It's too easy to think of Williams as the champion team and race-winner it once was, but in reality over the last few years it hasn't been that team.
It put itself in a potentially vulnerable position with a change to the Cosworth engine unit for 2010. It's always difficult to change engines but I suppose it had no option. Rubens Barrichello brought a lot of experience to the team and seemed to help it understand the development direction required, and Nico Hulkenberg is a very good driver he just needed a season under his belt.
The Williams FW32 development went on all through the season and it did move forward, but most of that came from Cosworth extracting more from the engine than at the beginning of the season. You can't expect an engine manufacturer to come back to F1 and be at its maximum potential straight away. You have to be a little conservative on race day to make sure you're not going to blow the thing to pieces.
We didn't see a huge amount of improvements on the car as the season went by. But it kept up with everyone else by introducing its F-duct and blown diffuser systems. The team just seemed to slide along there in the midfield. It wasn't miles away but it did look more competitive on race day - perhaps because Cosworth found more power as the season went on.
But it was a nice car with a tidy front wing. Williams exploited the brake duct regulations really well in terms of the amount of flicks. I suppose you could say they did a solid job. But they're going to have to take a fairly major step to move forward.
For the first two thirds of the season, Renault probably had its best year in terms of development direction. It really had a good understanding of where it wanted to take the R30 and the packages it brought to the car worked.
Renault enjoyed a good year © Sutton
The team began the season with a car that was fairly primitive, but for that reason it left a lot of room for development. The first development was what could be called the first of the three-dimensional three-element front wing assemblies, it was very neatly engineered and integrated very well with the end plates. It was immediately effective and the team had a good understanding of it. It was also one of the first teams to make the F-duct work by changing the airflow on the rear wing mainplane as opposed to the flap, this gave a greater drag reduction and hence a greater straight line speed advantage.
A lot of teams copied Renault, which was a big compliment to what it was doing - and the team was very competitive.
The problem was that two thirds of the way through the season that seemed to stop. Whether it was because Renault didn't have the man power to continue that as well as working on next year's car, or whether it was down to budget, I don't know. But in the last few races Renault didn't keep the momentum up.
Still, what I saw in the first two thirds of the season makes me think that in 2011 Lotus Renault will be a very strong team.
This was a disappointing year for Mercedes after it took over the championship-winning Brawn team. Brawn GP performed exceptionally post-Honda, but was last year a flash in the pan and was 2010 its real level? That's the big question.
The team did a reasonable amount of work this year, lengthening the wheelbase particularly, and in reality it was about as competitive as the Brawn car was towards the end of last season. It didn't have the best second half of 2009 and it won the championship the strength of its dominant performances in the first half.
Last year the team changed the front wing assembly for Turkey, and Button won that race, but since then it has maintained the two-element front wing and I don't believe it has shown anywhere near the same performance window as it had at the start of 2009. I think it boils down to those little things. The airflow off the front wing was different after that, which closed down the direction of development.
Mercedes disappointed in 2010 © Sutton
The team went down a very strange and complicated route with the F-duct system, feeding air through the underfloor and up the rear wing endplates into the mainplane volume, and then into the flap. For some reason Mercedes didn't want to just copy everyone else and connect the engine cover to the rear wing, but that didn't really matter as it had copied the F-duct to the rear wing already.
Mercedes seemed to be out to prove a point to itself by doing it differently - but it didn't really come off. Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher blamed the front tyres, many times, for not being strong enough. But the Bridgestones were obviously strong enough for other cars out there, including team-mate Rosbergs. Their job was to make the car work on the tyres available - that's what single-tyre supplier design is all about. The days of Bridgestone developing a tyre especially for Schumacher has gone, they have to make their package work.
The developments Mercedes made this year were limited and tame. It didn't really attack. It was just small stuff, nothing that got me excited.
The Ferrari F10 was a bit strange in my book. Before the season began, the team looked like its car used its tyres best over race distances, and during testing it was very good. And at the first race of the season, it looked like Ferrari had the car as well. But then it seemed to lose it somewhere.
Ferrari didn't do anything too dramatic in development until it introduced a different front wing mid-season, when it went to a three-element component. I think that was the biggest development it made all season, but even at the last race of the year it was still back-to-back testing the three-element version against the older two-element version. Ferrari didn't seem to believe it was the right way to go.
The front wing is the most crucial element of an F1 car. Nothing else on the car can work if the front wing is not doing its job correctly. It's very difficult to develop a front wing to optimise the rest of the car. All it does is give you the opportunity to do things to the rest of the car.
Ferrari didn't see an advantage in its front wing and kept questioning it. I think it was still a little bit confused as to which part of the car made it go quickly. I didn't see that commitment that allowed them to really develop it. That's not to say it was bad. Ferrari almost won the championship - but the reason for that was more that Red Bull often failed to deliver on Sunday afternoons, not because Ferrari was actually that close in terms of performance.
Looking at the whole season I just don't believe Ferrari had a good handle on how different packages on the car functioned. Given that it was doubting itself after developing the front wing right up until the last race of the season, I don't think it bought into the fact that you've got to go with your concept and develop other bits around it.
If you keep changing the front wing, you're changing an area that impacts the rest of the car. Sometimes it's better just to keep what you've got and allow yourself to exploit the rest of the car to the maximum. If not, you close the door on your developmental direction before you start.
The MP4-25's development is difficult to summarise. The car was aerodynamically very sensitive to the ground. Its pitch sensitivity was much more critical to its performance than that of the Red Bull or Ferrari. When you have that to work with, you can keep developing all kinds of bits for the car that generate more downforce. But while you might give the car more grip, you can also make it more problematic to drive.
McLaren had to work in two different directions © LAT
McLaren had to work with two very different drivers, with Jenson Button's 'finger-tip' style and Lewis Hamilton's 'by-the-seat-of-his-pants' approach, and you can see that Lewis was able to get more out of the car. I think that's because Jenson doesn't like cars that are not as nice to drive. He needs the car to suit him more. It was similar to the dynamic between David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen in the late '90s. Mika would drive around anything but David needed it how he liked it in order to match the Finn.
The team's development during the season never really fixed the pitch sensitivity. If you keep developing a car around an inherent problem, you just keep making the problem bigger. You might make the car faster, but the problem is still there. McLaren didn't make the car any worse, as far as the pitch sensitivity was concerned, but it still limited its performance from one track to another. It made it quite difficult to get the set-up right.
When you heard the drivers on the radio complaining about the tyres going away quickly, it showed they were relying too much on the balance of the Bridgestones - the car wasn't balanced well enough in its own right. Like Ferrari, I'm not sure McLaren really got a handle on what worked well for the MP4-25.
Red Bull found itself in the enviable position of having the quickest car at the beginning of the year. And it ended the season with the quickest car too. The development required on the RB6 was mainly just tinkering - optimising various aspects and components. The team did a very good job of that and the car was quick everywhere.
For the first half of the season, other teams constantly tried to identify something illegal with the Red Bull - from some form of automatic ride-height device to a flexing front wing and even the under-floor flexing.
Once the FIA came to rule on things, Red Bull was still able to maintain an advantage. The crucial point was that Adrian Newey and his team had a car they understood and were able to develop it and be clear on the direction they were going in.
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