Season Review: Vettel becomes champion despite season of reliability woes
The 2010 Formula One season will be forever remembered as the most closely fought year of racing in the sport's history, after it took the full complement of 19 races to crown the champion, having had four drivers still in contention going into the final weekend. Cries for immediate canges to the sport following the processional season-opener in Bahrain are a long and distant memory after an otherwise thrilling, action-packed and edge-of-your-seat season of qualifying and racing, punctuated by various curveballs that ensured the fans remained enthralled until the final lap in Abu Dhabi today.
In truth, the title should always have belonged to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, having performed so strongly throughout the season. Blips in Turkey and Belgium blighted a tremendous season for him, only to be let down by his machinery time and time again. Had he not suffered an unfortunate engine failure in Korea, he would have ended the year with four consecutive victories but instead had to settle for five race wins, enough to take the crown by four points from Alonso.
Alonso may have proven to be one of the strongest drivers in the latter half of the season, but will lament mistakes he made in the early part of the year that ultimately cost him his third championship. Errors in Australia, China, Monaco, Canada, Britain and Belgium all cost him valuable points, but will be encouraged to have come so close in a car that was usually significantly slower than the Red Bull.
The world champion's team-mate Mark Webber saw his title chances take a plunge when he crashed early in the Korean Grand Prix, costing him a potential victory before ending the year 14 points adrift. He had been consistent throughout the year, but never had the sheer pace of his team-mate, and only stayed in contention due to the poor reliability on the other RB6.
As for the final championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, like Alonso they both will be pleased to have gone so far with a car that was more often than not the third best in the field. Had it not been for their innovative F-duct, it's likely the MP4-25 wouldn't have come anywhere near a world championship fight, but even with two of the best drivers in the business in the cockpits they had to settle to be the second-bet constructor for the seventh time in 12 years.
Vettel was speechless after winning the race. "I'm a bit speechless to be honest, I don't know what you're supposed to say in this moment," he said. "It's been an incredibly tough season for myself, for all of us, physically and mentally especially. To come here, we have always kept believing in us, in our team, in the car, and I kept believing in myself.
"To be honest I didn't know anything until I crossed the chequered flag. In the last 10 laps I was wondering because every lap my race engineer was trying to give some advice and trying to help me to carry the car home. And I was thinking 'Why is this guy so nervous, we must be in a bloody good position'.
"And then crossing the line he came on the radio very silently and said 'It's looking good, we have to wait until the cars finish', and I was thinking 'What does he mean', because I hadn't seen the screens, I just wanted to make sure not to have any distraction, just to focus on myself. Then he comes on the radio and screams to me that we have won the world championship."
At the tender age of 23 years, 4 months and 11 days, Sebastian replaces Lewis Hamilton as the youngest ever world champion, a day that has been coming for many years ever since he scored his first world championship point on his F1 debut with BMW in 2007, recorded his maiden victory at Monza the following year and pushed Jenson Button hard for the title last season. He will carry the number 1 on his car next year and has already been installed as the favourite to successfully defend it come the 27th of November 2011, when the next season of F1 racing will conclude in Brazil. Few would argue against such predictions.