Edd Straw's 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 driver ratings - The Race
Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 driver ratings

Dec 13 2021
By Edd Straw

A thrilling Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend provided a fittingly exciting and controversial weekend to close off an enthralling 2021 Formula 1 season. But who ended the year with a high mark in Edd Straw’s driver ratings?

Read on to find out his full scores from 2021’s final weekend.


After each grand prix, The Race will rate each driver’s weekend with a mark out of 10.

This year, in an attempt to utilise a wider range of scores, we have recalibrated the scoring to make 5 out of 10 an average mark and therefore indicative of a decent drive given the high standard of drivers in F1.

For a more in-depth explanation, read our outline of the modified system.


Hamilton Ad

Started: 2nd Finished: 2nd

Qualifying

Felt he’d extracted the performance that was in the Mercedes in qualifying, with Verstappen’s pace in the final sector, in particular, making the difference in a pole position fight that was initially expected to go his way.

Second was realistically as good as it was going to get given the quality of Verstappen’s lap.

Race

Jumped Verstappen at the start, then having left the door open at Turn 6 took to the runoff to stay ahead after Verstappen’s lunge. From there, he controlled the race and it was clear only unusual circumstances could cost him.

The late-race safety car was exactly that, with Mercedes understandably unwilling to sacrifice the lead, leaving him a sitting duck to soft-shod Verstappen in the one-lap dash to the flag.

VERDICT: Had the race won, only for fate to intervene.

Bottasad

Started: 6th Finished: 6th

Qualifying

Opted for a slightly softer mechanical set-up than Hamilton in the hope that it would work better in the race, but he found himself butting up against a laptime ceiling in qualifying.

That left him sixth, although the pace did seem to be in the car to have been as high as third had he got the best out of it despite the set-up limitation.

Dec 12 : Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

Race

His start was adequate, but both Leclerc and Tsunoda were both able to pass him by the time he got to Turn 6. He was still behind Tsunoda when the AlphaTauri pitted, but once he had clear air used the pace of the Mercedes to overcut him – also gaining a place to Leclerc second stop having made his own shortly before the VSC.

That left Bottas sixth before he gained places to Norris’s puncture and Perez’s retirement. He took the final restart fourth having not stopped for tyres and was passed by the AlphaTauris on the one-lap sprint to the flag.

VERDICT: A rather quiet end to his five years of Mercedes service.

Perez Ad

Started: 4th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Perez compromised his first Q3 run to tow Verstappen before setting a time on his second attempt, but he made only a slender improvement on the final run, which meant he ended up behind Norris in the slower McLaren.

But for a small error in the final corner, he was on course to have taken third though.

Race

Dispatched Norris at the start to slot into third place behind Verstappen. Despite the compromise of running for too long on the softs to be left out there to cost Hamilton time – a job he did brilliantly – kept control of the podium position and would have had every chance of following his team-mate past Hamilton to take second had he not retired as a precaution.

With his engine right on the limit, the last thing Red Bull needed was for the safety car to be extended because its second car had stopped on track, after all.

VERDICT: Signed off the season with a strong weekend, assisting Verstappen well.

Verstappen Ad

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

Qualifying

A combination of a tow from team-mate Perez and, more importantly, a mighty last sector gave Verstappen a surprise pole position by an imposing margin of 0.371s. Was completely on top of the car, and understood the fact that conditions would likely come to the car more as qualifying progress, resulting in an outstanding performance.

Race

His relatively slow reaction time cost him the lead to Hamilton at the start, with his late – but legitimate – lunge on Hamilton at Turn 6 on the first lap failing to turn the tables.

On the softs in particular he lacked the pace of Hamilton and dropped back, although much of the time lost was eliminated by Perez backing Hamilton up after the top two had stopped. Verstappen took the cheap pitstop under the VSC but even with the tyre offset had no chance of catching Hamilton until the late safety car. Switched to fresh softs, and pulled a famous pass on Hamilton at Turn 5 in the one-lap sprint to the flag to take the title.

VERDICT: Spectacular in qualifying and seized his unexpected opportunity in the race brilliantly.

Ricciardo Ad

Started: 10th Finished: 12th

Qualifying

Struggled with getting the tyres in the right window and keeping them there for the balance of a lap, which contributed to him never looking like having Norris’s pace. While he was a little fortunate to make it out of Q2, especially as Alonso reckoned he was hindered by the McLaren driver, he at least salvaged a Q3 appearance from a tricky afternoon even though he couldn’t do better than 10th.

Race

Held 10th at the start and spent much of the race chasing Ocon. Made what was his one scheduled stop to move from softs to hards on lap 18 and was 11th when Latifi crashed late on. He opted to stop under the safety car for fresh softs, but was disconnected from the potentially slower cars ahead by them being allowed past the safety car, meaning the late change cost him places to Leclerc and Vettel.

VERDICT: Lacked the pace of Norris in a tame end to a challenging year.

Norris Ad

Started: 3rd Finished: 7th

Qualifying

Norris produced arguably the lap of qualifying with his final Q3 effort, which put him third ahead of theoretically quicker cars after he nailed his three best sectors of the whole session.

Seventh based on the first runs in Q3, he nailed what team principal Andreas Seidl called a “very special” lap, with wheelspin off the last corner the only small error. That put him ahead of several cars the McLaren should have been behind.

Race

Held fifth early on after losing places to Sainz and Perez – blaming the latter for forcing him wide – and having made a relatively early stop to switch from softs to hards, cycled back through to the same position during the flurry of VSC pitstops. He wasn’t far behind Sainz, albeit without posing any obvious threat, when he suffered a front-left puncture and had to stop again. That dropped him to ninth, although he subsequently passed Ocon and picked up a place when Perez retired to take seventh.

VERDICT: Starred in qualifying and was destined for fourth before the puncture.

Vettel Ad

Started: 15th Finished: 11th

Qualifying

Vettel seemed to spend most of Q1 and Q2 being frustrated by traffic, which wasn’t an unreasonable reaction given he was impeded by Ocon in Q1 – although in Q2 he was investigated for impeding Gasly at Turn 1, something he was not penalised for.

That meant Vettel didn’t produce the pace he might have done in Q2, although Stroll looked like he might just have the edge on speed anyway.

Race

Passed Stroll into Turn 6 on lap five to run 14th and was 13th having made his sole pitstop on lap 23 when he opted to stay out under the late safety car. Perez’s retirement handed him one position, with Ricciardo’s late pitstop another, as Vettel benefitted from being waved past the safety car to ensure he was out of reach of the trio of cars restarting behind him on fresh rubber.

VERDICT: Beaten by Stroll in a messy qualifying session, but passed and beat him in the race.

Stroll Ad

Started: 13th Finished: 13th

Qualifying

Produced a very tidy lap in qualifying to put the Aston Martin 13th, which was about where the team reckoned it should be. But he did lose a little time to the rear end slightly stepping out at Turn 1, which cost him time on the blast up to Turn 5.

Race

Ran 14th early on before being overtaken by Vettel, and was effectively in the same place by the end of the race, albeit having gained positions thanks to the retirements of Giovinazzi and Perez. This was partly down to the car’s unremarkable pace and partly because the strategy, with a stop on lap 21 then another under the late safety car to take softs. But a combination of the group of cars ahead of him – save for Ricciardo – being allowed to unlap themselves before the restart and being swamped with cars lapping him at the restart meant he couldn’t attack on the final lap.

VERDICT: Produced reasonable pace, while luck wasn’t with him in the race.

Alonsoad

Started: 11th Finished: 8th

Qualifying

Alonso was frustrated by traffic in Q2, although it should be noted that according to the display on his dash he was on target to repeat his first-run pace with a couple of corners to go before he caught Ricciardo. He only needed a tiny improvement to have got through, but he still looked like marginally the slower of the two Alpine drivers.

Race

Lurked on the periphery of the points in 11th in the early stages having opted to start on hards. The timing of the virtual safety car forced his pitstop on lap 36, moving to mediums, allowing him to emerge ahead of Ricciardo. Tsunoda and Ocon who were in his green-flag stop pit window. Tsunoda and Gasly subsequently passed him, as did the recovering Norris, which added up to eighth at the finish.

VERDICT: A decent weekend but not quite as sharp as team-mate Ocon.

Ocon Ad

Started: 9th Finished: 9th

Qualifying

Put the Alpine about where its limit was with a well-executed run through qualifying, culminating in a good lap at the end of Q3. While Alonso struggled with traffic, Ocon did look like the quicker Alpine driver over a lap.

Race

Held ninth early on before stopping on lap 15 to get off the soft tyres and onto the hards. Alonso and Gasly jumped him by taking advantage of a cheap pitstop under the VSC, although Ocon gained one of those places back to Leclerc’s second stop. Ocon stayed out under the late safety car, moving up to ninth for the restart thanks to Perez’s retirement – staying there on the frantic last lap.

VERDICT: Marginally the stronger Alpine driver, although the VSC reversed their positions in the race.

Leclerc Masi

Started: 7th Finished: 10th

Qualifying

Felt he was on for a special lap having built up to around four-tenths up on his previous best at the start of the first sector. But he paid the price for pushing the rears too hard and lost time through Turns 13 and, in particular, 14, meaning he ended up seventh rather than in the third place that looked possible at one stage.

Race

Ran sixth in the first part of the race, albeit briefly slipping to seventh behind Tsunoda after an off in Turn 3 when the rear end snapped. He made his first stop shortly after but made another 20 laps later under the VSC amid concerns that the hards might not last the distance. It wasn’t the right decision and Leclerc ended up stuck in traffic, moving up to 10th in the late-race chaos.

VERDICT: One of his weakest weekends of a usually very strong year.

Sainz Ad

Started: 5th Finished: 3rd

Qualifying

Struggled on Friday but felt much happier on Saturday with a replacement floor fitted. He also got on top of the tyre management for a qualifying lap, which allowed him to slip ahead of team-mate Leclerc at the end of their final laps thanks to not overheating the rears.

Race

Ran fourth behind Perez in the first stint and pitted at the end of lap 19 to switch from softs to hards. That ensured he didn’t lose any positions and he was still fourth when the safety car was deployed for Latifi’s crash, staying out to avoid relinquishing track position. Perez’s retirement meant he restart third, but despite being on aged hards, he kept out of reach of the freshly-shod AlphaTauris to take third.

VERDICT: Followed up a strong qualifying with what he reckoned was his best race for Ferrari.

Gasly Ad

Started: 12th Finished: 5th

Qualifying

Struggled for grip and balance all weekend, as well as complaining about braking troubles and traffic during qualifying. The result he elimination in Q2 and being beaten by Tsunoda in qualifying for the first time – not to mention a lot of head-scratching

Race

Ran 12th in the first part of the race, but thanks to starting on hards had yet to stop when the virtual safety car was deployed. That allowed him to stop for mediums and emerge ninth. Followed his team-mate past Alonso, then picked up places to Norris’s puncture and Perez’s retirement before making another stop under the late safety car and using his fresh-tyre advantage to overtake Bottas.

VERDICT: Pace wasn’t great as he struggled with sliding, but fortune assisted his tidy race drive.

Tsunoda Ad

Started: 8th Finished: 4th

Qualifying

Tsunoda was the only driver outside of Mercedes to set their best Q2 time on the mediums and ended his season by outqualifying team-mate Gasly, for the first time. Had his first Q3 lap deleted for a slight track limits violation, but without the benefit of a repeat of the tow he had in the lost attempt, he produced a slightly slower lap on the second run to take eighth.

Race

Passed Bottas for seventh around the outside of Turn 6 on the opening lap but lost that position thanks to the Mercedes pace advantage making an overcut easy. But Norris’s puncture and Leclerc’s puncture meant he was up to sixth by the time the safety car was deployed for Latifi’s crash. Took the restart fifth thanks to Perez’s retirement and on fresh rubber after a pitstop under the safety car, passing Bottas to take a career-best fourth.

VERDICT: Finished on a high with comfortably his most complete F1 weekend yet.

Raikkonen Ad

Started: 18th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Raikkonen was on course for a lap that would have put him through to Q2 comfortably when the rear stepped out and spat him wide in the Turn 13 left-hander under the hotel. He aborted the lap, meaning he signed off his F1 qualifying career by being eliminated in Q1.

Race

Raikkonen’s final grand prix wasn’t one of his most memorable, running 16th in the first stint after passing Latifi on lap two. He ran to lap 21 before pitting for hards and was running ahead only of Schumacher when a braking problem caused an off at Turn 6, crunching his front wing on the tyre wall. Returned to the pits to retire.

VERDICT: A subdued weekend, but not at fault for his off in the race.

Giovinazzi

Started: 14th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Felt that he’d delivered about what the car was capable of in Q2, although he lost time in the first part of the lap thanks to being in the sector-three traffic jam on his prep lap. Struggled a little in the final sector so while there was a little more time in the car it never looked to be a Q3 threat.

Race

Ran 13th in the first stint before making his pitstop on lap 17. He was still running there, in between Ricciardo and Vettel, when he suffered a hydraulic failure that knocked out most of the car’s systems, including the ability to change gear.

VERDICT: A solid qualifying and race performance, as far as it lasted, to sign off with Alfa Romeo.

Mazepin Ad

Started: DNS Finished: DNS

Qualifying

Lumbered with the only remaining spare chassis after damaging his new one in Qatar then the first-choice spare in his Saudi Arabia crash, Mazepin struggled for pace and confidence in qualifying. The result was a gap of almost eight-tenths to Schumacher.

Race

Tested positive for COVID-19, so was unable to participate.

VERDICT: Can only be judged based on qualifying, in which he was unremarkable even factoring in being lumbered with the worst Haas chassis.

Schumacher Ad

Started: 19th Finished: 14th

Qualifying

Schumacher wasn’t far off picking off Raikkonen but was nonetheless not so happy with how Q1 went. “We didn’t really know what we wanted from each other the car and I,” was his summary.

Race

Briefly got up into 17th place on the opening lap after passing Raikkonen and Russell and even briefly threatened to break into the top 15 while dicing with Latifi and Vettel. Raikkonen got back past him at Turn 9 and he settled into 18th place, which is where he remained before stopping for hards on lap 10 while still ahead of Russell. That allowed him to jump Latifi, who crashed while chasing him late on.

Having made a late stop for softs, he might have had a very outside at getting into the points in the one-lap dash to the flag, but for the group of cars ahead on older rubber being allowed to unlap themselves and break away.

VERDICT: Signed off for 2021 with a good race performance after a difficult qualifying.

Latifi Ad

Started: 16th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Outqualified his Russell for only the second time in 38 races as team-mates (although he did also start ahead of him at Monza having beaten him in the sprint race). While he did suffer a little with traffic on his prep lap, he produced a decent lap, albeit with a few slightly untidy moments in the final sector, but was frustrated not to make it into Q2 given he felt the car had the pace to do so. He ended up 0.085s quicker than Russell.

Race

Ran 17th in the first stint behind Raikkonen and ahead of Schumacher, eventually making his pitstop on lap 28 – well before the virtual safety car intervened. That dropped him to the back behind Schumacher, who had stopped much earlier and undercut him. He spent the rest of the race chasing Schumacher while struggling for pace, and blamed being forced wide at Turn 9 while trying to get around Schumacher for making his tyres dirty and causing his unwittingly title-turning Turn 13 crash.

VERDICT: Save for outqualifying Russell, an unremarkable weekend.

Russell Ad

Started: 17th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Russell was frustrated that Williams opted for a single flying lap for his final Q1 run, rather than the push-cool-push strategy he advocated. After getting caught in traffic on his prep lap, particularly in the crucial final part of the lap, his tyres weren’t up to temperature, leading to a moment in Turn 1, a lock-up at Turn 5 and the lap being abandoned while four-tenths off his previous best approaching the final sector.

Race

Dropped to last at the start having been passed by Raikkonen and Schumacher and opted to run long having started on mediums. But debris caught in a cooling duct led to the gearbox overheating and forced his retirement after 26 laps.

VERDICT: An underwhelming end to his remarkable Williams career.

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