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F1 2010: The Year of ‘Meh’ – why it was not the best season ever

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The word ‘meh’ was added to the Collins English dictionary in 2008, describing indifference or apathy towards a particular subject. But if it was to symbolise a year in F1, it couldn’t be that one – 2008 was the best season I have witnessed in the time I have been following the sport. Nor could it be 2009 – despite the fact that the championship was wrapped up with a race to go, it had great storylines, underdog successes and political scandals aplenty to keep everyone occupied. Nope, if anything, it symbolises 2010.

You have or will read many reviews of this season saying it’s the best ever season of F1 ever in the history of the entire world ever (exclamation point). And, if you want to be objective, you could argue this – we have never seen a 4-way title decider before, and 3 teams shared the mantle of having the best car throughout. However, ignoring the fact that many of these writers have an agenda to say how wonderful this year was, their argument doesn’t stack up. The races themselves were generally quite dull, with overtaking seemingly less prevalent than ever and no stand-out classic, and I don’t see how it can be considered the greatest season in F1 history if this was the case – you need classic races to make a classic season.

And while the front-runners did vary, the front was almost continuously dominated by McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull – only Kubica and Rosberg otherwise made the podium, making only 8 drivers all year, the lowest total since 2002. This tended to make it reasonably predictable, with no great underdog stories – the gap between the contenders and the likes of Force India and Williams has grown. In that sense, it was much like 2007 – not that great as a cumulation of individual races, but the championship battle came together nicely for a “dramatic” (if that’s what you want to call the Abu Dhabi GP) conclusion. As it happens, 2007 only saw 8 drivers make the podium as well…

‘Meh’ could be used to describe the drivers too. Every driver out there once again had a flawed campaign, but there were few moments of total genius. Indeed, perhaps the driver that had the most of these had a season that isn’t rated highly by the pundits – Button. If you wanted to be particularly negative about the drivers,you could argue that the champion, Vettel, made numerous big errors and happened to have the best car. Same goes for Webber. Hamilton too made crucial mistakes at Monza and in Singapore, while Alonso had a very average first half of the season. I do not endorse this view, as I believe Schumacher’s dominance raised the bar of expectations of how many mistakes a top driver should make in a season to an unrealistic level, but there is definitely room for an F1 fan to feel underwhelmed by the “quality” of the champion, no matter who had taken it in Abu Dhabi.

It was a year of disappointment further down the field as well. Even the best of the rest, Kubica and Rosberg, had a tendency to be inconsistent and never genuinely looked like winning races. Schumacher’s return to F1 was a mess of mistakes and a lack of pace, with no podiums to show for it. Massa was blown away by Alonso, and by the end of the season, Hamilton had asserted serious authority over Button at McLaren. Youngsters like Senna, di Grassi and the crash-happy Vitaly Petrov were perceived to be struggling, while GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg, widely expected to be rookie of the year, also disappointed for much of the season, and even a pole position in Brazil, the best surprise story of the year, couldn’t save his drive. And that should serve as another point – the drift by teams, particularly in the midfield, towards paying drivers is another disappointing aspect of this season.

Politically, it was a very quiet year as well, with the Todt regime looking to avoid controversy in its first year. There were brief moments of debate, such as the Ferrari team orders affair at Hockenheim and Schumacher’s penalty at Monaco, but no great scandals as we have seen in recent years. The biggest off-track story was probably the feud between the Red Bull drivers and the tensions within the team, which conveniently resolved itself nicely for the Austrian team. Even the silly season was quiet, with few drivers changing drives for 2011 due to the number of long-term contracts signed last year at the front.

But, of course, I am being very negative. And intentionally so – that’s the whole point of this article. It wasn’t a bad year at all – no year where there are 4 contenders going into the final race of the season could be a bad year – I’d give it at least a 7, if not an 8 out of 10, if you want an arbitrary rating. However, that doesn’t mean we should overlook the faults of the season or pretend it was 100% non-stop action and excitement for the whole year. For me personally, there was a slightly mediocre, average undercurrent to the season. While we got a titanic title struggle as I hoped, maybe even expected at the start of the year, I was never able to totally immerse myself in this season. While the results themselves were rarely predictable, particularly at the front with unreliability hitting the fastest driver-car combination of Vettel and Red Bull quite often, going into each race it felt like it was going to be predictable. There were high points of unexpected drama in the races, usually involving Red Bulls, but flashpoints of excitement don’t make races exciting as a whole.

It is a gut feeling thing primarily, and it’s different for everyone, but I didn’t get an awful lot out of this year – in many years time when we’re looking back at this golden era of F1 in the late 2000s/early 2010s, I don’t think it will add a great deal to F1 history, whereas last year was a game-changer. It is unusual that I enjoyed last year more despite the fact that there was a runaway leader, and even though this year my favourite driver on the grid was well in title contention right up to the end and at the heart of what drama there was, but F1 isn’t solely down to the number of contenders involved at the final race. Perhaps certain journalists ought to take that into account when publishing their season reviews…

Now that all that’s out of the way, I will post a solely positive analysis and review later…

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Written by James Bennett

December 2, 2010 at 15:01

Posted in F1, F1 drivers, F1 teams

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