F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

With the 2010s coming to an end, Crash.net has rounded up the top 10 moments that have defined the past decade in Formula 1.

10: F1’s qualifying format farce

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

With the 2010s coming to an end, Crash.net has rounded up the top 10 moments that have defined the past decade in Formula 1.

10: F1’s qualifying format farce

Remember this? The new format was introduced on the eve of the 2016 season in a bid to spice up the show and promote closer racing, but it lasted just a single race after proving unpopular among teams, drivers and fans alike.

The elimination-style system, pushed forward by then F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, was considered a failure with cars repeatedly not seen on track at the end of the three qualifying segments, including during Q3 when the two quickest drivers should have been battling it out for pole position.

Team principals met with F1 officials in the Melbourne paddock on the Sunday morning ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and agreed to immediately drop the format.

F1 subsequently reverted to its previous three-session system from the next race in Bahrain, which has remained unaltered ever since.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

9: Hamilton wins ‘fight for five’ in 2018

2018 was dubbed as the ‘fight for five’ as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel went head-to-head in an eagerly anticipated duel to become only the third driver in history to win five or more world championships and equal the great Juan Manuel Fangio in the process.

Vettel led the way early on the campaign as Ferrari made a strong start to the season, before Hamilton hit back with a stunning run of form in the second half of the year to beat Vettel to the crown.

Hamilton’s resurgence truly began at the German Grand Prix, where he remarkably recovered from 14th on the grid following a hydraulic failure in qualifying to win the race.

Hockenheim proved to the major turning point of the season as Vettel crashed out of the lead amid late rain, having dominated much of the race from pole position. Hamilton enjoyed a 38-point swing in his favour and only got stronger as the year went on.

He racked up a further seven victories in the remaining 10 rounds, while Vettel endured a run of mistakes and spins that accelerated his defeat, with Hamilton ultimately joining F1’s exclusive club on five or more titles.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

8: V6 hybrids introduced as Merc domination begins

2014 saw arguably the biggest rules change in the history of F1 come into force, with the introduction of new V6 hybrid engines.

The 1.6-litre V6 turbos replaced the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8s in the championship’s biggest ever push to embrace ‘greener’ technologies.

Such a change had a huge impact on the pecking order after four years of Red Bull-Renault domination under the previous stable V8 regs.

Mercedes placed much of its efforts on getting the new power unit right and was rewarded with immediate success as its engine proved the benchmark to beat.

The German manufacturer hit the ground running in 2014 by storming to both world championships as Lewis Hamilton became a two-time world champion, before embarking on a sustained era of success that has gone unchallenged.

In six years of the hybrid era, Mercedes has claimed a staggering 89 wins from the 121 races, recording 48 1-2 finishes, 179 podiums and 94 pole positions.

Successfully retaining both its constructors’ and drivers’ titles in 2019 saw Mercedes match a long-standing Ferrari record and become the first team ever to win six consecutive world championship doubles.

Despite significant gains from engine rivals Ferrari and Honda over the past 18 months, Mercedes will remain favourites and the team to beat heading into the last two years of the current rules before the 2021 shake-up.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

7: Vettel dethroned at Red Bull, leaves for Ferrari

Off the back of winning four straight titles with Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel found himself partnered by up-and-coming hotshot Daniel Ricciardo at the Milton Keynes squad for 2014 following Mark Webber’s retirement.

Few would have expected Ricciardo to upset the apple cart at Red Bull, but he did just that by outperforming his vastly more experienced teammate in his maiden year at the team after earning promotion from Toro Rosso.

Ricciardo claimed three victories - including the first non-Mercedes win of the V6 era in Canada - with some stunning displays and breath-taking late overtaking manoeuvres, something that would become a trademark of his driving style in Red Bull cars.

He added a further five podiums to his haul to end the year third in the standings, while Vettel only managed four podiums in total and suffered his first winless campaign in F1 since making his debut in 2007 en route to fifth spot.

The German subsequently ended his spell at Red Bull at the end of the season to make a sensational switch to Ferrari in a bid to emulate the achievements of his childhood hero, Michael Schumacher.

14 victories have followed since moving to Maranello, though Vettel has so far been unable to add to his tally of four world titles. Back-to-back defeats to Lewis Hamilton followed in 2017 and 2018, when he came closest to adding another drivers’ crown to his mantlepiece.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

6: Verstappen wins first race after Red Bull promotion

Max Verstappen was already making a name for himself having become the youngest driver to ever compete in F1 when he surged into the championship at the tender age of 17 in 2015, but he would go on to send shockwaves throughout the paddock on his Red Bull debut little over a year later.

His strong early form at Toro Rosso coincided with a difficult spell for Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull, who was struggling to fill the void left by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who had left for Ferrari in 2015.

Kvyat came under increasing pressure after a mistake-ridden start to 2016. He finished on the podium in China despite clashing with Vettel, before a double collision followed with the German in Russia that made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

With Verstappen scoring points at three of the opening four rounds of 2016 – including a strong sixth-place finish in Bahrain – the Dutchman was drafted into Red Bull’s line-up in a direct swap with Kvyat ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth race of the year.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the switch would allow Verstappen to showcase his “outstanding” talent, while enabling Kvyat an opportunity to regain some form and confidence in the less pressured environment of Toro Rosso.

Verstappen’s Red Bull debut was the stuff of dreams. A crash between Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the opening lap paved the way for Verstappen to claim a sensational victory.

Verstappen demonstrated experience beyond his years as he held off Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari to pip the Finn by 0.616s and become the youngest ever winner in the history of the championship.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

5: McLaren declines amid Honda disaster

There was great hope and optimism when Honda announced it would be returning to F1 in 2015 as an engine partner with McLaren, renewing one of the sport’s most famous collaborations, having heralded a clean sweep of world titles between 1988 and 1992.

But the revival of the McLaren-Honda partnership failed to bring about success the second time around. In fact it was regarded as something of a disaster.

Signs of early trouble began when McLaren’s Honda-powered car managed just five laps across two days of post-season testing at the end of the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi, before the Woking squad’s pre-season schedule was heavily set back heading into the following campaign.

The combination proved both unreliable and uncompetitive throughout the season as it became clear that being a year behind its engine rivals in development had hurt the Japanese manufacturer.

It also marked the steady decline of Fernando Alonso’s relationship with McLaren as his frustrations at Honda intensified, highlighted by his remarkable “GP2 engine!” radio outburst on Honda’s home soil at the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.

McLaren finally pulled the plug on its deal after its worst spell in F1 by finishing ninth, sixth and ninth in three years together. The situation was not helped by McLaren’s continuous attempts to big up its potential heading into each campaign, only to fall well short of expectations.

The divorce was eventually finalised at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix, with McLaren announcing it would switch to Renault power from 2018.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

4: Bianchi accident prompts Halo introduction

Jules Bianchi’s crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and tragic death nine months later as a result of the severe head injuries he suffered at Suzuka sparked a further push to increase safety in F1. He became the first driver to be killed by injuries during a grand prix since Ayrton Senna in 1994.

In its constant strive to improve safety standards, F1’s governing body the FIA looked to find a solution to reduce the danger element of drivers heads being left exposed in the cockpit.

The Halo was tried and tested vigorously for a number of years alongside other variations - including a transparent ‘Aeroscreen’ device - before it was ultimately decided that Halo’s wishbone-shaped device was the most effective solution for protecting drivers.

Despite much controversy and opposition from fans and drivers alike surrounding both aesthetics and changing F1’s ‘DNA’ of being an open-cockpit, open-wheel formula, the Halo was introduced in 2018 after delays had prevented its initial planned debut for 2017.

Halo passed its first major real-world test at Barcelona during a Formula 2 race when it protected Tadasuke Makino from harm after Nirei Fukuzumi’s Arden was launched over the top of his car, with his rear-wheel making contact with the Halo. Makino later credited the device for saving his life.

Charles Leclerc also avoided injury when Fernando Alonso’s McLaren was sent airborne and bounced off his car during a massive pile-up at the start of the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, while Marcus Ericsson emerged unscathed from a terrifying high-speed role at Monza during the next race weekend.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

3: Rosberg’s bombshell retirement

Five days after pipping Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to win his first world drivers’ title at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg dropped a bombshell by announcing his retirement from F1 with immediate effect.

Rosberg had to dig deep to beat Hamilton following back-to-back title defeats in 2014 and 2015 and did so by winning nine of the season’s 21 grands prix to overcome Hamilton by just five points after finishing second behind the Briton during a tense showdown at Yas Marina.

He had taken the momentum from winning the final three rounds of 2015 into 2016 by kicking off the new season with four straight victories - a run that would prove crucial in setting up his maiden championship triumph. Hamilton fought back as the year went on and even won one race more than Rosberg, but poor reliability and some crucial mistakes ultimately cost him.

Less than a week after his success, Rosberg announced at the FIA prize giving gala in Vienna that he would be walking away from the sport to pursue other ventures and spend more time with his family, a decision which came as much as a shock to the Mercedes team as it had to the entire F1 paddock.

With Rosberg electing not to defend his title, Mercedes had to act quickly by finding a replacement. Young driver Pascal Wehrlein looked to be a frontrunner for the spare seat but eventually wound up at Sauber for 2017 as Mercedes instead opted to sign Valtteri Bottas from Williams.

Bottas’ exit from Williams resulted in Brazilian Felipe Massa coming out of his planned retirement to replace the Finn at the Grove squad for one more season in the sport.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

2: Liberty buys F1, Bernie is axed

One of the biggest moments of the decade came with the handover in ownership of F1’s commercial rights from CVC Capital Partners to the Liberty Media Corporation.

After 10 years as F1 owners, it was confirmed that CVC would be taken over by American mass media company Liberty ahead of the 2017 F1 season, kicking off a new era for the sport.

Then-supremo Bernie Ecclestone was initially expected to remain in his position as chief executive officer but was ultimately ousted once the takeover was formally completed in January 2017, bringing his remarkable 40-year tenure in F1 to an end.

Liberty’s purchase of the Formula 1 Group coincided with the arrival of Chase Carey as the sport’s new CEO, with former ESPN chief Sean Bratches drafted in to head up commercial operations, while ex-F1 team boss Ross Brawn joined as the managing director of motorsport.

The trio have spearheaded F1 into a new direction with plans to improve the championship both on and off the track and increase fan engagement with the addition of new ‘festival’ events and more activities on site during grand prix weekends. There were immediate visible changes too, with a new logo being introduced for 2017, as well as the addition of an official F1 ‘theme song’.

Liberty has pushed for additional races and an expansion of the calendar, with particular emphasis placed on widening its presence in the American and Asian markets. An inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, to be held on the streets of the country’s capital Hanoi, will act as its first new addition in 2020 alongside the revival of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, while a race in Miami is also planned in the near future.

It announced a five-point plan for the future of F1 beyond 2020 in 2018, with revenues, governance, sporting and technical regulations, power units and costs all at the forefront. Liberty is currently overseeing its first major task of getting all 10 teams to agree to a set of new rules for 2021.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

1: Hamilton swaps McLaren for Mercedes

Arguably, the single-most defining moment of the decade came back in 2012 with the shock news that Lewis Hamilton would leave McLaren for Mercedes.

Having been nurtured by McLaren since the age of 13 and making his F1 debut with the Woking squad in 2007, Hamilton cut ties with McLaren following a frustrating few years in which he had been unable to add to his sole title success from 2008.

The decision, which was heavily influenced following meetings with Mercedes chiefs Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn over the summer, was criticised by many who felt Hamilton was taking a massive risk by leaving the team which had one of the fastest cars on the grid in 2012 for a Mercedes outfit that had claimed just one race victory since returning to F1 in 2010.

Lauda and Brawn sold the move to Hamilton on the basis of Mercedes’ substantial push to get the new-for-2014 engine regulations right, which the team had starting working on long before its rivals.

McLaren replaced Hamilton with Sergio Perez for 2013, while seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher paved the way for Hamilton’s arrival after a rather unsuccessful second stint in F1.

2013 was something of a transitional year for Mercedes as Red Bull’s dominance of the early 2010s continued with Sebastian Vettel heading its charge. Hamilton scored one victory in Hungary and claimed five pole positions as he beat new teammate Nico Rosberg to fourth spot in the championship.

But what followed in 2014 began the start of a new period of dominance. Hamilton’s switch was fully justified as he became a two-time world champion, before going on to add four further crowns to his growing collection in 2015, 2017, 2018 and the latest in 2019.

Hamilton has proved almost untouchable in the V6 hybrid era, winning all but one of the drivers’ championships on offer to move within reach of matching Schumacher’s all-time record.

Since joining Mercedes, Hamilton has eclipsed multiple records and holds the most pole positions of any driver (88), most career points (3431), most grand slams in a season (three) and the most points in a season (413). He left McLaren on 21 grand prix victories and ended the 2019 campaign with 84, just seven shy of equalling Schumacher’s tally of 91.

The gamble has well and truly paid off, with Hamilton set to continue on the path towards making further history in F1 heading into the next decade.

F1’s top 10 defining moments of the decade

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