Edd Straw's Abu Dhabi GP driver ratings + reader debate - The Race
Formula 1

Edd Straw’s Abu Dhabi GP driver ratings + reader debate

Dec 14 2020
By Edd Straw

It may not have been a classic grand prix, but there were some genuinely superb drives in Abu Dhabi.

One, in fact, was actually perfect – and another was pretty close to it.

Here’s Edd Straw’s final judgement on the field of the 2020 Formula 1 season.

Agree or disagree with Edd’s scores? Debate them with him live in the comments at the bottom of the article at 3pm UK time today

Hamilton

Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd

Qualifying

Practice laps: 70
Gap to team-mate: +0.061s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.122s

Hamilton admitted to still feeling the after-effects of COVID-19 in his lungs and ended up as third-best in the ultra-tight battle for pole position.

He was on course for pole despite some slight floor damage picked up in Q1, but it just got away from him in the twisty final sector.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – medium/hard

The champion held third at the start and matched the strategy of Bottas and Verstappen.

Despite occasionally showing signs of closing the gap to Bottas, he never really looked like breaking out of third place.

VERDICT: A solid but subdued performance, perhaps not surprising given the COVID-19 hangover.

Dec 13 : Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

Bottas

Started: 2nd Finished: 2nd

Qualifying

Practice laps: 76
Gap to team-mate: -0.061s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.097s

Bottas’s theoretical fastest lap, based on combining his three best sectors, was enough for pole position.

But he struggled a little with the soft tyres and was fractionally untidier than Verstappen in a few key corners in the middle sector. He did just edge team-mate Hamilton.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – medium/hard

Bottas maintained second throughout the race but never looked like threatening Verstappen.

He pitted under the VSC at the same time as those around him and held second to the end.

VERDICT: Missed out on victory on Saturday, which locked him into second place.

Vettel

Started: 13th Finished: 14th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 67
Gap to team-mate: +0.699s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.091s

Vettel’s final qualifying session for Ferrari went very much to the form that we’ve seen all season, failing to make Q3 for the 14th time in 17 attempts.

He was happier with the car in Q1, but always looked well off Leclerc’s pace.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – hard/medium

Vettel ran 12th in the first stint having got ahead of Leclerc, but couldn’t go any further forward given Ferrari’s struggles. Manging the tyres was tricky but he kept Leclerc at bay while getting in the way of the early-stopping midfielders after staying out under the VSC.

He slipped down the order when he finally stopped and was only able to recover one place on track having passed Russell – meaning he was behind Raikkonen and Leclerc at the finish.

VERDICT: An unremarkable end to an unremarkable season.

Leclerc

Started: 12th Finished: 13th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 70
Gap to team-mate: -0.699s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.518s

Leclerc was disappointed with the car in Q3 and struggled to keep the rear temperatures under control.

He was off the pace in the middle sector, which meant he was unable to mitigate the three-place grid penalty he carried into the race as effectively as he’d hoped to.

Race

Penalties: 3-place grid penalty (hitting Perez in Sakhir GP)
Positions gained/lost lap 1: DOWN 1
1 stop – medium/hard

The first lap didn’t go well for Leclerc, as he was caught out by the concertina effect in Turn 8 and ended up running deep, which allowed Vettel to get ahead of him. And that defined his race.

Given he was making no progress in traffic in the first stint, the team gambled on leaving him out on mediums, which didn’t last well and left him among the ‘Class C’ cars – finishing just behind Raikkonen.

VERDICT: A so-so-weekend by his standards, even considering it was a poor track for Ferrari.

Verstappen

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

Qualifying

Practice laps: 72
Gap to team-mate: -0.325s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.000s

That Verstappen had theoretically only the third-fastest time in qualifying but still pipped the Mercedes drivers to pole position tells you everything you need to know about the quality of his final lap.

With the Red Bull working well on softs, he put together a very tidy lap to take his only pole of the season.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – medium/hard

Verstappen hung on to the advantage at the start and never looked like losing it, eking out a gap in both stints and proving to be completely at ease, save for concern about a tyre vibration.

VERDICT: Overachieved to take pole position then kept a vice-like grip on that advantage on Sunday.

Albon

Started: 5th Finished: 4th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 73
Gap to team-mate: +0.325s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.086s

Although he slipped behind Norris’s McLaren, this was actually Albon’s best qualifying performance of the season in terms of the gap relative to Verstappen, which was 0.360%.

He felt he’d made a breakthrough so he was a little frustrated that he failed to improve on his final Q3 lap thanks to running a little wide in Turn 1 then wheelspinning and overheating the tyres.

The team also believed he would have had the pace to use mediums for Q2, but he ran on softs for safety and was locked into them for the race start.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – soft/hard

Albon couldn’t get ahead of Norris at the start, but did so on lap six with a dive up the inside into Turn 8 that he then effectively had to repeat after the second DRS zone.

By then, he was 5.5s off Hamilton but that was reset by the VSC/safety car that allowed Albon to switch to mediums. He slid to almost nine seconds behind after the restart before closing back up over the last 15 laps, but wasn’t close enough to challenge.

VERDICT: His best weekend of the year in terms of performance relative to Verstappen.

Norris

Started: 4th Finished: 5th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 70
Gap to team-mate: -0.318s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.000s

Norris had only one shot on fresh softs in Q3 but made the most of it with what he rated as his best qualifying performance.

While it was not a perfect lap, he was on top of the tyres and made no significant errors, which added up to being only a quarter of a second off pole position.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – soft/hard

Norris didn’t put much up of a fight against Albon in the first stint, which wasn’t unreasonable given his fight lay elsewhere.

But once relegated to fifth he effectively held the position to the end, although he did spend almost 30 laps stuck behind the long-running Ricciardo before the Renault finally pitted and released him.

VERDICT: Outstanding in qualifying and couldn’t have done better in the race.

Sainz

Started: 6th Finished: 6th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 70
Gap to team-mate: +0.318s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.080s

Sainz had a superb run through qualifying until the final run in Q3. Having felt the tyre prep wasn’t right on the first attempt in Q3, he struggled with overheating on the second try – with the lap getting away from him after a ragged run through and off the Turn 8/9 chicane.

But having escaped Q2 using mediums was a big advantage for the race.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – medium/hard

Sainz hung onto sixth at the start but flirted with a penalty for going too slowly in the pitlane thanks to being the second part of a McLaren double-stack stop under the VSC.

Fortunately, he judged it right as he only cost the aggrieved Stroll tenths. He took the restart ahead of Stroll but behind the Ferraris, which had stayed out. Sainz passed them then picked up a place when Ricciardo had stopped to take sixth.

VERDICT: Qualifying just fell short of what it could have been at the last, but he executed his race well.

Ricciardo

Started: 11th Finished: 7th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 44
Gap to team-mate:
+0.047s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.078s

Expectations were high heading into qualifying after showing midfield-leading pace in FP3, but the car didn’t respond well to the cooler conditions in qualifying.

Ricciardo lost time in the middle sector, partly thanks to a wide run through the hairpin that also cost him exit speed, and was shaded by his team-mate.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – medium/hard

Ricciardo gambled on starting on hards and the strategy worked to perfection – aided by the Ferraris also not stopping under the VSC and creating traffic behind.

He managed the tyres well in the first stint to emerge just ahead of Gasly after his pitstop, having also jumped Kvyat and Ocon.

VERDICT: Fractionally slower than Ocon in qualifying, but his marathon stint on hards earned him a superb result given the pace of the car.

Ocon

Started: 10th Finished: 9th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 79
Gap to team-mate: -0.047s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.090s

For the first time in dry conditions, and only the second time all season, Ocon outqualified Ricciardo.

But like his team-mate, he was surprised by the feel of the car in qualifying, having been strong during FP3.

While a little slower than his team-mate through the final sector, his middle sector advantage ensured he was ahead. And not making Q3 at least allowed him free tyre choice for the race start.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: UP 1
1 stop – medium/hard

Ocon jumped Gasly at the start but slipped behind the soft-shod AlphaTauri on the run to Turn 8 on the second lap.

A sharp stop under the VSC, combined with Kvyat’s slow one, gained him a place but that added up to holding 10th because once the long-running Ricciardo – who Ocon had to let past early on – finally pitted he emerged well ahead.

Ocon passed Stroll in the final DRS zone on the last lap to grab ninth.

VERDICT: Qualified and raced well on a difficult weekend for Renault.

Gasly

Started: 9th Finished: 8th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 80
Gap to team-mate: +0.279s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.118s

Gasly struggled with understeer all weekend and attempts to ameliorate the problem served only to make other aspects of the car worse.

This included the way the rear tyres were worked in a qualifying lap, meaning he struggled in the final sector. But he still made Q3 despite not having Kvyat’s pace.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: DOWN 1
1 stop – soft/hard

Gasly lost a place to the fast-starting Ocon off the line, but used his soft-tyre advantage to pass the Renault into Turn 8 on the second lap.

He passed the struggling Kvyat in the first stint then emerged from his VSC pitstop 11th in the queue. This became eighth at the chequered flag thanks to passing Stroll and Vettel (and the other Ferrari of Leclerc pitting) – although he was jumped by Ricciardo.

VERDICT: Qualifying was below his usual standard, but he drove a very effective race.

Kvyat

Started: 7th Finished: 11th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 76
Gap to team-mate: -0.279s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.016s

Kvyat had the edge over Gasly throughout Saturday and Sunday, including in all three segments of qualifying.

He suggested his final lap was the best qualifying lap of his career, and it was certainly hugely impressive.

He’s not always been the most confident on corner entry of when the rear moves, but he was mightily committed and carried the speed superbly on that final Q3 attempt.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – soft/hard

Kvyat held seventh early on but was surprised that the rear tyres dropped off, giving him understeer and leading to him being passed by Stroll and Gasly.

He had to queue for his double-stack pitstop under the VSC, which helped Ocon to jump him. He then settled into a DRS train behind the Ferraris, which allowed Ricciardo to leap ahead with his long first stint.

VERDICT: Superb in qualifying but struggles with the front tyres in the first stint cost him farewell points.

Perez

Started: 19th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Practice laps: 73
Gap to team-mate: N/A
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.860s

A power unit change ahead of the weekend meant that Perez was always going to start from the back of the grid.

This meant he effectively bowed out of qualifying after setting the seventh-fastest time in Q1, although he made a token appearance in Q2 to help evaluate the track conditions for Stroll.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
Retired early – hard

While he finished the first lap 20th, having lost out in a scrap with the Haas drivers, Perez quickly started to make progress.

With a long stint on hards in prospect, he cleared the Haas, Williams and Alfa Romeo drivers to run 14th behind Vettel before grinding to a halt on his eighth lap with an MGU-K problem.

Given he would surely have stayed out under the safety car, he’d laid the foundations for a good result.

VERDICT: Qualifying was irrelevant but he delivered in the race before it was cut short.

Stroll

Started: 8th Finished: 10th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 70
Gap to team-mate: N/A
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.065s

Stroll never looked like failing to make Q3, but he also never looked like setting the world alight once he got there.

His Q3 lap was an almost identical one to Perez’s futile attempt in Q1, and Stroll never really seemed to be fully confident in the car.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – soft/hard

Stroll almost got ahead of Kvyat on the opening lap then settled into eighth place before passing the AlphaTauri on lap eight.

But after pitting for hards under the VSC – and Sainz driving slow in the pitlane cost him only tenths – he got stuck behind the Ferraris.

He struggled with front locking and tyre temperatures throughout that stint, suffering a brief off at Turn 11 and being passed by Gasly and, on the final lap, Ocon.

On top of that, Ricciardo’s long opening stint allowed him to jump Stroll.

VERDICT: Lacked the pace and incisiveness to make the most of the car in the race, while the fact Perez’s irrelevant Q1 lap was faster than Stroll ever did in qualifying is telling.

Kimi

Started: 15th Finished: 12th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 66
Gap to team-mate: +0.480s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.290s

Raikkonen’s final lap in Q1 started reasonably but got away from him in the second half, with a few moments after destabilising the car by taking too much kerb.

This exaggerated the gap to Giovinazzi but it wasn’t a good Saturday for Raikkonen. He described it in more colourful terms than that.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: UP 1
1 stop – medium/hard

Raikkonen passed his team-mate around the outside of Turn 1 at the start, which laid the foundations for his ‘Class C’ win.

He pitted under the VSC then jumped the two Ferraris when they made their stops.

He also managed to keep the Ferraris at bay once they came back at him, absorbing pressure from Leclerc before pulling comfortably clear late on.

VERDICT: Qualifying was mediocre, but he drove a strong race to the best possible result.

Giovinazzi

Started: 14th Finished: 16th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 47
Gap to team-mate: -0.480s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +1.298s

Giovinazzi had his first Q1 lap deleted thanks to running wide at the exit of Turn 20, but fortunately avoided any significant floor damage despite riding the sausage kerb.

But he outpaced Raikkonen comfortably on his second lap, having appeared to have the edge on his team-mate despite sitting out FP1 for Robert Kubica.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: DOWN 1
1 stop – medium/hard

Giovinazzi was uncharacteristically conservative into Turn 1, which allowed Raikkonen to get around him. He held 15th in the first stint before being passed by Perez.

But the team decided to leave him out on mediums under the early VSC/safety car, which allowed Russell to pass him.

He dropped to the back when he finally stopped, but moved ahead of the Haas drivers and Latifi when they pitted later.

VERDICT: Produced a strong qualifying lap but lost a position to Raikkonen at the start, then was on the wrong end of the strategic call to stay out under the VSC.

Fitti Haas

Started: 17th Finished: 18th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 64
Gap to team-mate: +0.310s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.094s

A tow from Magnussen on his first Q1 lap helped Fittipaldi set a strong banker time, but he didn’t improve on the following two runs.

A weighbridge summons after his first run cost him time, leading to him pushing too hard to complete his second out-lap quickly.

Traffic in the final sector, including the spinning Latifi, compromised prep for the lap on his third run.

This resulted in a lock-up and missing the apex at Turn 1.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: DOWN 1
3 stops – medium/hard/medium/soft

As you’d expect, Fittipaldi spent most of the race at the back although he did hold Latifi at bay in the first stint.

The need to top up the air supply at his VSC pitstop on lap 10 cost him around six seconds, with the problem needing to be attended to at his second stop too.

A third stop late on meant that he dropped back behind Magnussen again but thanks to Magnussen running on his starting set of hards, it’s possible Fittipaldi could have beaten him.

VERDICT: While Magnussen was quicker, Fittipaldi’s inexperience and progress made this a creditable step from his debut.

Magnussen

Started: 20th Finished: 18th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 49
Gap to team-mate: -0.310s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.053s

Qualifying was pointless for Magnussen as he had a back-of-the-grid penalty, though he hoped for more pace given he picked up a tow from Raikkonen.

His final attempt was his best, but the rear end stepped out at the final corner just prior to starting the lap and he was a little surprised by the impact of the tow having not experienced it previously in the weekend, meaning he missed a few braking points.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: UP 3
2 stops – hard/medium/medium

Magnussen had his usual attacking first lap to run 17th before being passed by Russell. Realistically the Haas had no chance to stay ahead of the Williams drivers.

He didn’t stop under the safety car thanks to being on hards but dropped to the back when he did pit on lap 31.

He jumped back ahead of Fittipaldi when his team-mate made his second stop and had a quick blast on fresh mediums after a late stop knowing it wouldn’t affect the result.

VERDICT: There wasn’t much he could do with a poor car, although neither qualifying nor the race were among his best work this season

Latifi

Started: 18th Finished: 17th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 75
Gap to team-mate: +0.398s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.053s

Latifi’s first run in Q1 was ragged and he set what stood as his best time on his second push lap.

His final run was ruined by spinning off the final corner as he started the lap after losing tyre temperature thanks to backing up in traffic.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: DOWN 1
2 stops – medium/hard/medium

Latifi made a good start but couldn’t quite squeeze around Russell at Turn 1, then was passed by Magnussen through Turn 8/9 with Fittipaldi also getting ahead thanks to Latifi’s compromised run onto the second back straight.

Having stayed out under the VSC, he pitted when it turned into a full safety car and gained a place thanks to Fittipaldi’s slow stop.

He later passed Magnussen using the DRS, taking a second stop shortly after Magnussen pitted so he could run to the end on mediums.

VERDICT: Qualifying not great, but turned in a characteristically solid race drive.

Russell

Started: 15th Finished: 15th

Qualifying

Practice laps: 64
Gap to team-mate: -0.398s
Gap to ‘ideal’ lap: +0.110s

Having set a good pace in FP3, there was reasonable confidence heading into qualifying but keeping the tyres in the window proved to be impossible.

Russell described the tyres as being “nowhere” on both of his runs and ended up almost half-a-second off a Q2 place thanks to the resulting lack of grip.

Race

Penalties:
Positions gained/lost lap 1: NONE
1 stop – medium/hard

Ostensibly, a straightforward race for Russell. He ran 16th early on having almost, but not quite, got ahead of Giovinazzi on the first lap before being shuffled back to 17th by Perez.

By pitting under the VSC, he was able to pass Giovinazzi as the Alfa driver struggled on his starting mediums, and therefore finished second in ‘Class C’.

But he had to manage the race well owing to brake temperature problems that required constant management and also made it harder to preserve tyre temperature as the track cooled.

VERDICT: Had no grip in qualifying but drove well in the race to manage what he called the “little gremlins” and beat the faster Giovinazzi.

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