F1 Driver Ratings from the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Crash.net F1 journalist Connor McDonagh runs through the field’s driver ratings following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Marina.
F1 Driver Ratings from the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Each driver is scored out of ten with the rating being heavily weighted on their race day performance. Qualifying performance holds less weight when deciding the ratings

Max Verstappen (Qualified 1st, finished 1st) - 9

It was another breathtaking qualifying performance from Verstappen in Abu Dhabi to claim pole position by nearly 0.4s. Verstappen lost out to Hamilton at the start but nearly took the lead back with an aggressive divebomb into Turn 6. Verstappen simply couldn’t match Hamilton’s pace - even with the help of his teammate or fresh hard tyres when he stopped under the Virtual Safety Car. Verstappen was handed a lifeline with the late Safety Car and fiasco surrounding the lapped cars. In the grand scheme of things, a worthy champion who has been the most consistent performer this year. 

Lewis Hamilton (Qualified 2nd, finished 2nd) - 10

Hamilton drove the perfect race - one that should have warranted a record-breaking eighth F1 title. He nailed the start and while he lost a significant amount of time behind Perez, Hamilton had to be patient. The only arguable blemish on his race was his decision to take to the run-off on the opening lap after Verstappen lunged into Turn 6. The stewards thought Hamilton did nothing wrong and looking at it closely, Hamilton had no choice but to cut the corner as he tried to avoid potential contact with his title rival. Mercedes couldn’t surrender track position to Verstappen under the Virtual or Safety Car, leaving him out on his worn hard tyres meant he was a sitting duck against Verstappen when the lapped cars were controversially allowed to overtake. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1
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Carlos Sainz (Qualified 5th, finished 3rd) - 10

Sainz’s fourth podium of the year moves him up to fifth in the drivers’ championship, beating former teammate Norris and current teammate Leclerc. It means Sainz has scored points in the last 14 consecutive races. The Spaniard got ahead of Norris early on before running comfortably ahead of the McLaren driver. Sainz was put under pressure by Bottas before the late Safety Car but hung on as the outgoing Mercedes driver was swamped by the AlphaTauris. A superb first season for Sainz which puts him and Ferrari in good stead going into the new regulations.

Yuki Tsunoda (Qualified 8th, finished 4th) - 10

The best weekend of Tsunoda’s career as he progressed into Q3 on the mediums - the Mercedes duo were the only other drivers to do so. Tsunoda got ahead of Bottas at the start before dropping behind the Finn through the pit stops. A switch to the softs under the Safety Car allowed him to attack Bottas again, overtaking him with a Verstappen-style late lunge into Turn 6.

Pierre Gasly (Qualified 12th, finished 5th) - 8

Gasly was the slower of the AlphaTauris this weekend but it was still an impressive recovery from 12th on the grid. The Frenchman benefitted from the Virtual Safety Car to jump ahead of Ocon. Once he got past Alonso, Gasly was running a few seconds behind his teammate in sixth. The late Safety Car allowed him to attack Bottas, who struggled with his hard tyres on the restart to secure fifth. 

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W12.
Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W12.
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Valtteri Bottas (Qualified 6th, finished 6th) - 5

After showing decent pace in practice, Bottas’ weekend seemed to be undone by Mercedes reverting to an older power unit. The older PU was ought to be around 0.2s slower, potentially costing him third on the grid. Bottas had another poor opening lap, dropping to eighth before making his way up to fourth at the late Safety Cars. With the two AlphaTauris on fresh tyres behind, Bottas lost out to finish sixth. It didn’t matter as Perez’s retirement handed Mercedes the constructors’ championship, however, Hamilton could have done with some extra support had Bottas been in better form on his final outing for Mercedes.

Lando Norris (Qualified 3rd, finished 7th) - 8

Another case of misfortune for Norris, who was running in fifth ahead of Bottas before suffering a slow puncture which forced him into the pits for an unscheduled pit stop. It should have been much better for Norris again in Abu Dhabi, but still, he remains one of the sport’s star performers of the season. 

Fernando Alonso (Qualified 11th, finished 8th) - 7

Starting on the hard tyres, Alonso went long and made the most of the Virtual Safety Car stoppage. The two-time F1 champion overtook Gasly but didn’t have the pace to maintain it, dropping back before settling into eighth. 

Esteban Ocon (Qualified 9th, finished 9th) - 7

Ocon out-qualified teammate Alonso and was on course to beat the Spaniard had it not been for an untimely Virtual Safety Car period. This allowed Alonso and Gasly to jump the Frenchman. Regardless, it was another strong weekend and points finish for Ocon to round off a good season.

Charles Leclerc (Qualified 7th, finished 10th) - 6

A rare off-day for Leclerc in Abu Dhabi, who slumped to seventh in the drivers’ championship behind teammate Sainz and McLaren’s Norris. The Monegasque struggled in the first stint for pace, nearly losing control of his car as he was distracted by Verstappen coming out of the pits. He was overtaken by Bottas before stopping under the Virtual Safety Car, which dropped him out into traffic and ruined his race. 

Sebastian Vettel (GER), Aston Martin F1 Team
Sebastian Vettel (GER), Aston Martin F1 Team
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Sebastian Vettel (Qualified 15th, finished 11th) - 6

The four-time F1 champion ends 2021 as the ‘Overtaking Award’ winner - 132 in total, four more than Alonso. Vettel lost a lot of time behind Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo before making his way up to 11th, narrowly missing out on a points finish.

Daniel Ricciardo (Qualified 10th, finished 12th) - 5

Another disappointing performance from Ricciardo relative to his younger McLaren teammate at the Yas Marina Circuit. The Australian lost out under the Virtual Safety Car, which benefitted Alonso and Gasly ahead. Like Stroll and Schumacher, Ricciardo wasn’t allowed to unlap himself under the late, controversial Safety Car.

Lance Stroll (Qualified 13th, finished 13th) - 6

An anonymous display from Stroll at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The Canadian had a brief battle with teammate Vettel early on but he was one of the few drivers who were unable to unlap themselves under the Safety Car.

Mick Schumacher (Qualified 19th, finished 14th) - 6

It was a solid end to Schumacher’s first season in F1 with Haas. The German once again had a significant margin over teammate Mazepin, and he ran ahead of Latifi in the Williams for most of it. With the various dramas at the end, Schumacher secured 14th at the chequered flag.

Sergio Perez (Qualified 4th, classified 15th) - 9

Verstappen rightfully thanked his teammate for his stern defence against Hamilton midway through the Abu Dhabi GP. With the two title contenders making their pit stops on Lap 14 and 15, Red Bull kept Perez out on his worn hards. As we saw in Turkey and Brazil, Perez’s defence of Hamilton was exemplary, re-overtaking him on the second DRS straight before backing up significantly in the final part of the lap. Perez cost Hamilton over seven seconds in total, allowing Verstappen to close up. Perez’s defence ultimately proved crucial as Hamilton no longer had a gap to pit if a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car deployed, which it did late on, ultimately deciding the destination of the championship.

Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW43B.
Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW43B.
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Nicholas Latifi (Qualified 16th, DNF) - 4

Even before his title-deciding shunt in the final sector, Latifi was enduring a difficult race. The Canadian was running behind the Haas of Mick Schumacher. Latifi ran wide at Turn 9 during his battle with the German, getting his tyres dirty, leading to his crash. If Latifi doesn’t go on to have a successful career with Williams, he will at least be remembered for the influence he had on deciding the 2021 title between Verstappen and Hamilton.

Antonio Giovinazzi (Qualified 14th, DNF) - 6

Giovinazzi continued his strong qualifying form with yet another Q2 appearance. The Italian was duelling with Aston Martin’s Vettel but was forced to retire after 31 laps due to a technical issue which Alfa Romeo has yet to confirm. It marks the end of Giovinazzi’s F1 career, at least for now, as he switches to Formula E.

George Russell (Qualified 17th, DNF) - 5

Russell’s time with Williams came to an end prematurely due to a gearbox issue. Points were never on the table and with both Alfas retiring, eighth in the constructors’ was sewn up. Russell’s retirement did allow for him to vocal his views on the controversial ending to the race, at least.

Kimi Raikkonen (Qualified 18th, DNF) - 5

It was a disappointing end to Raikkonen’s 20-year career in the pinnacle of motorsport. A brake failure forced him to retire midway through the race.

Nikita Mazepin (Qualified 20th, DNS) - N/A

Mazepin was the only driver in 2021 to never make it into Q2 as he qualified at the back of the grid again. The Russian was ruled out of the race after he tested positive for coronavirus. 

Race winner and World Champion Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates with Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.
Race winner and World Champion Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing…
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