McLaren’s decision to pair the two most recent world champions provoked pre-season speculation about whether they might fall out.
But while the Lewis Hamilton-Jenson Button pairing worked well, McLaren faced other difficulties during 2010.
Not least in terms of car development, as they ran into trouble trying to keep pace with Red Bull and Ferrari.
|Best race result (number)
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|Championship position (2009)
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McLaren stole a march on their rivals at the start of the season with their innovation dubbed the ‘F-duct’ – known internally as the RW80.
Simple in concept but difficult to execute, it allowed their drivers to stall the rear wing on straights, reducing downforce and drag while it was not needed in order to reach a higher top speed.
It took a while for their rivals to successfully implement their own versions of the F-duct. In the meantime McLaren enjoyed a strong first half of the season, with four wins shared between their two drivers.
Those who expected Button to show Hamilton the way were in the minority. But he grabbed two opportunistic wins in the first four races, partly thanks to spot-on tyre calls in wet conditions.
Hamilton suffered setbacks which left him to rely on the MP4-25’s straight-line speed (thanks in part to that F-duct) and his overtaking prowess to make up places at Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai.
At Melbourne Hamilton was infuriated by being summoned for an extra pit stop which ultimately cost him places before he was hit by Mark Webber. He was at odds with his strategists again at Istanbul when he was told Button was holding station behind him – only for Button to pass him for the lead.
Hamilton reversed the move and went on to win, then made it back-to-back victories with a top-drawer performance at Canada. Second places at Valencia (despite a penalty for overtaking the safety car) and Silverstone propelled him into the lead of the drivers’ championship.
A combination of setbacks kept him and McLaren from the titles. Not least of which was uncharacteristic unreliability.
While Hamilton had enjoyed excellent reliability in his first three seasons, he retired from the top four positions with car problems twice in 2010 and had a double-whammy of gearbox glitches in Suzuka.
Button fared better: his sole race-ending mechanical failure of the year at Monte-Carlo was the result of a mechanic leaving a cover on an air intake. He was frustrated by a faulty dashboard in Spain as well.
On top of that the team’s development path led them into trouble. The plan to add an exhaust-blown diffuser at Silverstone was aborted and in the later races they simply couldn’t match the race pace of Red Bull and Ferrari. A new rear wing seemed to solve their problems in the final round but it was too little too late.
Hamilton also rued a costly clash with Felipe Massa at Monza, blowing a chance to take points off the Red Bulls.
Two weeks later in Singapore he was rather luckless when contact with Webber caused another retirement. Still, if he had a Get Out Of Jail Free Card he played it at Spa when he disappeared into a gravel trap while leading and dragged his car out again, still in first place.
Button rallied at Monza by gambling on an unusual high-downforce set-up which, allied to the F-duct, nearly won him the race.
But, as in 2009, qualifying was again a weakness and he started outside the top ten in Britain, Hungary and Brazil. His hopes of retaining his title were finally extinguished after a disastrous race in Korea.
Hamilton stayed in the running until the final round and although he ended the year fourth he was just 16 points behind winner Sebastian Vettel at the end of a remarkably close season.
In their first season having regained independent status McLaren comfortably beat Mercedes. But this battle between the Mercedes factory outfit and the top Mercedes-powered team will be one to watch in 2011.
McLaren’s 2010 season in pictures
2010 F1 season review
- The complete F1 Fanatic 2010 season review
- Lewis Hamilton voted best driver of 2010
- The best guest contributions of 2010
- F1 Fanatic’s 50 best articles of 2010
- The 2010 F1 season in 100 pictures
- 2010 F1 driver rankings part four: the top three
- Vote for the best F1 driver of 2010
- 2010 F1 driver rankings part three: 8-4
- 2010 F1 driver rankings part two: 17-9
- 2010 F1 driver rankings part one: 27-18
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