Red Bull and Vettel triumph in spite of themselves

2010 F1 season review

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Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2010

Red Bull had the fastest car of 2010 – but they made life difficult for themselves.

The domination of the RB6 often made Saturday qualifying sessions a foregone conclusion. But the team only won half the races.

Still, despite several crashes for Sebastian Vettel – including one catastrophic intra-team smash – the Milton Keynes-based team captured both titles.

Red Bull team stats 2010

Best race result (number) 1st (9)
Best grid position (number) 1st (15)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 5 (2/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 2109 (93.4%)
Laps led (% of total) 699 (61.91%)
Championship position (2009) 1st (2nd)
Championship points (2009*) 498 (376)
*using 2010 system

Having ended 2009 as the team to beat, Red Bull skipped the first week of testing while Adrian Newey put the finishing touches to his latest brainchild.

Once it hit the track the RB6 quickly proved a worthy successor to his greatest cars, such as the Williams FW14B and McLaren MP4-13.

Its qualifying performances particularly frustrated the team’s rivals. At first suspicion surrounded a claimed ride height-lowering device, but none was found.

Later in the season the team’s front wing was seen to be dipping at some circuits to produce extra downforce. The FIA increased the severity of its chassis tests but this only seemed to lessen, not eradicate, the suspicious flexing.

While the RB6 shared the performance characteristics of previous Newey creations, it also bore another family hallmark – dubious reliability.

Although Red Bull’s race-finishing rate was no worse than McLaren’s, for Vettel the car chose the least opportune moments to break down. It robbed him of wins at Melbourne and Korea and on several other occasions Vettel had to drag a faltering car to the flag.

At the beginning of the season the balance of power was tipped in Vettel’s favour. Even at Sepang, where Mark Webber took a brilliant pole position by gambling on intermediate tyres on a drying track, Vettel nabbed the lead at the start and took the win.

Webber hit back with a pair of pole-to-flag victories in Spain and Monaco. He started at the front of the grid again at Istanbul after Vettel suffered a roll bar failure in qualifying.

This put the pair on a collision course and all hell broke loose when Vettel tried to pass his team mate for the lead on lap 40. Vettel edged towards Webber, triggering a crash that ended Vettel’s race and left Webber on a damage-limiting run to third.

Now the gloves were off, and Webber wasted no time in calling the team’s decision to hand a new specification front wing to Vettel in Silverstone a sign of their favouritism.

Webber, who had survived a terrifying crash at Valencia two weeks earlier, won the day, while Vettel made a scrappy recovery drive to seventh.

Vettel’s perceived weakness in overtaking was underlined when he crashed into Jenson Button while trying to overtake the McLaren driver at Spa. But this marked a late turning point in his season – from then on he was never headed by Webber again.

Monza was one of the few tracks at which the RB6 did not excel. Vettel overcame an engine problem during the race to take a useful fourth on a day when he couldn’t challenge Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

A mistake on his qualifying lap at Singapore proved costly as it allowed Alonso in for another win, Vettel chasing him home. But at Suzuka – a circuit he has developed great fondness for – nobody could touch Vettel.

Webber, meanwhile, saw Alonso move ahead of him in the drivers’ championship. He lobbied Christian Horner to impose team orders and have Vettel play a supporting role as Felipe Massa had been ordered to at Ferrari.

As I pointed out at the time, Red Bull could have taken the World Motor Sport Council’s decision not to enforce the team orders rule in an effective fashion as their cue to back Webber, and ordered Vettel to let him by whenever he was running directly in front of his team mate over the final six races.

Had they done that, Webber would have been champion. To their credit, they did not do this, as it would have involved Vettel pulling over at Singapore, Japan and Brazil.

Smart race strategy was an under-rated strength of the team’s in 2010. It saved Webber’s race in Singapore, allowing him to salvage third, thanks also to some pin-sharp overtaking and a huge slice of luck when he survived contact with Lewis Hamilton.

At Interlagos Webber re-stated his claim that the team were secretly favouring Vettel. But he had a secret of his own – he revealed after the season that he had picked up a shoulder injury ahead of the final four races. He denied it affected his driving, but at this crucial point in the season his form clearly dipped.

He carried the blame for crashing out in the rain in Korea and was off the pace in the final round at Yas Marina. In a season where the gap between him and Vettel in qualifying was often just hundredths of a second, he was over half a second adrift at the final race, and slumped to eighth on Sunday.

While Alonso and Ferrari took themselves out of contention, the way was clear for Vettel to grab his fifth win of the year and the title along with it.

He had never led the championship at any point previously in the season, though arguably he should have been ahead from round one. If Red Bull can marry speed and reliability in 2011, and Vettel can replicate his late-2010 form across all 20 races, this will be the first of many titles for team and driver.

Red Bull’s 2010 season in pictures

2010 F1 season review

Browse all 2010 F1 season review articles

Image © Red Bull/Getty images, Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Red Bull and Vettel triumph in spite of themselves”

  1. Craig Woollard
    16th December 2010, 9:52

    Despite what anybody can and will say, deserving of both titles, the best car and the quickest driver all season long…

    1. the best car and best car and best car, not the best team, not the best drivers, but with a car like that….

  2. Its qualifying performances especially particularly the team’s rivals

    … I’m pretty sure there’s a typo there somewhere

    1. Definitely not the best drivers! if alonso, hamilton or even button (as he showed with the brawn) had been given a car that was half a second faster (and sometimes even more) than the rest of the field, they would have done a 2002 season.

      1. Yeah, even Yamamoto would have got the job done quicker!

        Do you remember how many points Vettel lost through reliability? Or that his car broke in one way or another in at least 6 races this season?

      2. The RB6 was the fastest car, but no matter how good you are you cannot drive a car when the break-pad has exploded or the engine has given up.

  3. Nice to see the review of RBRs season. I do think their strategy started working out only in the second half of the season.
    In Melbourne and China especially the pit stop strategy certainly did not help Webber and it was not too good for Vettel as well.
    But I agree, that the car was a real trademark Newey. Superbly fast but with reliability gremlins.

    Some words fell out of the sentences as well Keith (I suppose that is what the poster above refers to):

    Its qualifying performances especially particularly the team’s rivals.

    I suppose this should be something like “especially stunned/suprised/thrashed their rivals”.

    And it should be extra downforce here instead of extra circuits

    was seen to be dipping at some circuits to produce extra circuits

    1. Ah you already changed them before i finished the post. Great work Keith!

  4. A lot can be said about Vettel’s overtaking abilities but I think he’ll improve with time, and having the title will make him calm down a bit. You can’t blame him for being a little bit nervous/impatient/impetuous when everyone expected him to dominate in the fastest car (and he didn’t because it kept breaking down).

    The fact that Webber managed (wrongly or not) to picture him as the villain and get all the (british) press behind him can’t have helped. I was therefore very impressed with how he managed to recover mentally from Spa, and how he dealt with Korea. I think he grew a lot this season (0.003 cm- his words!).

    1. Get the British press behind him? Strange comment. To what do you refer specifically?

      1. Maybe that was unclear; I meant that the British press was supporting Webber in the Webber/Vettel battle, at least for most of the year.

        The turning points were
        1) Korea, where Webber messed up and you had to feel sorry for Vettel having another car failure and
        2) Brazil, where I know at least some people found Webber’s decision to attack the team a bit strange and untimely.

        If you’re asking about specific journalists, I guess I’m referring mainly to Autosport, but that’s the general feeling I got from reading articles during the year.

    2. I want to see Vettel in a 3rd or 4th fastest car next year. I want to see how he wins races without the “fastest car”.
      All we have seen of him is taking pole and winning from there. We know he can be fast but I want to see him do an Alonso or a Hamilton next year.
      Only then will I be convinced about his World Champion status!

      1. He already has WC status. But like Button, you’re curious about whether or not he is really a champion or a one time fluke. Because it’s winning more than one WDC as the real measure of a driver’s skill.

        My thoughts though are that the Red Bull is still the car to beat with Ferrari close on their heels. It might not be this season but hopefully soon.

        1. Same with Hamilton though. Alonso is already proven by winning 2 titles, Lewis needs to deliver a secomd one at least, he is always there or there abouts, but he can flatter to deceive…

          1. Hamilton is a fantastic driver!
            He has nothing to prove! So is Alonso.
            Put either of them in P2 or P3 or further down n u can be assured tht they ll give the ppl in front a run for their money. Put them further down in P20 or so and the race ll be legendary. however, do the same with vettel and you ll probably see a few cars jumping into the pit lane for new wings. :)

    3. Pretty much agree, except that the British press didn’t turn against Vettel, but perhaps they warmed to Webber a bit more – but didn’t everybody?

      Vettel was a bit clumsy on occasion, but reminiscent of Hamilton in his first two seasons when he struggled to find the balance, Vettel’s just taking a bit longer. When it mattered the nerves seemed to desert him and he finished the season brilliantly, after retiring in Korea his rueful smile to Helmut Marko said it all, his head was in the right place. A well-deserving champion.

      Webber was a bit up and down too, but I think that was more down to desperation – he’s not going to get too many more chances to go for the title. I agree with Keith, it’s a bit suspicious that his dip in form coincided with his shoulder fracture, but nerves must have played a part too.

      The correct team won both championships in my opinion: two great drivers and a car head and shoulders above the competition for a large part of the season. Inexperience meant they made it look harder than it needed to be, but who makes their first WDC look easy? Very few.

  5. H.O.T.Y Headline of the year! Brilliant Keith… I’m laughing my *** off!

  6. They absolutely desereved the WDT & WCT!
    In fact, IMHO there isn’t a constructor and/or driver that didn’t deserve their title.

    Same goes for Senna in 1990, Schumi in 1994 and Hamilton in 2008. Now, whether they won it fairly or not is another question though… ;)

    1. What was wrong with 2008? I beleive it was Lewis who was nearly robbed of the title with the Spa change of result that dropped him from 1st to 3rd!

    2. @Calum:
      Hamilton winning the WDT in a silver F2008 was wrong with 2008!

  7. The correct team won, in spite of their worst enemy–themselves.. Yes, Vettel only wins when he is up front. You will never see him making a breathtaking charge through the ranks like Alonso and Hamilton. Even Webber is better at overtaking than Vettel. I would have been happier had Webber (finally) won, but I am satisfied that Vettel won rather than my favorite (Hamilton). I can’t wait to see what next season brings!!

    1. Erm, I was at Silverstone this year and i’m pretty sure Vettel stormed his way through the field then, even bashing Schumacher out the way while he did it….I got a brilliant pic of that. Sure he didn’t win but it was a great drive.

  8. Kudos to you Keith. An extremely balanced review. No favoritism or sympathy towards either driver.

    It is incredible to see how the perception of the team in the media changed. After Turkey, Red Bull and Vettel were the villains while Webber the third favorite of the entire (British) press. But when, Red Bull did not pursue team orders, in spite of huge pressure from Webber himself, the team won great applause from the British press.

    Vettel will probably never be forgiven for crashing to Button at Spa. It was pretty different to Michael’s crash with Damon Hill in 1994. But the end result is going to be the same. A British driver punted off the race and championship by his German rival and the German driver never winning any praise from the British press.

    1. I think you should give the British press more credit than that! You don’t see any bad things written about Vettel and his Button crash anymore, because he dealt with it well- apologised repeatedly, even during the Abu Dhabi press conference! It was obvious to everyone (including the british press!) that he didn’t do it on purpose and that he had nothing to gain from it, and that makes it completely different from the Hill/Schumacher incident.

    2. Thank you!

      Vettel will probably never be forgiven for crashing to Button at Spa. It was pretty different to Michael’s crash with Damon Hill in 1994. But the end result is going to be the same. A British driver punted off the race and championship by his German rival and the German driver never winning any praise from the British press.

      I’m not sure people do see it that way to be honest – Schumacher’s move was obviously deliberate whereas Vettel was out of control. There might be some people who thought he swerved into him intentionally but I don’t think that’s a majority view. The overwhelming sentiment towards Vettel afterwards seemed to be that he was a bit useless, not deliberately trying to take someone out.

      1. I think had it been Hamilton or Webber (Was Alonso close at the time?), it would have been big deal, but it seemed counter productive to harpoon Button and it was obvious it wasn’t on purpose

      2. I think the UK press quite like Vettel, I mean he does all the interviews and is quite a light hearted guy – eg singing Crazy Frog when he won in the Silverstone race of 2009.

    3. It didn’t even occur to me that Vettel taking Button out at Spa made anyone dislike him, it was an accident and at worst people took it as further evidence that Vettel wasn’t good at overtaking.

      The Schumacher Hill incident in the 1994 title decider was completely different as most viewed it as a deliberate move on Schumachers part.

      Judging by the views I have read I would say the reason some dislike Vettel is because he seemed to be favoured by Red Bull management.

    4. Vettel just tried to overtake and made a mistake. As Hamilton did with Webber (Singapore?). That’s all.
      In fact, people should not be so critical about overtaking attempts.
      I wish Alonso had at least tried to do the same with Petrov! I support Ferrari, but the only victory he truly deserved was the one in Italy. Crashing in Monaco (practice) and SPA (alone) didn’t help at all.

  9. Great title, great text.

    It’s not a question of “deserving”, but comparing. I wish I could see Lewis or Robert in RB6 this season in some kind of alternative history…

  10. Fully deserved title for both team and driver.

  11. I wanted Webber to win the title but I was happy that Vettel won it without Team Order, well done Red Bull for keeping things clean on track.

  12. Lack of reliability also took Vettel’s certain win in Bahrain. Regarding team mates playing team mates, I always find it interesting that had Webber been in 2nd place in Abu Dhabi, people would have expected Vettel to let him through. Webber, however, never tried to help him out in that race by trying to overtake Alonso – he just sat there behind the Ferrari, secretly hoping that Alonso would overtake Petrov and Rosberg to take the title away from Vettel. You know: If I can’t win, better anybody else than Vettel.

  13. If Red Bull can marry speed and reliability in 2011, and Vettel can replicate his late-2010 form across all 20 races, this will be the first of many titles for team and driver.

    Probably, yes.
    Hopefully, no.

    1. Probably yes,
      Probably yes.

      Can Mclaren and Ferrari catch up over winter?

      Probably yes,

      Will Vettel win the 2011 title?


      1. I’m happy with this thought.

  14. You put the best drivers in the best cars and its boring. This season was anything but boring. You can therefore easily conclude where Vettel & Webber rank. Certainly behind Alonso & Lewis, probably Button and maybe Rosberg.

    But whats this nonsense about deserving. You win it and thats all that matters.

  15. I think Red Bull have come to be very glad they had the best car all year, because next year I think they will cease to be dominant. Once Ferrari had the EBD sorted and flexi-wings neutered the game was up. As this year showed, the job is never sewn up on Saturday. Next year the cars will start off closer, so Red Bull have to hope Vettel delivers on his reputation, learn how to win from behind and can improve his head-to-head fights or it’ll be a fleeting dominance.

  16. I think some are a little harsh on Sebastien Vettel. We all agree that the 2010 Red Bull F1 car was the class of the field, especially over a single lap and especially in the hands of the German. I have to laugh at the age old argument some are making about ‘Vettel only winning because he had the best car’, which was the same tone after Button’s truimph in the Brawn Gp in 2009.
    When Fernando Alonso won his first championship for Renault back in 2005, they did not have the fastest car. McLaren had the car with all the pace but also all the fragility. Alonso had the car with the speed that failed him less often than Raikkonen’s McLaren.
    When we look at Vettel’s 2010 season there are atleast two grands prix wins that were denied him due to unreliability issues. So he hasn’t had it all his own way, plus he has had a team mate in Mark Webber who has pushed him every step of the way and at times rattled him.
    Vettel’s weakness is his over eagerness. When he f##ks up, its often in the biggest and most embarrassing way. Crashing out in Turkey and Belgium the way he did, on both occasions whilst trying to overtake and getting it horribly wrong, reminded us that Vettel is still rough around the edges.
    The year Hamilton won the championship he also managed to rear end Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the pitlane due to failing to spot a red traffic light. So Sebastien is in good company when it comes to learning ones trade the hard way.
    What would concern me if I were a rival is that Vettel has time, and apparently those behind the Red Bull team, on his side. He is eleven years younger than his team mate Mark Webber, seven years younger than Button, six years than Alonso, and two than Hamilton. If Adrian Newey continues to weave his magic for the boys from Milton Keynes, then Sebastien Vettel’s future is very rosy indeed. The mistakes overtime will lessen. ‘The f##king kid who doesn’t know what he is doing’ remark by Mark Webber back in Fuji 2007 has never appeared more ironic as it does now.

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