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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021

Abu Dhabi GP Driver Ratings: A thrilling season comes to a dramatic end

Arguably the most incredible ending to any motorsport season saw Max Verstappen win the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship in dramatic fashion, when he overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi GP. RacingNews365.com rates the whole field on how they performed at the Yas Marina circuit.

Verstappen Hamilton Abu Dhabi 2021
To news overview © Michael Potts / RN365

The most thrilling Formula 1 season in recent history came to an extraordinary ending, as Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to become World Champion.

It was a controversial finish due to confusion about the Safety Car regulations following Nicholas Latifi's crash towards the end of the race.

Mercedes won the Constructors' title for a record-extending eighth consecutive season, whilst Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium for Ferrari.

We have rated all 20 drivers based on their qualifying and race performances. Team errors such as a slow pit-stop or a sub-optimal strategy do not affect our ratings as they are no fault of the drivers.

Our ratings solely look at how well the drivers got on throughout the Abu Dhabi GP weekend.

Max Verstappen 9/10

Started: 1st - Finished: 1st

Verstappen’s qualifying lap was sensational, as he pulled out a lap from nowhere. His race start was poor and it looked like the championship was going away.

A huge slice of fortune came his way when F1 Race Director Michael Masi opted to let the cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen unlap themselves.

Whatever you think of that decision, Verstappen still had to get the job done on the track and he played it perfectly.

It would have been so easy to overdrive or lock up under the immense pressure, but he dived cleanly down the inside of Hamilton at Turn 5 and held him off down the next two straights.

Verstappen simply doesn't feel the pressure and has been able to end the Mercedes reign with an outstanding season.

Lewis Hamilton 9/10

Started: 2nd - Finished: 2nd

You have to feel sorry for Hamilton. His launch was excellent, replicating his getaway from 2014. A typically dominant Hamilton drive was set to see the British driver win a record-breaking eighth title, but the late-race Safety Car turned the Grand Prix on its head.

He controlled the race perfectly, opening up the gap when he needed to and didn't put a foot wrong.

Perhaps he could have defended a little better on the final lap, but the overtake felt inevitable as long as Verstappen didn't make a mistake.

Hamilton's been on the right side of a last lap, final race decider - this time he was on the losing side.

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Carlos Sainz 8.5/10

Started: 5th - Finished: 3rd

Sainz had one of his best weekends of the year to take his fourth podium with Ferrari. A great lap saw him claim fifth in qualifying and he managed his tyres well to keep his midfield rivals at bay in the race, having overtaken Lando Norris on Lap 1.

It was a crucial overtake, which gave Sainz track position, and his subsequent pace was very strong.

Thanks to his podium, Sainz has beaten Lando Norris and teammate Charles Leclerc to fifth in the championship. Very few people would have had thought that before the season.

Yuki Tsunoda 8/10

Started: 8th - Finished: 4th

Yuki Tsunoda scored his best result of 2021 with an impressive fourth. Since practice, Tsunoda got to grips with the new Yas Marina track layout and was ahead of teammate Pierre Gasly in all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race.

It will give Tsunoda a big confidence boost going into the winter break, as he will know that he can beat Gasly.

A big result, which could provide Tsunoda the platform to impress on a consistent basis.

			© Red Bull Contentpool/Getty Images
	© Red Bull Contentpool/Getty Images

Pierre Gasly 7/10

Started: 12th - Finished: 5th

Gasly had a disappointing qualifying, admitting he was too slow as he was outpaced in a conventional grid-deciding session by Tsunoda for the first time this year.

He made a great recovery through the field, though, executing the alternate strategy to start on the Hard tyre and run long.

The Frenchman was stuck behind Fernando Alonso for the majority of the race, but eventually overtook him with a smart move.

Valtteri Bottas 3.5/10

Started: 6th - Finished: 6th

Valtteri Bottas' last race for Mercedes was very poor. He could only manage sixth in qualifying and failed to play any part in the title fight when the pressure was really on.

Instead, Bottas was stuck behind Tsunoda when he should have been able to overtake him given the pace advantage of the W12 over the AlphaTauri.

In the second stint, Bottas couldn't threaten Norris, which underlined the struggles he has to follow cars closely to mount a serious attack.

			© Mercedes AMG F1
	© Mercedes AMG F1

Lando Norris 8.5/10

Started: 3rd - Finished: 7th

Norris' qualifying performance to start third was outstanding, and a reminder of how quick he can be over one lap.

The McLaren driver was on course for a top-five finish until a slow puncture denied him the opportunity to challenge Sainz.

Without this, a podium was possible given the circumstances at the end of the race. Norris was back to his best following a relatively quiet period.

Since his pole position in Sochi, he's suffered from a lot of bad luck and Abu Dhabi was another unfortunate event.

Fernando Alonso 7.5/10

Started: 11th - Finished: 8th

Fernando Alonso made the Hard tyre strategy work wonderfully, keeping Gasly at bay until he switched to the Medium tyres, when he suddenly lost pace.

A nicely executed race for Alonso, who probably maximised his result as Alpine were not as competitive as McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri at the weekend.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Esteban Ocon 7.5/10

Started: 9th - Finished: 9th

The timing of the Virtual Safety Car allowed Alonso to jump Esteban Ocon, but the reality was there was nothing to split the Alpine pair in Abu Dhabi.

Similarly to Alonso, Ocon didn't have the car to battle his midfield rivals so was forced to simply try and manage his tyres as best as he could from the beginning to the end of the stint.

It could have easily been a disastrous 2021 for Alpine, but Alonso and Ocon have driven excellently this year to claim fifth place in the Constructors' Championship for the team.

Charles Leclerc 7/10

Started: 7th - Finished: 10th

Leclerc has been beaten by a teammate over a season for the first time in his single-seater racing career. However, he will question Ferrari's decision to go for a two-stop strategy.

Overtaking was always going to be difficult and from 12th, Leclerc failed to recover any positions from the strategy gamble.

He will be frustrated to be outscored by Sainz, but he has had a lot of misfortune this season and the final points don't do the inter-team battle full justice.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Sebastian Vettel 6/10

Started: 15th - Finished: 11th

Sebastian Vettel has had a very frustrating second half of the season and the pace in the Aston Martin seems to have vanished in the final few races.

Vettel was stuck behind Antonio Giovinazzi for much of the first stint, which cost him a chance of fighting for points.

His speed was solid in clean air, but he had too much to do and didn't have track position.

Daniel Ricciardo 5.5/10

Started: 10th - Finished: 12th

Daniel Ricciardo struggled to match Norris on pure pace all weekend and lost vital positions through the timing of the Virtual Safety Car.

Ricciardo was stuck in traffic all race, including after an early first pit-stop, and was never able to show his ultimate pace because of the dirty air.

That's the difficulty you can have as a midfield driver when you qualify in the middle of the grid on a track where racing is difficult.

Lance Stroll 6/10

Started: 13th - Finished: 13th

Lance Stroll had a very quiet race, following Vettel home from Lap 1 all the way to the chequered flag.

He used the same Medium-Hard strategy as Vettel and matched him for pace.

Aston Martin will be hugely disappointed to score just 77 points in 2021 when there were high hopes for the team.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Mick Schumacher 8/10

Started: 19th - Finished: 14th

Mick Schumacher had a superb race, getting ahead of George Russell at the start before pitting early to switch from the Softs to the Hards.

In doing so, he managed to overcut the other Williams of Nicholas Latifi, which was brilliantly executed.

Even with older rubber, Schumacher held Latifi off until the Canadian crashed with four laps to go. A fantastic way to end the year for Schumacher, who's had a great rookie season in F1.

Sergio Perez 8/10

Started: 4th - Finished: 15th

Sergio Perez's defence of Hamilton was special and played a crucial role, because the seven seconds Verstappen gained on the leading pair likely prevented Hamilton from pitting onto the Soft tyres at the end of the Grand Prix.

It was an F1 masterclass in defending from Perez as he placed his car in exactly the right place. Red Bull described Perez as an "animal" and don't forget he did a very good job to manage his tyres in the first stint to have enough rubber to fight against Hamilton.

Huge credit to Perez.

Nicholas Latifi 3.5/10

Started: 16th - Finished DNF

As mentioned further above, Latifi was stuck behind Schumacher until he made a mistake when by losing the rear of his Williams and slamming into the wall at Turn 14.

He inadvertently caused a crazy finish to the 2021 F1 season, playing the role of Timo Glock in the 2008 Brazilian GP.

			© Williams F1
	© Williams F1

Antonio Giovinazzi 5.5/10

Started: 14th - Finished: DNF

A hydraulics issue for Antonio Giovinazzi brought his F1 career to an early end in Abu Dhabi.

Giovinazzi was having a good race until then, keeping both Williams and Aston Martin drivers behind him.

Sadly, he hasn't been strong enough to retain his seat in the pinnacle of motorsport and it's unlikely there will be a path that opens up to see him return to F1 in the future.

George Russell 4/10

Started: 17th - Finished: DNF

George Russell's Williams career finished anticlimactically as a gearbox problem forced him to retire.

Williams revealed that Russell picked up some debris in the cooling duct, which caused high temperatures for the majority of his race. This eventually led to an overheated gearbox.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Russell's weekend was that he was beaten by Latifi in conventional qualifying for the second time this season. That's a fact that won't be remembered in 2022.

			© Alfa Romeo
	© Alfa Romeo

Kimi Raikkonen 5/10

Started: 18th - Finished: DNF

Kimi Raikkonen probably wasn't too fussed about failing to finish the final race in his amazing F1 career. A problem with the brakes after his first pit-stop meant he was forced to crawl back to the pit lane.

Raikkonen has universal support and will be missed by many fans. Rightly so, too, because he was a character in the F1 paddock and delivered some incredible performances during his 20 years in the sport.

Nikita Mazepin N/A

Started: DNS - Finished: DNS

The only other N/A rating of the year was also given to Nikita Mazepin (Hungary 2021). This time it's due to more serious circumstances as he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the race at the Yas Marina circuit.

Just two drivers have tested positive for coronavirus this season, emphasising the impressive job by everyone involved in F1 to make 22 races happen safely.

Will there ever be a season like this again?

F1 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix RN365 News dossier


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