F1 popularity to surge after great season

Formula 1 will come out of arguably its greatest ever season as the ultimate winner, whoever clinches the world championship in the season finale in Abu Dhabi today

With four drivers still in contention for the championship in the final round at the Yas Marina circuit, the sport can expect one of its biggest ever television audiences as fans tune in to discover who is the 2010 title winner.

But rather than that success being good for just one man and team, leading team principals think the biggest success story in 2010 is the sport of F1 itself - which could benefit from the huge interest the campaign, and a lack of off-track politics, has generated.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "I hope and believe that it has been good for the sport. It is a fantastic sport, it is the pinnacle of motor racing - with the best cars in the world, and the best drivers in the world, competing.

"This year we have concentrated on what happens on the track, not what is happening in the paddock, and that has got to be good for the sport. People were getting fed up of the polemics that happened this side of the garages. The teams are working together better than ever, trying to balance the different views and opinions, and there is a different atmosphere in the paddock.

"A lot of people have contributed to that. Jean [Todt, FIA president] has, and all the teams have recognised that if this sport is going to get bigger and better then we have to work together. That is what we have to do.

"We are immensely competitive, so it is very easy for these truces and co-operations to fall apart, but the signs are good and we are going to have some great seasons ahead of us."

When asked if he believed 2010 had laid out a blueprint for F1's future, with forthcoming seasons expected to be just as exciting, Whitmarsh said: "It has been a particularly special year. Can there be more? I don't know, maybe not, but I hope so.

"There have been four great world champions fighting it out. I hope there are four great world champions fighting next year and we are lucky to have two of those in our team.

"The level and quality of stewarding of the events has been better this year, and Jean and his initiative to put a driver among the stewards has been a really positive thing in my view. So that is a step in the right direction.

"We have got McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, these are great teams. So I think it is going to be immensely competitive next year and there is no reason why it cannot be as great, but we cannot sit here and guarantee it either."

Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner, who has two drivers capable of winning the championship in Abu Dhabi, said: "This must go down as one of the best ever years in F1.

"It has certainly been exciting to be part of and, from a Red Bull point of view, we have added to the excitement this year. But to arrive here with four drivers in with a chance of winning, after 18 races, is remarkable.

"F1 now has some great venues and Bernie Ecclestone must be very, very happy with the way that F1 has delivered this year."

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