Silly season is a funny time in F1 – no pun intended – and 2020 has seen three rounds but it’s not over yet.
The 2010s featured 198 races across ten different seasons. There were some amazing races and there were some terrible races, but which were the best races? Let’s take a look at the top ten races of the decade.
10. 2010 Korean Grand Prix
The race that broke Australian Formula One fans’ hearts. Mark Webber went into this race leading the championship with only three rounds remaining and needed to finish only on the podium to really solidify himself as the man to beat in the final two grands prix.
A torrential downpour at the beginning of the race meant proceedings were halted after only three laps, and a 45-minute delay ensued. When the race finally got underway, Sebastian Vettel led away with teammate Webber maintaining an important second place.
But on lap 19 all of Australia cried out in pain. Webber spun and crashed out, taking an innocent Nico Rosberg with him. Sebastian Vettel then looked destined to take an important victory, but an engine failure with only ten laps remaining handed the win to Fernando Alonso and Ferrari and made the championship only tighter for the last two rounds.
It was a race that really summed up 2010: expected results turned on their head by unpredictable circumstances.
9. 2012 Spanish Grand Prix
The race that saw maybe the most unusual victory of the entire decade. Pastor Maldonado – the man, the myth, the legend – actually won a race. Crazy right? Was there a bigger shock this decade? Hands down, the answer must be no. And what makes this race even more impressive is it was actually pretty good.
Maldonado inherited pole position after Lewis Hamilton was excluded due to having insufficient fuel in his car after qualifying, but nobody really expected the Venezuelan to be in contention on race day. As soon as the race started and home hero Fernando Alonso took the lead, it seemed the obvious would happen and Maldonado would just fall back into the pack. But that wasn’t the case.
Maldonado undercut Alonso at the pit stops and then withheld the advances of the Ferrari driver to take the most famous of victories. What made the win even more strange was the fact it was the only podium of his entire career, and he wouldn’t finish any higher than fifth in his remaining seasons in the sport.
The race was also memorable for two other reasons: the pit fire that engulfed the Williams garage post-race and the crash between Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher for which the stewards gave the iconic German a five-place grid penalty that unfortunately denied him what would have been a famous pole position at the next race in Monaco.
Such an incredible result that to this day just seems almost laughable.
8. 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix
Famously known as ‘the duel in the desert’, this is perhaps the only event in the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix that is actually memorable. But what an exciting race it was, seeing two drivers at the peak of their powers battle it out in one of the most dominant cars in F1 history.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were sublime, battling closely lap after lap, with the closing laps especially tense. To see just how close each driver was to the other without ever touching was amazing, and it’s surely the race with the best wheel-to-wheel action of the entire decade.
It set a precedent in the hybrid era of what we were to expect for the rest of 2010s and showed that despite one team’s domination Formula One could still serve up some exciting action.
Beyond this battle, there was also the scary crash between Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonado, who had come a long way from his one victory to really showcase just why he would go down as the king of crashes of the 2010s.
7. 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix
Perhaps the best single race for a drive of the entire 2010s, Max Verstappen sold everyone on his abilities with one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport. After starting fourth, a series of events put Verstappen right back to the rear of the field, and he was sitting in 16th place with only 15 laps remaining.
But this didn’t deter the Dutchman, and he promptly overtook 13 cars to storm home to a famous third place. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner called it “one of the best drives he’d ever seen in Formula One, and many others agreed. It was incredible to see.
Even outside of this incredible drive the rain-affected race brought plenty of other excitement, including another flawless drive from Lewis Hamilton, who continued to put the fight into teammate Nico Rosberg for the championship. There was also the emotional scenes for the ‘retirement’ of Felipe Massa, with barely a dry eye in the house when he walked down the pit lane to a standing ovation after retiring from the race on lap 13.
6. 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Sorry, Fernando Alonso fans, I’m sure you want to forget this one. It was the race that arguably cost him his third world championship in one of the most tension-filled races in living memory. Alonso went into the epic title decider as favourite to claim the championship given his eight-point lead over Mark Webber. What made the decider even more exciting was that Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were also in with a shot at winning the championship, meaning it was the first and so far only time four drivers went into the finale capable of winning the title.
Alonso qualified third ahead of Webber but behind both Hamilton and Vettel, but if he remained in third he would be crowned champion no matter what. A slow start for the Spaniard dropped him back in the field, and a brush with the barrier didn’t help his chances either. Ferrari decided to pit him, but when he rejoined the track he found himself stuck behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
For 40 laps every single Alonso and Ferrari fan expected him to get in front of the Russian and make his way up to fifth, the position he needed to win title with Webber behind him. But it never happened. Alonso finished seventh, Vettel won the race and amazingly took his first title despite never having led the standings all season.
It might not have been the most exciting race in terms of action, but the tension, strategy and constant title ramifications every situation brought on made it for easily the most tense.
5. 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix
The one race on this list I was lucky enough to be at, the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix could easily have been remembered as the most famous victory of the entire decade, even more so than our earlier entry of the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. A predictable torrential downpour before the race delayed the start by an hour, and when action finally commenced the drivers were greeted by an incredibly wet surface.
Two drivers were able to manage the conditions more than anyone else: Fernando Alonso and surprise packet of Sauber’s Sergio Perez. It should be noted that having Alonso do so well was in itself a surprise given Ferrari had produced an absolute dog of a car in 2012 and weren’t expected to be anywhere near the front. Alonso and Perez battled it out for the remainder of the entire race, with many waiting for Perez to simply drop back into the field and be overtaken by faster cars. It never happened, however, and the Mexican actually led twice and in the closing laps caught Alonso at a rapid pace and looked like he was set to win.
But the Mexican ran wide on lap 50 and then ran out of laps to catch the Ferrari. He was forced to settle for second. It was still an incredible achievement for both Perez and Sauber as well as for Alonso and Ferrari, and the race summed up the opening parts of 2012 perfectly.
4. 2019 German Grand Prix
The most recent race on this list and one of those races that comes along every five or so years to completely amaze and excite every F1 fan. Lewis Hamilton at this point was set to march to his sixth world championship and Mercedes were once again the team to beat, but Hamilton made a rare mistake on lap 27, with changeable conditions making it tricky for the Briton as well as numerous other drivers.
With Hamilton dropping down the order, Charles Leclerc was seemingly handed an opportunity to pounce before he too binned it and crashed out of the race. Nico Hulkenberg also fell victim to the conditions in what could’ve been the race to break his podiumless streak. Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas all fell foul of the conditions too and kept audiences guessing just how it would all turn out.
It was Max Verstappen who braved the conditions the best to take his second win of the season in front of a charging Sebastian Vettel, who had started last on the grid, and the amazing Daniil Kvyat, who scored Toro Rosso’s second ever podium and first in 11 years. Lance Stroll was also superb to finish fourth, while Robert Kubica ended up scoring a famous point for Williams after both Alfa Romeo drivers were penalised after the race for a technical infringement.
It was an incredible grand prix that will stand the test of time.
3. 2012 European Grand Prix
Arguably the most famous win of Fernando Alonso’s career, the 2012 European Grand Prix was incredible on many layers. Alonso started 11th and fought his way up to fourth before the first safety was deployed. He soon moved up to third after Lewis Hamilton had a pit stop issue and then overtook the Lotus of Romain Grosjean to take second place.
When leader Sebastian Vettel retired with a technical issue the home hero took the lead, which he maintained to the end, and a weeping Alonso emotionally waved the Spanish flag around the circuit to became the first driver of 2012 to win more than one race.
What made the grand prix even more entertaining was the amount of overtakes and incidents throughout the field. Hamilton and Maldonado crashed with only three laps remaining, Grosjean also went out with a technical failure and all this attrition led to Michael Schumacher claiming his first podium for Mercedes and final podium of his career. It was made all the more special by the fact that Valencia usually produced mostly dull races, so it was a great little surprise to witness such a great race at a pretty boring circuit.
2. 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Any regular reader of mine will surely know of my love and fandom for Lance Stroll, so it mustn’t come as a surprise that I include a race that my main man got a podium on this list. However, that isn’t the sole reason it makes it and takes the runner-up spot, because the rest of the race was incredible. Incidents galore, overtaking, calm heads, faded heads – it had it all.
Who could forget that moment behind the safety car between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on lap 19 when Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton and promptly accused him of brake-testing him. Vettel drove alongside him and appeared to turn into the Mercedes, a brain fade that would later earn him a ten-second stop-go penalty for dangerous driving. Hamilton would also suffer from a damaged headrest, which cost him time and allowed Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull to take advantage and claim the win.
A bevvy of other incidents occurred throughout the race, and through all the carnage Stroll kept a level head to find himself in second position. He sadly fell to third on the line when Valtteri Bottas pipped him for the bigger trophy, but the fact Stroll ended up on the podium anyway showed not only how awesome he is (had to say it) but also just how crazy and entertaining this race was in general.
1. 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
There was no doubt in my mind this race would come out on top. It had absolutely everything. Four hours of stop-start racing mixed with rain, overtakes, crashes and the most outstanding of drives from Jenson Button made this an absolute epic. Button was involved in two crashes and six pit stops and yet somehow won the bloody race. How? How did he do it?
The Briton did get a lot of help from a Sebastian Vettel mistake on the final lap for sure, but it all somehow came down to keeping a level head and some brilliant strategy decisions along the way. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton definitely weren’t happy with Button in the race as they were both involved in the two crashes with the McLaren driver, but it was the overall excitement level and thrill of watching Button put on a show that makes this race the best of the decade.
Imagine getting up at 3am on the Australian east coast to sit around for four hours and wait and wait and wait. Somehow it was fine, though, with this being the result. If you haven’t seen it or haven’t watched it in a while, do yourself a favour and track it down. It’s worth every minute of it.