Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull on winning both the driver’s and constructor’s championships in the 2010 Formula One competition…
A lifelong fan of Ferrari, to me it’s always great to see one of the scarlet cars win a race, and one of their drivers win a title. But not Alonso. I’ve never been able to warm to him; no matter how much I used to enjoy watching the sport’s other Dick Dastardly, Schumacher, rummage around desperately trying to scupper everybody else’s race in an effort to gain his own advantage, Fernando Alonso’s petulant, toys-out-of-the-pram approach to underhand tactics has never quite matched the German’s despicable panache.
And there’ll always be a question mark over the Spaniard’s innocence in the whole Singapore Crashgate of 2008.
So as the cars lined up in Abu Dhabi yesterday, with Alonso having to do little more than ensure he was on the podium to win the title, I couldn’t help feeling a little … discombobulated. A Ferrari driver winning the world championship? Great. Fernando Alonso being world champion? To me, not so great.
As the lights went out and the race started – with Alonso having qualified third and his only real title rival, Mark Webber, sitting fifth – it seemed that for me and my mates in the pub all we were going to have to do was sit there, drink a few beers and get ready to raise a toast to the Spanish guy’s third driver’s crown.
A safety car period followed the end to Michael Schumacher’s ignominious return to F1 as Liuzzi tried to drive over his head, but when the Mercedes SLS peeled away and the race resumed Webber and Alonso snapped away at each other until, stuck in traffic, the Australian made a decision to pit. Tactically, it seemed the right thing to do; sadly, it turned out to be a woeful error. By doing so, he almost certainly handed the championship to Ferrari’s driver.
Except that Ferrari made the rare tactical error of deciding to cover Webber’s stop by pitting Alonso straight away too, rather than calculating where he might sit if they watched the race ahead of them.
The result was catastrophic for the two main title protagonists, leaving them in positions outside of the points and stuck behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who in turn was driving for the glory of his team and to save his own F1 career from going up in smoke after just one season.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Vettel, who had been a rank outsider for the title at the start of the race, set about doing what he needed to do: win the race.
Despite stiff opposition from the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who were racing to secure McLaren’s position of second place in the Constructor’s Championship, the young German went on to ensure he finished the race first. It was up to Webber and Alonso to get themselves in to a position to stop him and sadly, for them, they couldn’t do it.
The result was a new world champion in the form of Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull, while second and third place on the podium alongside him was taken by the driver’s champions of the preceeding two years. Alonso and Webber could only manager seventh and eighth respectively; not enough to dent Vettel’s victory.
In frustration, Alonso pulled alongside Petrov in the warm-down lap and shook his fist at him, clearly blaming the Russian for scuppering his title chances. Unsurprising behaviour from the Spaniard, who seemed to have spent much of the race just hoping that Petrov would get out of his way, rather than challenging him for position.
Even Alonso’s race engineer was getting frustrated: “we know you have a lot of talent,” he said to his driver over the radio. “Now use it!”
Fernando was, however, magnaminous in defeat and did at least praise the Renault driver on a good race when interviewed later.
And that, as they say, is that. The 2010 Formula One season is over. It started with an Alonso victory in Bahrain, a race so dull that it belied the level of excitement that was to follow, and ended with Red Bull taking both the Constructor’s Championship and the Driver’s Championship in well-deserved, hard fought victories.
One is left to wonder what 2011 will bring. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari will all be strong, each determined to win, but Mercedes could be a good outside bet. After a year sitting around in the doldrums, they’ll be keen to make their mark and give their German drivers a car capable of winning the title.
But the big question now is this: what am I going to do to fill the next 117 days until Formula One returns…?