Will Gray

Gray Matter: 2010 Review – Best-performing drivers

Will Gray

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Sebastian Vettel may have triumphed in a titanic battle for the world title itself - but championship table aside, who truly stood out on the track in 2010?

In Formula One, it is fair to say that the car counts for more than the driver so in assessing the best drivers of the season it is important to consider how each performed with the equipment they were given. With that taken into account, however, it is still hard to argue against the talents of the new world champion...

1. Sebastian Vettel

This year's title was Vettel's for the taking right from the start. The fact that he failed to win it - and in fact failed to even top the table - before the final race was mostly down to his fragile Red Bull machine rather than down to him, and although he did lose his cool and made some careless mistakes in the middle of the year, he certainly appeared to learn from them. What made him stand out from the rest, though, is that as the season came to a close, when the pressure was on, he really came into his own.

Vettel was exceptional in the closing stages and although he started the final five races of the season fifth in the championship, 24 points behind the leader, his team-mate Mark Webber, he never gave up. In Singapore, Fernando Alonso and Ferrari were ahead but he pushed the Spaniard hard and came home in second place. He then took three poles and won three times in the remaining four races, with faultless personal performances to steal the crown. Aside from the standout statistics, that performance alone proves he was the class of the field, bar none.

2. Fernando Alonso

Pre-season predicted Ferrari to be a title contender but it was Alonso, despite only just having joined the team, who had to keep things together in what turned out to be a chaotic start to the season. Despite winning the opening race, Ferrari fell apart - but Alonso kept his cool and, unlike his predecessor Kimi Raikkonen, continued to remain relatively upbeat and talk positively about turning things around in the future.

Importantly, too, Alonso quickly got a handle on his team-mate Felipe Massa and made the team his own. By the middle of the year, all the Ferrari effort was already firmly behind him and he only narrowly missed the title having virtually matched Vettel result for result. His typical approach of aiming for consistent podium finishes over out-and-out victories almost won him the title, with seven top-three finishes in the final 10 races - but in the end Vettel was consistently quicker.

3. Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg's chances of success in 2010 were quickly written off when it was announced Michael Schumacher would join him at Mercedes, especially when the team accepted the seven-times champion's request to switch race numbers, hinting at his effective number one status before the season began. But right from the off Rosberg, who joined the team with high praise from former employers Williams, refused to be intimidated.

In the first four races he out-qualified Schumacher and took two podium finishes while Schumacher had a best finish of sixth. Schumacher could have been forgiven for some comeback nerves, but it didn't stop there. By the end of the season, Rosberg qualified ahead of Schumacher 15 times in 19 races and beat him in all but three of the 15 races in which they both finished. But what was most astonishing was their relative points: Rosberg was just two shy of doubling Schumacher's score - a great performance and a real statement of his own success.

4. Robert Kubica

Although McLaren-Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton both had reasonable seasons, neither shone dramatically when compared against each other - indeed, Hamilton was far from dominating Button in the way many expected him to do this season while Button started well but then tailed off disappointingly. Instead, it is Robert Kubica who must take fourth spot in the top drivers list thanks to his consistent performances in helping Renault punch above their weight in 2010.

Kubica's consistency in qualifying was superb and had he not missed the cut in the final race of the season he would have been the only driver other than the two Red Bull men to compete in every top-10 shoot-out this year. He firmly out-performed his team-mate, 2009 GP2 runner-up Vitaly Petrov, in qualifying (17-2) and in the races that they both finished (12-0), and almost singlehandedly steered Renault to fifth place in the championship, scoring 136 of their 163 points and matching chief rival Nico Rosberg's tally of three podiums over the year.

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