The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

Marcus Simmons
The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

Concluding the series celebrating 70 years of Formula 1, Autosport picks out the 12 moments that defined the 2010s, with the help of the extensive Motorsport Images archive

It was a decade of two periods of total domination, and the 2010s is the last of our seven instalments celebrating the defining moments of Formula 1 history.

The 2010s began with four successive titles for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull as the era of naturally aspirated, 2.4-litre V8 engines played out. Then in 2014, the new V6 turbo-hybrid 1600cc powerplants were introduced, and it was Mercedes all the way. Since then, Lewis Hamilton has added five championships to his 2008 title, only interrupted by one for Nico Rosberg in 2016.

As such, the defining moments of the decade were less the successes than the flashpoints that inevitably arise when two leading drivers find themselves in the dominant car with only each other to beat.

But those aren't the sole stories of the decade, which also include the tribulations of Fernando Alonso as he vainly sought the crown with Ferrari and then McLaren, and ended up on the F1 sidelines, and the rise of sensational new talents in the forms of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. They will surely feature heavily when the defining moments of the 2020s are compiled...

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

The first major team-mate controversy of the decade breaks out at the Turkish Grand Prix, in late May 2010.

Red Bull-Renault pair Vettel and Mark Webber are level on points at the top of the table heading to Istanbul Park, and the Australian is leading the race with 18 laps to go.

In what will become a signature blunder, Vettel makes an inside pass on Webber but then, appearing to forget that the sister Red Bull is there, he moves across to take his line for the following turn and, predictably, they collide. Vettel is out on the spot, while Webber needs to pit for a replacement front wing.

McLaren duo Hamilton and Jenson Button gleefully slip past for a 1-2, while Webber finishes third to take a temporary championship lead.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

No wonder he looks happy. Vettel has just become the youngest ever F1 world champion by winning the 2010 season finale, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Red Bull-Renault star is just 23 years old. He has emerged on top of a four-way final-round shootout that also encompasses team-mate Webber, Ferrari's Alonso and McLaren-Mercedes ace Hamilton.

A rank outsider anyway, Hamilton is cheerful enough, but Alonso and Ferrari have arguably thrown the title away. He arrives at Yas Marina eight points ahead of Webber and 15 in front of Vettel.

Ferrari, which will make a habit of strategy blunders in the 2010s, gets sucked into defending Alonso from Webber's challenge. While Vettel - who has escaped the attentions of Ferrari's tacticians - scampers clear to win, Alonso gets mired in seventh behind Vitaly Petrov's Renault. No wonder he looks grumpy.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

It's often forgotten that the first seven rounds of the 2012 world championship were won by seven different drivers: McLaren pair Button and Hamilton; Red Bull duo Vettel and Webber; Ferrari star Alonso; Rosberg with a Chinese GP victory that is Mercedes' first since its return as an F1 constructor in 2010; and... Pastor Maldonado with Williams-Renault.

The Venezuelan's success in the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona is the most unexpected of the decade, yet is not flukey at all - he's competitive all weekend, and gains the lead when he undercuts Alonso at the pitstops.

After the race, fire breaks out in the Williams pit garage, causing many injuries. The win is the team's first since 2004, and the last to date.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

Out on his own. Red Bull's Vettel, already crowned world champion for a fourth successive season, heads for victory in the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, the final round of the campaign. It represents the ninth consecutive win for Vettel, a record that still stands.

From 2010-13, Vettel has won 34 of the 77 grands prix, as a series of Adrian Newey-designed, Renault-powered Red Bulls proves invincible.

But this is the last race of the 2.4-litre, V8 era. From 2014, F1 will switch to 1600cc, V6 turbo-hybrid cars, and Vettel is well-beaten in the points by incoming team-mate Daniel Ricciardo before heading off to Ferrari.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

He's just 17 years old, and for that reason alone the FIA gets worried and begins writing closing-the-stable-door-after-the-horse-has-bolted superlicence-qualification regulations to prevent it ever happening again.

But Verstappen is no ordinary 17-year-old, and his F1 debut in the 2015 Australian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso, at the start of just his second year in car racing, is fully merited. He's simply the most exciting talent to arrive at the top of the sport in a generation.

He qualifies 11th at Albert Park before retiring with engine problems, but is in the points second time out thanks to a seventh place in the Malaysian GP.

He takes 12th in the final standings as a rookie, with 49 points to the 18 of 15th-placed team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

All smiles at Sepang. Alonso is pictured at the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix with McLaren boss Ron Dennis and Honda motorsport chief Yasuhisa Arai. McLaren, fed up with being a Mercedes customer, has been seduced into a tie-up with Honda - its engine supplier in the team's golden 1988-92 era - and has recruited Alonso, disenchanted at Ferrari after five years without winning the title.

The two-time champion has missed the season-opening Australian GP while recovering from concussion sustained in a Barcelona testing shunt, so Sepang is his race return to McLaren, over seven years since the acrimonious split at the end of 2007.

It represents the beginning of a disastrous era for McLaren, with Alonso openly blaming Honda for lack of performance.

Results barely improve when the team switches allegiance to Renault for 2018, and it's only when Alonso departs for 2019, and new management begins to take effect, that the team makes significant progress with the cheerful pair of Sainz and Lando Norris.

PLUS: Why McLaren is not missing Alonso

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

Mercedes team-mates Rosberg and Hamilton collide in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, putting both out of the race on the first lap.

Hamilton has made a run on Rosberg on the approach to Turn 4, only for Rosberg to edge Hamilton onto the grass, where his car spears out of control and crashes into the sister machine.

The Barcelona shunt is part of a run of incidents between the evenly-matched pair - see also Belgium 2014 and Austria 2016 - that feature relatively hamfisted attempts at toughness from Rosberg.

The beneficiary this time is 18-year-old Verstappen who, on his debut for Red Bull after being promoted from Toro Rosso in place of Daniil Kvyat, becomes the youngest man ever to win a grand prix.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

He may not be the greatest racer F1 has ever featured. In fact, he's far from being the best racer the Rosberg family has ever produced. But on his day he's as quick as anyone and, Hamilton-clash blunders aside, Rosberg has been splendid during the 2016 season.

Rosberg has come into the final round, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, needing only to finish second to Hamilton in order to emulate his father Keke and become world champion. This he does, although Hamilton cheekily ignores exhortations from the Mercedes pit and drives deliberately slowly to back Rosberg into the chasing pack, where he could be vulnerable. The ploy fails, and Rosberg is champion. Five days later, he announces his retirement.

PLUS: When Rosberg's retirement shocked the world

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

Watch out behind you! The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix brings controversy under caution.

Hamilton is leading, complaining about the safety car being driven too slowly, when he checks up at a tight corner. Vettel is caught out and taps the back of the Mercedes; then, on the following straight, he deliberately swerves his Ferrari into the silver car.

The moment of rage costs Vettel a Baku victory, as he is given a 10-second stop-go penalty for his offence, and Hamilton has lost his chance of winning thanks to needing to stop to replace a loose headrest.

Ricciardo, thanks in part to an audacious late-braking move on a restart in which he passes three cars to go third, inherits the win in his Red Bull-Renault.

PLUS: How the 2017 F1 title fight exploded in Baku

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

After enduring three successive Mercedes titles, Vettel is well in the reckoning for world championship glory with Ferrari in 2017. Entering the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, he has already won four races this season and trails Hamilton by a mere three points.

Mercedes has struggled in qualifying at Marina Bay, with Hamilton and new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas locking out the third row, while Vettel is on pole.

Vettel's getaway is poor, and he swerves across on Verstappen, but the Red Bull driver has a rocket-starting Kimi Raikkonen bursting up his inside. Verstappen, in avoidance of Vettel, makes contact with Raikkonen, who as a result is pitched into Ferrari team-mate Vettel, well and truly hoist by his own petard. The incident eliminates all three plus Alonso's McLaren, hit at Turn 1 by a helpless Verstappen.

The beneficiary? Hamilton. He can scarcely believe he gains 25 points, and the win puts him on an inexorable path to his fourth crown.

PLUS: The Singapore debacle was no racing incident

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

After the Vettel/Red Bull domination of 2010-13, F1 fans know that, however predictable the Mercedes steamroller in the second half of the decade, there is always the chance of a gaffe or some fury from Vettel. The 2019 Canadian Grand Prix pays out spectacularly on both fronts.

An error from Vettel, while leading under pressure from Hamilton, puts the Ferrari briefly off the road, and Hamilton has to check up to avoid hitting the red machine as it spears back onto the Montreal track. Vettel is given a five-second penalty for rejoining unsafely so, although he beats Hamilton to the flag by 1.3s, he is classified second.

His comical response in parc ferme, swapping the '1' and '2' boards to denote that he is the winner, enters F1 legend.

PLUS: How F1 boxed itself into a corner with penalty own goal

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

The young generation arrives. In his second season of F1, and his first as a Ferrari driver after swapping seats with Alfa Romeo-bound Raikkonen, Leclerc looks on track to take his maiden win in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.

But that's reckoning without Verstappen, on a charge after his anti-stall kicked in at the start, relegating his Red Bull from a front-row start to an initial ninth.

Verstappen makes a move into the tight uphill right-hander at Turn 3 on the 69th lap of 71; Leclerc tries to shut the door, there's a bump between the two, and Verstappen is through. It is the first win for engine supplier Honda since its return to F1 in 2015.

Leclerc, once bitten twice shy, rebounds by taking his first victory later that summer at Spa, before doubling up in front of Ferrari's home fans at Monza.

PLUS: How Leclerc beat Vettel to be Ferrari's favourite

For more from the Motorsport Images archive, click here.

The F1 moments that defined the 2010s

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