Winners and losers from F1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The 2021 F1 title battle was settled in dramatic and controversial circumstances after a see-sawing race in Abu Dhabi. Here are our biggest winners and losers from the finale…
Start of the race
Start of the race


Max Verstappen

A worthy maiden world title was clinched in the most dramatic of endings for Max Verstappen, who for much of the race looked like he had no answer to a dominant Lewis Hamilton. 

But in one last twist of fate, lady luck shone on Verstappen to set up a one-lap shootout to determine the outcome of the world championship. 

Red Bull’s gamble to switch to softs handed Verstappen a clear advantage over Hamilton for the contentious safety car restart, before the Dutchman sealed the title with a last-lap dive-bomb at Turn 5. 

Despite the controversial ending, there is no doubt that Verstappen was a worthy world champion after producing an exceptional F1 season.

Winners and losers from F1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


Honda got its dream ending to its F1 journey as it bowed out of the sport having played a huge role in Verstappen’s title charge. 

The Japanese manufacturer made big gains over the last two seasons and its hard work over the winter paid off with a fantastic 2021 season in which it helped Red Bull rack up a total of 11 wins. 

Honda got its perfect send-off by powering Verstappen to world championship glory, 30 years after Ayrton Senna had been the last driver to win a title using a Honda engine.  

Masashi Yamamoto (JPN) Honda Racing F1 Managing Director and Dr Helmut Marko (AUT) Red Bull Motorsport Consultant and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.
Masashi Yamamoto (JPN) Honda Racing F1 Managing Director and Dr Helmut…

Carlos Sainz 

Carlos Sainz was a beneficiary of the late drama as Red Bull retired Sergio Perez under the safety car, promoting Sainz up to third on the podium. 

Despite being held up by the lapped Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll, Sainz managed to keep Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes behind him at the restart and pulled clear to ensure he finished clear of the late-charging AlphaTauri duo to score his fourth podium of the season. 

A great drive in the final race of the season was ultimately overshadowed by the late chaos. But Sainz’s result ensured he capped off a brilliant first campaign at Ferrari by impressively beating Charles Leclerc to leapfrog his teammate and take a career-best fifth place in the drivers’ standings. 

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari celebrates his third position on the podium.
Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari celebrates his third position on the podium.

Yuki Tsunoda 

Another driver whose efforts were completely overshadowed was Yuki Tsunoda. 

The Japanese rookie has endured an up and down first season in F1 but signed off the campaign in style with an excellent weekend-long performance in Abu Dhabi. 

Tsunoda launched a dive-bomb move to snatch fourth place away from Bottas at the Turn 6-7 chicane and sealed the best result of his fledging F1 career. 

He ended up within touching distance of a maiden F1 podium, trailing Sainz by just 0.519s as they crossed the finish line. 

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri AT02.
Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri AT02.


Netflix certainly got its Hollywood-style script ending for the next season of ‘Drive to Survive’ with how the Abu Dhabi GP panned out. 

A blockbuster F1 season from start to finish has provided the Netflix TV crews with plenty of action - both on and off the track - throughout 2021. 

With no shortage of drama and controversy, Netflix will be spoilt for choice as it attempts to cover the story of a compelling campaign.  

A last-lap title decider just seven corners from the end was the stuff of dreams for scriptwriters. Hopefully Netflix won’t feel the need to manufacture any additional drama. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 and Sergio Perez (MEX), Red Bull Racing
Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 and Sergio Perez (MEX), Red Bull…



Despite winning an unprecedented eighth consecutive constructors’ world title, Mercedes felt like it had little cause for celebration in the aftermath of the Abu Dhabi GP. 

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will feel hard done by after missing out on a championship double it believes it deserved after Hamilton looked in complete control and on course for a record-breaking world eighth title until the very last lap.

Mercedes saw two protests dismissed by the stewards and must now decide whether to proceed with an appeal and possibly take this world championship outcome to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in parc ferme.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in parc ferme.

Valtteri Bottas 

It was not the ending to his Mercedes tenure that Valtteri Bottas would have been hoping for as the Finn went out on a whimper in Abu Dhabi. 

Forced to use an older engine due to reliability concerns, Bottas could only qualify sixth on the grid for the season finale. A poor start meant he dropped back to eighth, meaning he was never in a position to assist Hamilton’s title bid. 

Bottas found himself in fourth at the safety car restart, but like Hamilton, he was left a sitting duck on old hard tyres. After getting passed by both AlphaTauris on the final tour, Bottas ultimately came home where he started in a low-key sixth. 

p(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 at a team photograph.
p(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Valtteri Bottas (FIN)…

Aston Martin 

A disappointing end to an altogether painful 2021 F1 season for Aston Martin as points once again evaded Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll despite only 14 cars making the finish in Abu Dhabi. 

It was certainly not the year the Silverstone outfit was hoping for after the early excitement surrounding its rebrand and the capture of four-time world champion Vettel to lead its charge. As it turned out, Aston Martin slipped down to a distant seventh in the constructors’ standings. 

Aston Martin will be hoping that a new era of F1 regulations and some astute  signings can help restore the team to its previous competitiveness as a front-running midfield contender in 2022. 

Sebastian Vettel (GER), Aston Martin F1 Team
Sebastian Vettel (GER), Aston Martin F1 Team

Alfa Romeo 

That was not how anyone wanted Kimi Raikkonen’s last race to go, with the Finn’s illustrious F1 career ended in retirement following a brake failure. It was a sad ending to a legendary career. 

There was disappointment all round for Alfa Romeo, as the team suffered a double DNF after also losing Antonio Giovinazzi to a mechanical issue during the Abu Dhabi finale. 

Alfa Romeo missed out on the chance to potentially score points in a chaotic conclusion to the race with both its cars on the sidelines as Williams clinched eighth place in the constructors’ championship. 

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 goes off during the race.
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 goes off during the race.

The FIA 

The FIA was the author of its own problems in the end due to having unclear racing rules and being dogged by several inconsistent and puzzling decisions all year. 

It was topped off by an unprecedented and questionable move by race director Michael Masi to seemingly throw away the rule book in the closing stages of Sunday’s race in what felt like a somewhat manufactured conclusion.

As a result, there is now a possibility that the 2021 title could be decided in court. That would not be the way one of the greatest-ever F1 seasons deserves to be concluded.  

A rewrite of the rulebook - or at the very least some clarifications - during the off-season feels needed after one of the most contentious seasons in years. 

F1 desperately needs clarity before we go racing again to avoid further messy situations in 2022. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA Safety Car.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA…

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