7 races, 5 drivers, 3 teams, 1 title on the line
14 August, 2010
Aug.14 (Phillip Horton) For the first time in many seasons, after 12 of 19 races there are still five drivers in with a shout of winning the 2010 Formula One World Championship.
Actually, not just a shout, more of a scream. After all, fifth placed Fernando Alonso is only 20 points behind Mark Webber. In new money, that’s less than one win. In 2009 terms, nine points cover the three world champions from 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 and the two other drivers who having the privilege of driving one of the best F1 cars for years.
The season so far has had it all: controversy, crashes, thrilling overtaking, rain and more importantly, totally unpredictable! But with just seven races left, who has the mettle to continue the fight and to leave Abu Dhabi with a rather large trophy.
Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing – 161 points
For Webber, this is the best chance he will get at winning the title – and he knows it. Having won four races, he has been victorious more times than his rivals and he has the bit between his teeth. As shown with his ‘not bad for a number two driver’ comment after winning at Silverstone, he’s a no-nonsense bloke. He’s made very few mistakes this season and he has the psychological advantage over Vettel. Not just that, but many neutral fans have supported Webber after the infamous crash in Istanbul and Red Bull shifted the blame on the Australian rather than the German. At this point, he leads the way so is naturally the favourite. In the past he has been known for bottling it when he gets near the front, but this isn’t the case in 2010. Yes, he has made a few errors – including that spectacular flip in Valencia – but his mindset has been to push as hard as he can, but at a pace he can control, an attribute which his team mate has sometimes been lacking. Webber is currently oozing with confidence and you feel that he has rattled Vettel on more than one occasion so far. Just 7 races lie in Webber’s way of becoming Australia’s first champion in 30 years. He has to continue driving flat out and forget about the championship. As previous champions have indicated, you tend to drive for points nearer the close of the year and this can affect your confidence – just look at Button in 2009. With Webber going up against three champions for the top honour, he has to drive as fast as he can for as long as he can and not think ‘3rd would be good’. Not only this, but he has the car to dominate on tracks that suit the RB6 (and according to the man himself, only Monza should be a challenge for the Milton Keynes squad). Either way, you’d be foolish to underestimate Webber.
Lewis Hamilton – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – 157 points
Driver of the season? I would say so. The Lewis Hamilton of 2010 has matured a lot since the man who became champion in 2008. In Monaco, the car was all over the place yet Lewis took fifth, in Silverstone he was the only driver to come close to Webber whilst he split the Red Bulls in Spain. A stunning performance for which he cruelly gained nothing. He has messed up a few times – qualifying in Australia and Malaysia for example – but he has made very few errors compared to his rivals. Furthermore, he made up for these errors by making some stunning overtaking moves and his sheer determination was shown in Montreal as he became the only man so far in 2010 to break Red Bull’s qualifying domination. He has got into trouble a few times this season and has had a few slices of luck – most notably in Valencia – but he has also suffered a lack of it in Australia, Spain and Hungary. The maturity is highlighted by a slight separation from his father. They are still very close but Lewis has distanced himself from his father and is starting to become more independent. The next two races are pivotal for McLaren as despite the sweeping second sector at Spa and the potential time loss to Red Bull being anything up to a second through there, McLaren’s speed should be phenomenal in S1 and S3. Then there’s Monza… If Lewis leads after Monza then he will be the favourite; anything more than a 25 point deficit and you’d find it difficult to place money on him. He’s maximised his chances of winning a second crown and after cries of him not deserving the title in 2008, few would be able to deny him the right to 2010 glory.
Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing – 151 points
In theory, Vettel could have taken 9 wins out of 12. He really should have at least six. But in reality he has just two. He’s the master of qualifying and if the world championship was decided by grid position, he’d have two hands on the trophy. But on Sunday, something goes wrong more often than not. But why? Well, it’s a combination of errors from Sebastian and the team. Yes, Vettel can say he’s inexperienced but he’s only started nine races less than Lewis Hamilton. The team lost him wins in Bahrain and Australia whilst errors from Vettel put paid to his victory chances in Istanbul, Britain and Hungary. If anything, Vettel has so far been the big loser of 2010. He started the season as a sort of golden boy, yet after Istanbul he was – rather unfairly – perceived as the villain of the paddock for his actions in the race, subsequent behaviour and mollycoddling from the team. You get the feeling that he’s feeling the pressure: the bad starts in Britain and Germany and his behaviour during and after the race in Hungary. You get the feeling that he’s tense whilst Webber is extremely relaxed. This is shown in the Race Edit of the Hungarian Grand Prix, available on the Official Formula One website when Webber emerges from his stop in the lead. Vettel, sounding angry, says “How the f*** is Mark in front of me? How is that possible?” The ongoing rumbles are that Red Bull would prefer Vettel, rather than Webber, to win the title whilst Dietrich Matsechitz has rubbished this and has firmly stated that it doesn’t matter, so long as one of them wins it. Vettel is only 10 points behind Webber but he needs a good, error-free performance. Maybe a bit less finger wagging on Saturdays will help.
Jenson Button – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – 147 points
“Jenson will be murdered by Lewis”. That was the pre-season prediction given by Eddie Irvine, the 1999 runner-up who knows all about being up against a tough team mate. Jenson has firmly proved this not to be the case and he was quick out of the box with two wins in the opening four races. But in the dry, Jenson has been lacking a few tenths to Lewis and he continues to struggle a car which is ever so slightly not to his liking. Unlike Lewis, he finds it difficult to deal with a car that can be a bit difficult and despite taking points in every race but one (where he retired whilst in the points with an engine issue); you get the feeling that Jenson needs an unusual race to throw him back into real contention. Jenson is at his best when the car is supreme and in the wet where clever, thinking drivers are what are needed. His own calls in Melbourne and Shanghai gained him 50 points but with the MP4/25 not performing brilliantly at the current time, Jenson has to beat Lewis in the next two races or McLaren may start favouring Hamilton as the season comes to a close. He hasn’t embarrassed himself with his 2010 performances, after all, he has come to Lewis’ team, working with brand new people (and with several engineers as his permanent one fell ill after Turkey – get well Jakob) and with a few issues along the way. Asked recently by F1Racing magazine whether he would have taken his current situation at the start of the year, his answer was an emphatic ‘yes’. Button needs an unusual race to climb the standings but a second world title is still there for the taking, so long as he can perform better on Saturdays.
Fernando Alonso – Scuderia Ferrari – 141 points
Had this article been written before the German Grand Prix, you’d have laughed and said that Alonso stood no chance. But he reminded us before the race that Kimi was 26 points down (65 in 2010 lingo) on Hamilton in 2007 but still won. Two races later and as Fernando himself said, “20 points is better than 47”. A win in Bahrain was followed by a mediocre time as Alonso made uncharacteristic mistakes in China and Monaco whilst he was a bit unlucky in Canada and Europe. The fire is still burning – no doubt about that – and he is determined to win the title after a few miserable seasons with McLaren and Renault. Some comments he has made have not been received well, such as claiming the European Grand Prix was ‘manipulated’. Perhaps he regretted those comments when he was gifted a win by Massa just four weeks later. Ferrari seems to have got back on track and their new front wing which was introduced at Silverstone seems to have worked well. Fernando said after a poor showing in Turkey that he was disappointed at the team’s work rate compared to McLaren and the Scuderia appear to have responded to his comments. Unlike his four rivals, Fernando has the luxury – as shown in Germany – of having a team mate who isn’t in contention for the title and can back him up when possible. Fernando has been there, done that, and a third title is still possible.
It’s shaping up rather nicely indeed – stay tuned!