5 Winners and 5 Losers from Abu Dhabi – Who rounded off the season on a high?
Max Verstappen bookended a quite extraordinary season with another comfortable victory – a 19th in 22 races – to head into the winter break riding high. While some will also have that warm and fuzzy feeling after strong performances at Yas Marina Circuit, there were plenty who left the season finale itching to forget. We pick out five winners and five losers from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen celebrated his seventh successive victory as if it was his first, the three-time world champion admitting that this one was particularly satisfying because the car performance had weirdly fluctuated across the weekend.
More records were broken with the Red Bull racer becoming the first driver in history to lead 1,000 laps in a single season. His final tally was almost double that of second-placed Sergio Perez, as he made the most of being the only driver to finish every single race.
Abu Dhabi was the latest step in a ruthless benchmark-setting season that has yielded the most wins in a single campaign (19), most consecutive race wins (10), most podium finishes (21), highest points total (575) and biggest winning margin (290) for the Dutchman.
Loser: Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz has been the stronger of the two Ferrari drivers for most of this season, but the last two races of 2023 have been a nightmare for the Spaniard.
For the second race in a row, the Ferrari driver started outside of the top 10 but this time, he couldn’t fight back into the points. The decision to start on the hard tyre and follow with another stint on the same tyre was erroneous and meant he was of no use in the Italian’s fight with Mercedes for P2 in the constructors’ championship.
His failure to score dropped him from P4 to P6 and behind team mate Leclerc in the overall standings – while Ferrari also missed out on P2 by just three points.
Winner: George Russell
George Russell has had a frustrating and inconsistent season but showed shoots of the form that encouraged Mercedes to sign him in the last few races – and that run was capped with a superb podium under the lights on Yas Island.
The Briton made the most of his best-ever starting slot in Abu Dhabi of fourth and a slow stop for Lando Norris to rise up into P3. And while he crossed the line P4 – having failed to fend off Sergio Perez – a penalty for his Mexican rival promoted Russell to P3 for his second podium of the season.
That haul was significant as it helped Mercedes beat Ferrari to second overall, marking a one-place improvement in the standings of the Silver Arrows from last season.
Losers: Aston Martin
Having lost their way in the middle of the season, courtesy of upgrades which didn’t deliver the performance step they hoped for, Aston Martin rebounded strongly in the final three Grands Prix, scoring with both cars in each.
However, their relative pace was well off the form they showed at the start of the season (which yielded five podiums in six races) and thus it wasn’t enough to beat McLaren on track in Abu Dhabi.
That meant they missed out on P4 in the constructors’ championship, though it should be noted fifth is still two places higher than they managed last year.
Winner: Fernando Alonso
Double world champion Fernando Alonso aspires to much more than finishing seventh, but the Spaniard is also realistic enough to know what is possible with the machinery he has at his disposal right now.
The Spaniard – who told me he believes this was his second-best season in terms of personal performance (he says 2012 was the best) – had some fun battles on track and snatched P7 from Yuki Tsunoda in the closing stages.
That pass confirmed P4 in the drivers’ championship, which is the first time he’s scored a top-five finish since taking the runner-up spot in 2013.
Loser: Kevin Magnussen
Twentieth and last was Kevin Magnussen’s worst classified position of the season, the Dane irritated by a lack of performance that left him with nothing to fight for in Abu Dhabi.
The Haas driver, running the new spec car introduced in Austin, was much slower than team mate Nico Hulkenberg, who was running the old spec car, in both qualifying and race pace.
That he gave the shortest answers of the season in post-session interviews was proof of just how keen he was to get Abu Dhabi done so he can leave this campaign behind.
Winner: Yuki Tsunoda
Not only did Yuki Tsunoda lead a Grand Prix (which was also only the second time a Japanese driver has done so) for the first time in his career but he also earned the plaudits of the fans as he won a maiden Driver of the Day accolade.
The Japanese driver had the measure of AlphaTauri team mate Daniel Ricciardo all weekend and while he maximised a one-stop strategy, it wasn’t the fastest route and thus he dropped a couple of places from his grid slot to finish eighth.
That was still his third points finish in five races to signal a fine end to what has comfortably been his most impressive season to date.
Tsunoda’s strong end to the year, coupled with Ricciardo’s great drive to seventh in Mexico raised the prospect of AlphaTauri snatching P7 in the constructors’ championship from Williams at the death.
However, even though they introduced a new floor at the final race of the season, they couldn’t get themselves in a spot to score heavily enough and thus they end the year eighth, still two places higher than the bottom of the table where they have spent most of the season.
So, it was a bittersweet send-off for their boss Franz Tost, F1’s second longest-serving Team Principal, as while his latest protégé Tsunoda starred, they didn’t have the ultimate high of snatching one more position from a rival.
This is the first time this year Williams have made it into the winners’ section of this feature without scoring a point – but their efforts earlier in the season were rewarded as they held on to P7 in the constructors’ championship and the prize money bump that comes with it.
It’s a particularly impressive feat considering the team haven’t upgraded the car since race eight in Canada – as their full focus and resource has been on taking a big step with their 2024 car.
Loser: Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton had very little to say after one of his most uncompetitive weekends in recent memory. The seven-time world champion failed to reach Q3 in consecutive races for the first time since Germany-Hungary in 2014.
On race day, he lacked the pace to make much progress – and while he did haul himself into the points by finishing ninth, he was no match for Mercedes team mate George Russell this weekend.