2 – Lewis Hamilton
He has said it himself, but it bears repetition. To do battle for the drivers' title in three of your first four seasons in F1 – regardless of the equipment at your disposal – is quite a statistic, but that is what Lewis Hamilton has now done, and even if he ultimately wound up fourth in 2010, his effort was no less gritty or determined than it has ever been.
The McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 was never the fastest car in the field this year, alternating rather with the Ferrari F10 for the honour of being second-quickest – but Hamilton invariably made the very best use out of it and extracted every last inch of performance that it was willing to give. That he led the world championship standings in the wake of his brilliant Canadian Grand Prix triumph in June and retained that advantage all the way to Hungary – at one stage holding as much as a 14-point margin over any of his pursuers – was remarkable.
The British star was undoubtedly stung into action, too, by a couple of unexpected early-season factors. One was that following the opening four races, the scoresheet showed two victories for team-mate Jenson Button – a driver who Hamilton had been widely-tipped to blow into the weeds – and none for himself.
Worse still, there was his run-in with the law over the now infamous 'hooning' incident Down Under in Melbourne, that undoubtedly took the 25-year-old's eye off the ball over the remainder of the Australian Grand Prix weekend – and however much the episode was blown out-of-proportion by the world's media, it nevertheless had an effect.
Hamilton would not mount the highest step of the rostrum himself until Istanbul – but then after that, for a few races he was unstoppable. It was the 2008 world champion's unrelenting pressure that played a key role in causing Sebastian Vettel to crack in Turkey – neatly handing victory down into his lap – and he went on to remind Button just who was boss after his countryman attempted to take the fight to him in the closing stages.
In Montreal, Lewis was supreme, with feisty outings in Valencia and popularly in front of his adoring partisan supporters on home turf at Silverstone keeping him on top of the pile. As an overtaker he is still without peer and his Spa-Francorchamps success in treacherous conditions was sublime, but despite a brace of strong late runner-up finishes in Korea and Abu Dhabi, McLaren's fall from the pace mid-season was in truth the beginning of the end for Hamilton's title bid.
If the car's dip in form was the major contributory factor, then its driver's occasional predilection for pushing just too
hard to compensate – as his costly accidents in Italy, Singapore and during practice in Japan attest – sealed his fate. He was unlucky, certainly, in Barcelona and Budapest where a likely 30 points flew out of the window due to unreliability, but it was, in the final reckoning, Lewis' own utter and uncompromising determination to succeed against-the-odds that cost him the chance of adding a second career crown to his CV.
Nonetheless, that must not take the gloss off a generally superb season – and if you want a fighter, a driver who will make up places come hell or high water and no matter what the circumstances, then Lewis Hamilton unquestionably remains your man.
Statistics – Lewis Hamilton:
1st (Turkey, Canada, Belgium)
Crash.net's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2010:
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Mark Webber
5. Robert Kubica
6. Jenson Button
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Rubens Barrichello
9. Heikki Kovalainen
10. Nico Hülkenberg
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