1 – Sebastian Vettel
At varying stages of the F1 2010 campaign, you could have made a solid argument for any one of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton or even Robert Kubica as being the standout performer of the season – but ultimately, that accolade must go to the man who was without doubt the fastest driver in the field, and one who finally, after all manner of trials and tribulations along the way, clinched the coveted crown to accompany it.
Ordinarily, a driver who has a car underneath him that is demonstrably quicker than the opposition might reasonably be expected to lift the laurels – it worked for Jenson Button in 2009 and Jacques Villeneuve back in 1997. But then, Sebastian's season was anything but straightforward.
A staggering ten pole positions in qualifying bore ample witness to not only the sheer pace and potency of the Adrian Newey-penned RB6, but also Vettel's ability to palpably make the most of it. Had he converted all ten of those poles into race day victories, the German would have tallied 250 points from just over half of the grands prix alone. As it was, his title-winning total was 256.
Why did he not win all of those races, then – or even, indeed, come close, successfully converting just three of his poles into the top step of the podium..? The reasons are manifold, but invariably fall more down to reliability than any great fault of the driver. In the Bahrain curtain-raiser, it was a spark plug issue, in Australia a loose wheel-nut was quite literally Vettel's undoing, in Korea it was the engine – the list could go on.
He made mistakes of his own, too, yes – Istanbul evidently the most high-profile, but Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps spring prominently to mind as well. All three were caused by impetuosity, and the first two, indeed, were the product of a hellbent refusal to be beaten by Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber.
There were times – Monaco and Barcelona key amongst them – when Vettel simply could not live with the Australian, and that clearly riled him and provoked some of the costly errors, but on the flipside, his triumphs in Malaysia, Valencia and then in three of the last four outings in Japan, Brazil and Abu Dhabi were truly flawless.
There were emotional moments along the way, and Seb's reaction to his collision with Webber in Turkey is doubtless not one he will look back upon with any great pride, but he rose above the troubles and the internecine warfare at Milton Keynes and his end-of-season was outstanding. But for his Korean heartbreak, indeed, the 23-year-old would have taken a clean sweep of each and every one of the final four grands prix.
A question mark did hang over Vettel's head back at the start of the year about his ability to retain his composure and succeed under pressure, and heading into the closing stages of the campaign, the sceptics reckoned Seb would be the first of the title protagonists to crumble, and that he would buckle under the weight of expectation of a nation looking for another hero. Abu Dhabi quashed any such notions in style – for as Webber and Ferrari rival Alonso went to pieces in the decider, the driver who was only a long shot to claim the trophy put not a wheel out-of-place.
The youngest F1 World Champion in history, Sebastian Vettel is fully deserving of the honour – and he does, after all, have something of a knack for breaking records in the top flight following his exploits at Monza for Scuderia Toro Rosso a couple of years ago. In each of the previous four seasons, the crown had ultimately gone the way of the man who had won the opening race, but in 2010 it went to the man who should
have won the opening race – and one who, assuredly, will win many more races and world championships between now and the end of his career.
Statistics – Sebastian Vettel:
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull-Renault RB6
1st (Malaysia, Valencia, Japan, Brazil, Abu Dhabi)
Crash.net's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2010:
1. Sebastian Vettel
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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