F1 POWER RANKINGS: Which driver finished top of the charts for the season after the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP?
The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen crowned champion in a finale that stoked opinions from fans everywhere. But what did our judges think of the last race of the season, and who ended up at the top of the leaderboard after the 22nd and final Grand Prix?
HOW IT WORKS
Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation
Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)
Lewis Hamilton may not have won the race nor did he win the drivers' title but he was our judges' pick. An almost perfect score, as was the standard in that season-ending race, Hamilton may have missed out on pole position but set the pace on Sunday.
The seven-time champion led all but seven of the 58 laps, no team mate to support him against an all-out Red Bull assault, only losing out on the very last lap.
Scoring almost as high as Hamilton in our Power Rankings, Max Verstappen crucially made sure he never lost track of the final prize in Abu Dhabi.
After taking pole and losing out to Hamilton in that Turn 6-7 chicane on Lap 1, the stewards deciding to let the two race, Verstappen soldiered on, using his team mate Perez's heroics to claw back some lost ground and a Virtual Safety Car to fit new hard tyres and give himself another fighting chance.
Ultimately, it all came down to that final lap shootout, and the Red Bull driver led the only lap that counted.
Was this Yuki Tsunoda's finest performance in F1 yet? The Japanese rookie scored well above more established racers after taking a brilliant P4 on Sunday.
Qualifying eighth behind the Ferraris, Lando Norris's McLaren and the usual top-four starters, Tsunoda gained a place from the opening lap, another off Charles Leclerc, and, pitting for soft tyres for the final restart, made it count with P4 by the flag – his best result of the season, in the final race of the season.
The final podium-finisher from Abu Dhabi, Carlos Sainz was elated to take P3 on Sunday, and rightly so. The Ferrari capitalised on P5 in qualifying to swipe a place off Lando Norris at the start, stayed ahead of the midfield and jumped into the podium place when Sergio Perez retired at the end. He said it was probably his best Ferrari performance yet.
Sergio Perez, dubbed a "legend" and an "animal" for his heroics in holding off Hamilton just before the halfway mark in Abu Dhabi, was unfortunate not to claim the final podium spot having retired on Lap 56. Having qualified fourth, Perez did his job and did so admirably for the drivers' championship-winning team.
Lando Norris rued his luck after an Abu Dhabi race that saw him lose out on the first lap to Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, pit from P5 and slowly make his way back up there.
The McLaren driver was left frustated thereafter as a slow puncture drew him into the pits on Lap 48, leaving him to salvage P7 – but miss out on P5 in the standings to former team mate Sainz.
Pierre Gasly admitted he had a problem after qualifying, which saw him clinch a less-than-middling P12 on the grid. The AlphaTauri driver's racecraft, however, saw him pull through, as Gasly endured a long first stint and then pitted late on from what was looking a likely P7 finish to climb to P5 by the flag.
Eleventh on the grid due to issues with traffic in qualifying, Fernando Alonso was left slightly irate by Saturday's session – but kept his cool to run as high as fourth due to a long first stint on hard tyres and then finished P8, declining to pit for the final restart.
Ocon, who qualified ninth, rounded out a solid double points finish for Alpine, keeping it clean with his team mate. He was unfortunate not to be in a position to benefit from the Virtual Safety Car nor the Safety Car with P9 proving his ceiling on a good day.
Mick Schumacher, the sole Haas driver in the race after Nikita Mazepin missed out with Covid, was inadvertently part of the race's pivotal moment when he battled with Nicholas Latifi, who then spun and crashed. Less on that; more on the fact that Schumacher did have a pretty good race on Sunday according to the judges, keeping his nose clean on a contrary strategy to the rest and finishing P14 – his best since Hungary.
The final standings
No change at the very top of the leaderboard, despite Hamilton outscoring Verstappen by a couple of decimals this week. So that means Verstappen has the highest Power Rankings score over the 2021 season!
Lower down the order, Carlos Sainz has moved up to fifth, equal with Pierre Gasly, as George Russell moved down to P8 – and Sergio Perez's season-ending show put him back into the top 10 for the final standings.