Despite Red Bull’s and later Mercedes’ domination, numerous legendary races took place throughout the 2010s. Championship matchups, rivalry amongst teammates, and rain-soaked pandemonium contributed to some unforgettable events over the decade. In light of this, what are the best F1 races of the decade?
- 2019 German Grand Prix
- 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix
- 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix
- 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
- 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix
- 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix
- 2019 Austrian Grand Prix
- 2012 Spanish Grand Prix
- 2018 German Grand Prix
- 2012 European Grand Prix
The name “Formula” was given to the sport for a reason. And this list owns that title. This list is constructed from the best drivers, unpredictability, and the best entertainment the decade has seen. So, to get that engine revving inside you, let’s take a look at why this list remains the best F1 races of the decade.
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F1’s Best Races Of The Decade
Even though just a few Formula One World Champions were crowned during this decade, the races were thrilling. Pirelli introduced stiff compounds to F1 in 2011, when they became the exclusive tire makers.
Overtaking became more complex, and tire management became a significant factor in securing a Grand Prix victory. There were, however, enough jaw-dropping sights. Starting with the 2019 German Grand Prix, here are all the thrills this list has to offer.
2019 German Grand Prix
The 2019 German Grand Prix is the first runner-up, and it was chaotic yet exciting. Hamilton hadn’t been defeated in a rain-affected race when the grid lined up in Germany since the 2014 Hungarian GP.
Given some of Verstappen’s past efforts, most notably at the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, he seemed only fitting to be the driver to bring the streak to a stop. And he accomplished it in one of that wacky and wet rainy events.
Because both Ferraris had problems, Leclerc began 10th and Vettel 20th, other fast cars were out of position, adding to the excitement. “A magnificently chaotic and feverishly entertaining ‘snakes and ladders’ German GP,” Autosport said following a race chosen the finest of the decade by fans in an F1 survey.
Hamilton took the lead right away, while Verstappen’s Red Bull dropped from second to fourth. Despite safety car and virtual safety car interruptions, Hamilton dominated the early portions of the race.
Verstappen climbed to third place and put pressure on Bottas. The Red Bulls were the first to swap to slicks, but Verstappen spun on his out-lap and fell behind. And a charging Leclerc was able to leap them both thanks to a mix of outstanding speed, a delayed halt, and another VSC.
Because of Hamilton’s delayed stop, Leclerc was poised to take the lead, but instead, he crashed out at the Sudkurve right-hander. Despite deploying the safety car once again, Hamilton fell off in the same spot as before.
He made it back to the pits, albeit with a five-second penalty for entering the pits on the wrong side of the bollard, for repairs. Despite his spin, Verstappen was still in front at the lap-34 restart. Before Hulkenberg crashed and the safety car reappeared, Bottas and Hamilton surged back up to second and third.
Many of the remaining runners pitted for slicks, allowing Lance Stroll’s Racing Point to take the lead briefly until Verstappen blew through. Because of the many plans and bets made behind him, Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso was now third and would shortly pass Stroll, but Vettel was the man on the move.
When Bottas had experienced a crash and brought out the safety car for the last time, he was in sixth place. At the restart, five circuits were remaining, and Vettel immediately overtook Sainz’s McLaren.
He passed Stroll two laps later and overtook Kvyat on the last tour, giving him an improbable podium finish. Hamilton finished 11th after many pit stops and a spin, but he moved up to ninth after the Alfa Romeos were disqualified. His wet-weather streak came to an end amid great fanfare.
2012 Brazilian Grand Prix
The 20th race of the 2012 season will go down in history as one of the most bizarre of the decade. Vettel started fourth in the last round with a 13-point lead over championship contender Fernando Alonso, with Alonso in ninth.
Mixed conditions contributed to the excitement as the race started to a frantic start, with Vettel slipping to ninth after a poor start before being forced into a spin by Bruno Senna’s Williams at Turn 4.
Even though he was facing backward with the field closing in on him, Vettel managed to stay in the race despite damage to his side pods, dropping to 22nd and dead last.
After staying out on slicks as light rain fell, Nico Hulkenberg led for Force India. Still, a half-spin allowed Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. The two collided at Turn 1 as Hulkenberg slid into Hamilton’s McLaren while attempting to reclaim the lead, putting both drivers out of contention for victory Lap 54.
Jenson Button took up the lead and went on to win his final Grand Prix, as well as McLaren’s final triumph in Formula One. Vettel’s stunning recovery drive to sixth was enough to beat Alonso to the title by three points despite the Spaniard’s own surge to second.
Alonso was on track to win his third championship. Still, Vettel became F1’s youngest triple world champion following a late pass on Michael Schumacher, who withdrew from the sport for the second time after Brazil.
2014 Hungarian Grand Prix
“An absolute masterpiece,” Autosport opined, “it will be remembered for years to come.”
Because Hamilton had to start from the pitlane due to a fuel leak in his Mercedes during qualifying, poleman Nico Rosberg maintained a comfortable lead early on in the wet conditions.
After a terrible opening lap, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was locked behind Button’s McLaren. Still, the Australian’s luck arrived when Marcus Ericsson crashed, bringing out the safety car too late for the leaders to pit. Ricciardo was capable of doing so, and he did.
Ricciardo established a lead over Massa’s Williams, ahead of a thrilling duel for third between Alonso, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, Rosberg, Vettel, and Hamilton had risen from the pits despite an off on lap one.
Ricciardo and Massa pitted again when Sergio Perez crashed and brought out another safety car, leaving Alonso at the top of the field. Ricciardo surged ahead of the area while others pitted, eventually taking the lead on lap 54 of 70.
The numerous strategies in play throughout the final laps added to the excitement. Ricciardo was in fourth place, but he got new softs. In the third position after that, Rosberg came to his last stop and launched his own charge. Alonso took the lead on worn-out soft tires, while Hamilton finished second on worn-out mediums.
Despite his worn tires, Alonso managed to keep off Hamilton, but Ricciardo was a different story. He boldly went around the outside of Hamilton at the Turn 2 left-hander with four circuits to go, making it stick at the downhill right-hander. Alonso was now vulnerable in turn three.
Next time around, Ricciardo snatched victory by diving inside the leading Ferrari into Turn 1, while Rosberg’s surge ensured he finished on third-placed Hamilton’s gearbox.
2011 Canadian Grand Prix
A Montreal classic will go down in history as one of the best races of all time, earning its place on this list. The race began under Safety Car circumstances due to torrential rain, which soaked the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Sebastian Vettel held off Fernando Alonso early on to keep his lead, while Mark Webber was sent spinning by Lewis Hamilton, who slipped behind McLaren teammate Jenson Button for the second time.
The two collided again on the start-finish straight, with Button seeming to push Hamilton into the wall, forcing Hamilton to retire with a damaged rear suspension. Button had already pitted for intermediates when he was penalized for making up ground too soon under Safety Car conditions, lowering him to 15th.
It was an uncommon occurrence for the race to be stopped due to severe rain and thunderstorms on Lap 26. Vettel reclaimed the lead at the restart, but Button dropped to last after a collision with Alonso resulted in a puncture.
A perfectly timed changeover boosted Button’s remarkable comeback through the field to slicks as he scythed his way back up the order.
Button moved up to second after late passes on Webber and Schumacher before closing in on Vettel and forcing the German into a vital error on the final lap, allowing Button to snare an improbable and surprising victory.
A 4-hour, 4-minute, 39-second race set a record for Formula One. Button established a new record for the most pit stops (six) by a Grand Prix champion, while Bernd Maylander set a record for the most Safety Car deployments.
2014 Bahrain Grand Prix
The ‘duel in the desert,’ as it is called, is probably the only event in the Bahrain Grand Prix’s history that is truly remarkable. But what a fantastic race it was, with two drivers at the pinnacle of their abilities battling it out in one of F1’s most dominant machines.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were in fine form, battling lap after lap, with the last few circuits especially stressful. It was incredible to witness how close one driver got to the other without ever touching, and it’s without a doubt the race with the best wheel-to-wheel action of the decade.
It established a pattern for what we may anticipate in the hybrid era for the remainder of the decade, demonstrating that Formula One could still deliver thrilling racing despite one team’s dominance.
Beyond this fight, there was the terrifying collision between Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonado, who had gone a long way from his one triumph to illustrate why he would be remembered as the king of 2010s accidents.
2016 Brazilian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton put on a wet-weather masterpiece with perfect performance to win his first-ever Brazilian Grand Prix and keep his title aspirations alive ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Still, it only tells half the tale of the race.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, then 19 years old, was the true show-stealer, finishing a surprising third behind the Mercedes combination after staging a stunning return to complete the podium.
Verstappen had previously made several incredible passes in the dreadful circumstances, but a Red Bull strategy error forced him to pit with fewer than 20 circuits to change to full wet weather tires, leaving him in 14th place.
On the other hand, the Dutchman cut his way through the pack with ease to finish third in a three-hour thriller that will go down in history as the longest F1 race ever staged at Interlagos.
Both Rosberg and Verstappen avoided a hairy aquaplane moment as their vehicles got sideways coming up the hill out of the final corner. Marcus Ericsson and Kimi Raikkonen, however, were not so lucky, as they caused a red flag after spraying debris across the track after striking the wall along the start-finish straight.
Felipe Massa was also affected by the weather conditions at the final corner, crashing out of what was supposed to be his final Brazilian Grand Prix before retiring. It resulted in emotional scenes as he walked through the pit lane, greeted by a guard of honor and the Brazilian flag draped over his shoulders.
2019 Austrian Grand Prix
Verstappen dropped from second to ninth after a poor start, and a lock-up gave him a vibration. But all of that just served to set the stage for a stunning assault and climax with fellow rising talent Leclerc.
He pulled away from Bottas during the early stages, but he stopped very early – lap 22 of 71 – in reaction to Mercedes stopping. Verstappen led the Ferrari by nine laps, giving him a tire life advantage.
Verstappen had only done nine circuits to reach sixth place. A brilliant pitstop put him ahead of Hamilton, who had to resort to lifting-and-coasting to keep engine temperatures down, a challenge that Bottas would also face. Verstappen was 12.9s behind Leclerc after 32 circuits.
According to Autosport, now started the charge of an “irresistible Verstappen, who demonstrated the speed and persistence that will one day make him a world champion.”
On the run to Turn 4, he relieved Vettel of third-place using DRS on lap 50. He passed Bottas entering Turn 3 six circuits later and was now five seconds behind Leclerc with 15 laps remaining.
Verstappen pressed up the inside at the Turn 3 right-hander with four laps to go, but Leclerc had a faster exit and outbragged the Red Bull on the outside to reclaim the lead, with Verstappen leaving him room.
Leclerc left the door open in the same corner the second time around. Verstappen surged up the inside again, this time running the Ferrari out towards the exit curb, pushing Leclerc off the road for a brief while. The winning maneuver was tricky, but the FIA stewards ruled it fair, setting a precedent for future wheel-to-wheel racing.
There was compassion for Leclerc, who was still looking for his first Grand Prix victory at the moment, but the right driver had triumphed. F1 had done the same. “On a good day for F1, Verstappen shines,” Autosport observed as the 2019 season got underway after Mercedes’ early-season dominance.
2012 Spanish Grand Prix
The race that produced maybe the most unlikely triumph of the decade. Pastor Maldonado, the man, the myth, and the legend, won a race. Isn’t it crazy? Was there a more shocking event this decade? Without a doubt, the answer is no. What’s more impressive about this race is that it was actually rather excellent.
When Lewis Hamilton was disqualified for having insufficient fuel in his vehicle after qualifying, Maldonado inherited pole position, but no one anticipated the Venezuelan to be competitive on race day.
As soon as the race began and local favorite Fernando Alonso gained the lead, it appeared like Maldonado would simply fall back into the pack. That, however, was not the case.
Maldonado beat Alonso to the pit stops and then fought off the Ferrari driver’s attempts to win the most memorable triumphs. The fact that it was the lone podium of his whole career, and he would never place higher than fifth in his remaining seasons in the sport, added to the strangeness of the victory.
Two other notable factors were the post-race fire in the Williams garage and the crash between Senna and Michael Schumacher, for which the stewards penalized the legendary German with a five-place grid penalty, which prevented him from claiming a pole position in Monaco.
2018 German Grand Prix
The 2018 German Grand Prix has left a footprint in history as one of the most dramatic races of the V6 hybrid era, with the Hockenheim round hosting one of the season’s pivotal events.
Vettel began on pole and dominated the early stages, hoping to take advantage of Hamilton’s 14th-place start in qualifying due to a hydraulic malfunction. Hamilton made quick progress up the order and was third after a long first stint, but the race was turned upside down when the rain began to pour on Lap 44.
Mercedes’ decision to switch to a new pair of Ultrasoft tires proved to be a masterstroke, as Hamilton thrived in the slick conditions until Vettel went off the track and into the barriers on Lap 52. As a Safety Car was dispatched with the leaders circling in the final sector, confusion ensued.
Mercedes had originally requested Hamilton to come in for a pit stop but had altered its mind at the last minute after being advised to remain out. He then returned to the course by cutting over the infield grass sector near the pit lane entry, avoiding a penalty.
Hamilton took the lead after bailing out of the pit stop. At the restart, he had to defend against Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas as the two ran wheel-to-wheel before Mercedes halted the battle, ensuring a 1-2 finish on home soil.
Hamilton’s unlikely victory was one of his greatest, resulting in a 38-point swing in his championship lead during a race that was undoubtedly the spark for Vettel’s 2018 demise.
2012 European Grand Prix
The 2012 European Grand Prix, perhaps Fernando Alonso’s most famous victory, was fantastic on many levels. Before the first safety was placed, Alonso began 11th and pushed his way up to fourth.
After Lewis Hamilton had a pit stop difficulty, he quickly raced up to third and then passed Romain Grosjean’s Lotus to gain second place.
When leader Sebastian Vettel stopped with a mechanical issue, the home hero reclaimed the lead, which he kept until the end, and a tearful Alonso tearfully waved the Spanish flag around the track as he became the first driver to win multiple races in 2012.
The number of overtakes and accidents across the field added to the excitement of the race. With only three circuits remaining, Hamilton and Maldonado collided, Grosjean suffered a mechanical issue, and all of this attrition resulted in Michael Schumacher collecting his maiden podium for Mercedes and the final podium of his career.
It was made even more memorable because Valencia is known for producing largely boring races, so seeing such a fantastic race on such a boring track was a pleasant surprise.
It was a difficult one because there have been a few decades that may be deemed “the finest.” But one thing is sure: it’s been a long time since we’ve had even a good decade, much alone the greatest.
In light of this list, I feel the 2010s had a lot to offer in terms of surprising events and difficult weather conditions, and some of the best performances of the top drivers in the world today.