The Winners and Losers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
It may have been a long season, but the sun was shining and the pressure off with both championships decided, so there was a good vibe for the 2019 finale at Yas Marina. But while some will head into the winter with momentum, others will be glad of the break. We pick out the winners and losers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix…
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
This was vintage Lewis Hamilton. After struggling to find a rhythm during Friday practice, the six-time world champion regrouped overnight and hit back with aplomb on Saturday to take what was only his fifth pole position of the season.
The Briton – competing in his 250th Grand Prix – then converted that into an 11th victory of the season, tying his best-ever season total, which he achieved in 2014 and 2018.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, his consistency can be highlighted by the fact this was his highest-ever points tally in a season – 413 – and his 33rd consecutive points finish, tying his own record.
This was a brilliant win from a brilliant champion, who you know is already plotting how he can make it seven titles and match the great Michael Schumacher.
2019 Formula 1 drivers' championship standings
|1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes||413|
|2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes||326|
|3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing||278|
Loser: Pierre Gasly
This could have been a big weekend from Pierre Gasly, the Toro Rosso driver level on points with Carlos Sainz in the battle for sixth place in the drivers’ championship.
He gave himself a chance to keep that position by lining up 11th – with free choice of tyres to start the race – but he could do nothing about Lance Stroll getting out of shape and clattering into him on the opening lap.
It necessitated a front wing change and by the time he got back out, he was a lap down. From there, his hopes were all but over.
Nonetheless, seventh is nothing to be scoffed at, and there will be some satisfaction in beating Alex Albon, the driver who replaced him at Red Bull, by three points.
Winner: Max Verstappen
That run of form helped him leapfrog Charles Leclerc into third in the drivers’ championship to cap off his best-ever season with three wins, his first two poles, and his highest points tally: 278.
Loser: Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll made it out of Q1 for only the seventh time this season in Abu Dhabi, but that was pretty much the high point in an otherwise frustrating season finale.
The Canadian collided with Gasly at the start, which forced an early stop for a new front wing – and that all but ended his chances of scoring points.
He ultimately retired with a brake problem to end the season five places and 31 points behind team mate Sergio Perez.
Winner: Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz has made a habit of consistently finishing best of the rest this season in the ever-improving McLaren and that put him in a position to pip Gasly and Albon – who have shared a Red Bull – to sixth in the drivers’ championship.
Starting on the soft, inside the top 10, the Spaniard was vulnerable to attack from those who had free tyre choice, so McLaren opted for a two-stop strategy. That left with him plenty of overtaking to do in the closing stages to snatch a point.
And while he left it late, until the last lap in fact, Sainz was late on the brakes with an ambitious move down the inside of Nico Hulkenberg to steal 10th and secure sixth, which was his 13th points finish of the season.
Loser: Nico Hulkenberg
For much of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it looked like Nico Hulkenberg would score points in his final race for Renault – and possibly F1 – with a gritty drive.
But the German ran out of tyres in the closing stages and dropped out of the points on the last lap, ultimately finishing 12th. It ended a tough year, where things haven’t really clicked, Hulkenberg ending up 14th, five places and 17 points adrift of team mate Daniel Ricciardo, having beaten previous team mates – Sainz and Jolyon Palmer – in the last two years.
Winner: Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas knew this weekend would be tough when he was forced to change his engine not once but twice before the race, as the associated penalties confined him to the back of the grid.
On top of that, he was under the weather, but he put all that aside on race day to fight back through the field to secure fourth. Had there not been a technical issue with DRS for the whole field, which limited his progress, a podium might even have been on the cards.
Loser: Lando Norris
It might look strange to put Lando Norris in the losers’ column for securing an 11th points finish of the season, but it goes to show how far he’s come – and thus raised expectations – in his rookie season.
Norris was disappointed he allowed Perez to pass him reasonably easily for seventh in the closing stages as it cost him 10th place in the drivers’ championship to the Mexican, but you get the impression he’ll learn from his mistake.
Winner: Sergio Perez
Norris’ mistake was Perez’s gain as the Racing Point driver bounced back from failing to reach Q3 in any of the final eight races of the year to deliver a trademark long opening stint that gave him fresher tyres to attack in the closing stages and score points for the sixth successive race.
It meant the Mexican has now finished in the top nine at Yas Marina for seven consecutive seasons, while 10th in the drivers’ standings means he has now finished inside the top 10 for eight straight seasons.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo arrived in Abu Dhabi with hopes they could catch Racing Point in the fight for seventh in the constructors’ championship, after a huge 22-point haul in Brazil.
But they lacked the pace in qualifying to get out of Q1 and, while their race pace was a little better and they looked like they may threaten for points, it ultimately came to nothing for their fifth non-score in six races.