed the line just a second or two before the flag fell – and produced a stunning lap to line up third. Massa crossed the line on the very instant the clock stopped. It was one heck of a heart-stopping moment and the best qualifying session in many years.


6 Responses to “Memorable moments of the 2010 F1 season – Part 3”

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