Front to back: the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Reviewing every team and driver as the F1 season comes to a dramatic conclusion in the UAE.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 1st, finished 1st
Nico Rosberg: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd
A podium finish in Abu Dhabi was all Rosberg needed to secure his first world championship irrespective of what Hamilton did in the race, and while what Hamilton did – back his teammate into the chasing pack while openly defying repeated instructions from his team to up the pace – will be debated for much of the off-season, Rosberg kept his cool to win the title by five points, and become the third German to take the crown after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. “That was definitely not the most enjoyable race I’ve ever had,” said an exhausted and emotional Rosberg afterwards, and it was no wonder – after making a safe start and slotting into second behind his teammate, Verstappen’s lengthy opening stint caused him no end of stress, and his lap 20 pass of the Dutchman given what was at stake was the move of a world champion. Rosberg became F1’s 33rd world champion, 34 years after his father Keke took the 1982 title for Williams. Hamilton’s fourth straight win to end the year and his 10th for the season in all was only ever in doubt by how slow he chose to drive – his final lap of the race, as he backed Rosberg into the clutches of Vettel and Verstappen, was nine seconds slower than his pole time 24 hours before. His response when he was asked by the Mercedes pit wall to drive to the potential of his car – “I’m losing the world championship, so right now I don’t really care whether I win or lose this race” – will prompt plenty of internal review at Mercedes in the weeks to come. In the end, Rosberg’s sheer consistency – he finished all but one race and 16 of the 21 Grands Prix on the podium – made all the difference.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 5th, finished 3rd
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, finished 6th
Vettel absolutely flew late in the race after his second pit stop on lap 37, storming through from fifth to be all over Rosberg’s gearbox in the final laps, but not finding a way past. A long second stint brought the German right back into contention after he laboured in sixth in the opening laps, and at the circuit where he secured his first world championship in 2010, Vettel was back on the podium for just the second time in the last 13 races of the year. A seventh top-three finish of the season secured fourth in the drivers’ standings. Raikkonen made a superb launch off the line to mug Ricciardo into the first corner, but some battery issues and being placed on what turned out to be the least preferred strategy option saw him fall behind Ricciardo, and his final stint of the year was spent in a lonely sixth, 13 seconds behind the Australian, but more than half a minute ahead of the trailing Force Indias.

Felipe Massa:
qualified 10th, finished 9th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 11th, did not finish
It was almost fitting that Massa wrapped up his F1 career in his 250th race by finishing half a second ahead of Alonso’s McLaren, given the years they spent together at Ferrari in the past. The Brazilian made the top 10 in qualifying in his final race and finished right in Perez’s wheeltracks, and was 11th overall – one point and one position behind Alonso – in his last F1 season. Bottas couldn’t join his Williams teammate in the points after a rear suspension issue had him out just 13 laps into the race.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 3rd, finished 5th
Max Verstappen: qualified 6th, finished 4th
Red Bull chose to start its drivers on the supersoft tyres rather than the ultrasoft preferred by Mercedes (and the rest of the top 10) in qualifying, figuring that mirroring the same strategy as a faster opponent wouldn’t put it into the podium fight. The decision worked for Verstappen, but not in the way it was originally intended – the Dutchman was tapped into a spin at the first corner after contact with Hulkenberg, Red Bull then electing to leave him out on track for a marathon 22-lap opening stint that opened up the chance of a one-stop strategy. He closed up on Rosberg towards the end as Hamilton slowed the pace at the front to a crawl, but couldn’t fend off Vettel’s flying Ferrari with four laps to go as he wrapped up his first Red Bull season in fourth. Ricciardo made a sluggish getaway off the line and was zapped by Raikkonen into the first corner, and while the Australian was pitted for a second time on lap 24 to undercut the Finn, his older tyres didn’t allow him to get back into the fight for the podium, and he finished five seconds behind Hamilton in fifth after failing to clear his one-stopping teammate, and having nothing for Vettel on fresher rubber when the Ferrari attacked on lap 46.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 7th, finished 7th
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 8th
Hulkenberg emerged as the best of the Force India duo on Saturday and Sunday in his final race for the team before heading to Renault in 2017, qualifying and finishing in the same spot as Force India secured its best-ever finish of fourth in the constructors’ championship. The German and Perez had some wheel-to-wheel moments in the opening laps, but Hulkenberg had the Mexican’s measure, eventually finishing seven seconds ahead. Four points for Perez took him past the century mark for points in a season for the first time.

Jolyon Palmer:
qualified 15th, finished 17th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 18th, did not finish
Magnussen was Sunday’s first retirement after a poor start and a damaged front wing, parking up after just five laps as he had an underwhelming end to his Renault career before heading to Haas. It wasn’t much better on the other side of the garage either, Palmer finishing last after having a five-second time penalty added after the race for locking up and clattering into Sainz at Turn 17 on lap 42.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 17th, did not finish
Carlos Sainz: qualified 21st, did not finish
Abu Dhabi was a nightmare for Toro Rosso, with Kvyat suffering two left-rear punctures in Friday practice, which prompted the team to pull both cars off the track as it attempted to find the problem, which was linked to overheating the rear wheel rims. With so little practice time, it was no surprise that the team had both cars eliminated in Q1 for the first time since the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix, while gearbox problems sidelined both cars on race day.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 19th, finished 16th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 22nd, finished 15th
Ericsson, who had his tenure at Sauber extended to a third season in 2017 in the lead-up to Abu Dhabi, apologised to the team for a scruffy lap in Q1 that left him last on Saturday, and he ran a 39-lap opening soft tyre stint on Sunday that had him nibbling on the fringes of the top 10 until the final laps. Teammate Nasr lost his primary sponsor Banco do Brazil, which makes his place on the grid in 2017 tenuous at best, and was second-last in what might be his final Grand Prix.

Jenson Button:
qualified 12th, did not finish
Fernando Alonso: qualified 9th, finished 10th
Button ran a special eye-catching yellow helmet design reminiscent of his 2009 world championship-winning season for Brawn for what looks likely to be his final Grand Prix, but the form and fortune that propelled him to the top of the world seven years ago deserted him in the desert, the Briton breaking his front suspension after clouting a kerb on lap 13 and retiring to bring down the curtain on a 305-race career that began in 2000. Alonso produced an incredible lap to nudge Bottas and Williams out of the top 10 by four-hundredths of a second on Saturday, and finished 16 seconds ahead of Grosjean for the final point on offer in what he felt was his third-best season in F1, behind 2012 and 2014 with Ferrari, but ahead of his 2005/2006 championship campaigns.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 16th, finished 14th
Esteban Ocon: qualified 20th, finished 13th
Ocon wrapped up his Manor stint with 13th place after his season-best 12th in Brazil last time out, using a lengthy opening stint on the soft tyre to advance from his 20th spot on the grid in his final race before moving to Force India. Teammate Wehrlein was one place behind, the Manor duo squabbling fiercely late in the race, and the German shone once again in qualifying, hauling his car into Q2 as other bigger names in bigger teams fell by the wayside.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 14th, finished 11th
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 13th, finished 12th
Yet another finish as close as you can get to the points without scoring any for Haas – 11th for Grosjean was the seventh time this year either or Gutierrez came home one spot outside of the top 10. Gutierrez started a place ahead of his French teammate but was 18 seconds behind at the flag as he completed – for the time being at least – his last race in F1. Grosjean scored all 29 of Haas’ points in its debut season, but just one of those came in the final 12 races.


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