Abu Dhabi Grand Prix driver ratings – plus my pick for driver of the day
The 2018 season is over and done with after one last hurrah in Abu Dhabi this weekend. As you will now by now, this season I've been assessing the drivers after each race. There might only be one winner of the Grand Prix but for the drivers your biggest opposition is your team-mate so there are actually ten winners and ten losers!
While Abu Dhabi offers a glitzy, futuristic setting and a harbour full of the rich pretending they are at Monaco, it tends to lack any real character and the racing tends to be just as disappointing. It has two huge straights where you can DRS-by but then an endless series of follow-the-leader turns. I’m convinced a few circuit tweaks could transform it, but then I’m not Herr Tilke!
The final result of the final race was pretty predicable, but Hamilton’s domination made him my driver of the day.
MY DRIVER OF THE DAY: LEWIS HAMILTON 10/10
While Lewis Hamilton might have been criticised for backing off a bit once his championships were won in the past, there was no sign of it in Abu Dhabi. Another brilliant pole, another clean getaway and instantly opening a good lead.
He was pitted by the team for tyres under the VSC and then wasn’t impressed to find himself behind both Red Bulls when he re-joined. Having to then run longest on the Supersoft tyre in a car not known to be that kind to them, he produced a textbook controlled run to the end.
By contrast Bottas, although a good second on the grid just 0.162secs slower, was gradually overhauled by the rest of the remaining top six and beaten to the back of the pack before heading pitwards for another set of tyres. The vast gap between the race pace of the two teammates is reflected in their scores.
Kimi Raikkonen was one of eleven - and most probably twelve - drivers who will be moving to new seats next year and, for all his fans the world over, it was a very disappointing finale with his Ferrari deciding to turn itself off as a protest against his departure!
A more fitting podium place was definitely on offer as teammate Vettel had an error free run to the finish. He was just a couple of seconds behind – and closing in on Lewis towards the end – as he pulled away from the Red Bulls who early-on looked to challenge him.
Yet again Max Verstappen was a candidate for driver of the day after his Tag Heuer power unit decided to go into snooze mode off the grid and then on a couple more occasions until the team told him the correct ‘Control, Alt, Delete’ code to re-boot it. Having slumped as low as eleventh he quickly fought his way back and hopefully thanked his mate Ocon for allowing him to complete a block pass at the Hairpin without both incurring serious damage – but I doubt it!
When teammate Ricciardo opted to go long on his starting tyres – running out front for almost twenty laps on his Red Bull swansong – Max inherited the Red Bull lead and the final place on the podium. One has to wonder if the very popular Aussie will ever lead a Grand Prix again...
If Ricciardo is to ever lead a Grand Prix again then it will require Renault to somehow produce a car that reduces the 72.548 second deficit Carlos Sainz suffered as he drove a strong race to finish sixth overall and take the Class B crown. This was his last race for his current team as he too takes a step further back on the grid of the future.
Teammate Hulkenberg outqualified him but then ‘did a Max’ by assuming Romain Grosjean would back off after he’d pushed him wide into the second chicane on the opening lap. Grosjean back off??!! The net result was a spectacular double roll and the first evidence that escaping an upside-down car with a halo on it is not an easy thing.
In my season review next week I’ll be adding up all the scores and checking out how my pre-season qualifying predictions turned out, but one thing’s for sure: I badly underestimated Fernando Alonso’s pride and determination.
After all the woes with Honda, I was convinced that another bad year would see him ease off the throttle and not care if his young hotshot teammate started outqualifying him – how wrong was I?
Another maximum attack to haul his recalcitrant McLaren into Q2 a massive 0.687secs faster than Vandoorne and then a never-say-die battle to the finish, even incurring a five second penalty for outbraking himself and straightlining the second chicane. He was only a couple of seconds behind the second Haas of Magnussen at the end. A nothing result compared to his illustrious career but this man never knows when to stop giving his all.
Stoffel also tried his best in his last outing in a big beefy F1 car before lifting and coasting into Formula E but his battle with Stroll was nearly half a minute behind.
Despite being 0.552secs and four places behind his teammate in qualifying Marcus Ericsson appeared to be in a demob happy mode all weekend as he looks to run further up the grid in Indycar next year – although I don’t think he’ll find it that easy!
Happy with his qualifying and happy to battle with the likes of Sainz and Gasly to stay in the top ten but all to no avail when another Ferrari engine switched itself off.
Teammate Leclerc however was battling with the Red Bulls early on before following Hamilton in for an early tyre stop.
But it stuck him way back in 15th and on a long, team error induced, recovery run to end up Class B runner-up, nearly twenty seconds adrift of Sainz. Kimi will have something to say if they do that to him next year!
Once again, the Force Indias were outclassed by their Ferrari powered Class B rivals and only Ocon made it into Q3, a huge 0.727secs quicker than Perez who was struggling with the balance of his car.
Having to start on the Hypersofts he qualified on, Ocon needed to pit ten laps before Perez and found himself behind when his Mexican mate pitted. The Frenchman was closing in for a Pink Panther fight – just as Perez was catching Leclerc for seventh – when a hydraulic problem made him yet another to have to leave a team with a retirement.
Not the most impressive end to the season for the Honda powered cars on a track that rewards horsepower.
Never in the top ten in practice, Gasly was however looking good for a place in Q2 before his engine lost power on the run to the line on his best lap and he found himself in the unusual situation of lining up behind Hartley as both Rossos failed to get out of Q3.
The Red Bull bound Frenchman did however produce a strong race performance to climb into the top ten before he became the fourth driver to frustratingly end his last race with a team with car failure.
Unfortunately Brendon once again got himself caught-up in the first lap mayhem and had to pit for a new nose. He then got away with clobbering the wall all on his own but battled on to at least beat the Williams and Vandoorne, but I fear he won’t beat the F1 exit door and young Alexander Albon’s dreams may come true...
Despite Romain Grosjean qualifying on Class B pole, the Haas boys had something of an underwhelming weekend despite both finishing in the points, and propping up the top ten.
Once again teammate Magnussen was a bit off the Frenchman’s pace – a rather large 0.577secs and six places behind on the grid to be precise – but picked up places as others fell to the side and at the end was only two seconds down on Grosjean who struggled with damage after the clash with Hulkenberg – but both were lapped by Hamilton.
Amazingly only these two and the Mercedes boys will have the same teammate next year!
And finally we have to ponder on another woeful weekend for Williams who, despite the feelgood factor of announcing Robert Kubica as a race driver for 2019, filled out the back row of the grid with their ever hard-trying pair split by just 0.047secs, with Sergey Sirotkin on top this time.
Sadly for the Russian he had to spend the race a solid last coping with an overheating Mercedes and bows out with a very undeserved reputation of being just an average rent-a-driver who has now run out of money.
Stroll, who at least had the satisfaction of beating Vandoorne, is also nowhere as bad as many think and I doubt Perez will have it all his own way next which might, albeit too late, reflect on what a good job Sirotkin did this year.
So, the FINAL TABLE looks like this:
10/10 – Hamilton
9/10 – Vettel, Verstappen, Sainz, Alonso
8/10 – Ricciardo, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly
7/10 – Grosjean, Stroll, Vandoorne
6/10 – Ericsson, Ocon, Magnussen, Sirotkin
5/10 – Hartley, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg
4/10 – Bottas