2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix driver ratings

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

It was a strange race for the front-runners in Abu Dhabi but a more typical affair further back. Here’s how the drivers got on in the final race weekend of the year.


Hamilton won a bizarre race
Lewis Hamilton – Started on the right foot by leading Rosberg in both Friday sessions, despite a brief spin in first practice. He was imperious in qualifying, setting a pace Rosberg simply couldn’t match. Delaying Rosberg was obviously the correct tactics; the argument he should have driven off and left things alone behind him is unrealistic. So why didn’t it work? Hamilton said slowing Rosberg down any more would have been dangerous, but it appeared he was too cautious about preserving his own position to really jeopardise Rosberg’s. He needed to to push things to the limit, putting himself at risk of being overtaken, and it seemed he couldn’t bring himself to do that.

Nico Rosberg – Couldn’t keep up with Hamilton in qualifying but the chasing pack was half a second slower. Hamilton took care of that in the race, of course, which made for a very uncomfortable 55 laps for Rosberg. However at key moments he did what he needed to: he was quick enough on his first out-lap to keep Raikkonen behind, fought superbly to pass Verstappen, and kept his cool at the end. Slower than Hamilton, but deeply impressive under pressure.


Sebastian Vettel – Was ‘best of the rest’ on Friday but a gearbox problem struck during his race simulation. He was distracted by an error from Verstappen ahead of him during his final qualifying run and ended up fifth. However he ran a long middle stint before switching to super-softs at the end of the race to take advantage of the slow pace dictated by Hamilton. This paid off, allowing him to pass the Red Bulls for third. But he couldn’t find a way past Rosberg, ironically because the Mercedes driver was occasionally getting DRS activation from his team mate.

Kimi Raikkonen – Didn’t look particularly comfortable with the car on Friday but recovered to take fourth on the grid. He picked off Ricciardo at the start and ran third, but despite having the advantage of the undercut against Rosberg he failed to jump the Mercedes. Ricciardo got him at the next round of stops, and after letting Vettel through he fell off the back of the leading pack.


Felipe Massa – The Force Indias separated him from his team mate at the end of his final Friday in F1, but he beat his team mate to take a place in Q3. Bottas passed him early in the race, then retired, leaving Massa to collect points for ninth. He ended his F1 career in fighting style, trying to find a way past Perez while simultaneously fending off Alonso.

Valtteri Bottas – After conducting engine and aero tests in first practice he got down to business in the second session and was quicker than both Force Indias. He couldn’t get more grip from the ultra-softs in qualifying and so went out in Q2. His race was a bit of a non-event: having made a good start a rear suspension failure ended his day.

Red Bull

Verstappen had a few slip-ups
Daniel Ricciardo – There was little to choose between the Red Bulls on Friday – Ricciardo was just one-thousandth off Verstappen – but the gap to Mercedes was a greater concern for the team. Verstappen led much of qualifying but Ricciardo pulled a great lap out of the bag at the end to take ‘non-Mercedes pole’. He couldn’t hold his position at the start on super-softs, however, and despite a strong effort he failed to pass Raikkonen on the track. The team arguably slipped up by leaving him out while several of his rivals were stuck behind Verstappen. Sticking with the two-stopper limited his points-scoring opportunities to fifth place.

Max Verstappen – Had to abort his last race simulation run in second practice due to a problem with his car. He was frustrated with himself after errors in Q3 left him sixth on the grid, then made another mistake at the beginning of the race and fell to last. However thanks to Hamilton’s slow driving Verstappen was able to catch up and converting to a one-stop strategy recovered fourth place which rather flattered his efforts.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg – Alfonso Celis drove his car in first practice but Hulkenberg was on the pace by qualifying and narrowly beat his team mate to lead row four. He went around the outside of Verstappen at the start and survived the contact between the pair, then won a thrilling scrap with Perez to keep his place. Hamilton’s pace wasn’t slow enough for Force India to catch up, so seventh was the limit of what could be done.

Sergio Perez – A slight power loss was his only concern on Friday and Hulkenberg pipped him by 0.018 seconds in qualifying. Having been rebuffed by Hulkenberg at the start he settled into eighth place but lost pace at the end of the race and came under pressure from Massa.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up


Kevin Magnussen – Trailled Palmer in both Friday sessions after a water leak curtailed his running in the first and a flat-spot spoiled his soft tyre race simulation. In qualifying his plan to do three runs was interrupted by a trip to the weighbridge and he ended up behind Palmer again. He got off the line poorly and was almost last at turn one, and tangled with Wehrlein at turn eight. He pitted for repairs but had to retire soon afterwards.

Palmer ran into a rival
Jolyon Palmer – Tyre degradation on high fuel was his concern on Friday evening but the following day he was pleased with his work, gaining a place in Q2. His race started well and he quickly rose to 11th, raising hopes of a points finish. But tyre degradation remained a significant problem and he began to lose ground, then ran into the back of Sainz, picking up a penalty.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat – Matters came to a head over Toro Rosso’s spate of recent punctures on Friday. Two further left-rear failures for Kvyat, culminating in a high-speed spin during the second session, led the team to park its cars while the cause was investigated. A brake duct was eventually found to be the culprit. The drivers therefore had to improvise in qualifying and Kvyat did best, though he couldn’t progress beyond Q1. Having moved up to 13th early on he retired with gearbox failure on a wasted weekend.

Carlos Sainz Jnr – Did little running in the more representative second practice session due to Kvyat’s punctures. Having started from the back row he got rid of his super-soft tyres early on and made some progress. An early second pit stop dropped him behind Palmer and shortly after passing the Renault he was rammed from behind, causing race-ending gearbox damage.


Marcus Ericsson – Both Saubers were behind the Manors on Friday and Ericsson admitted they were having difficulty getting the ultra-softs to work. An error on his final lap left him last on the grid. After being forced wide by Magnussen at the start a mammoth, 38-lap stint on soft tyres saw him rise to 11th. But he inevitably began to lose ground and though his eventual pit stop did get him ahead of his team mate there was only one other car behind them at the flag.

Felipe Nasr – Felt his car handled better in the heat of first practice which was not ideal with the competitive action taking place later in the day. A power unit surge during his qualifying lap confined him 19th. In the race he fell to the back after tangling with Ocon, and only finished in front of Palmer.


Alonso took the last point
Fernando Alonso – After spending first practice working on McLaren’s 2017 developments Alonso put his car 11th-quickest in the second session. He went two better on Saturday, crediting the improvement to some bold set-up calls. With no cars retiring in front of him, and Massa’s Williams much quicker in a straight line, tenth was probably the best he could do. But a Vettel-esque final stint on super-softs meant he was pressuring Perez and Massa as the race ended.

Jenson Button – A power unit glitch forced an early halt to his running in first practice and delayed his start to the second session while the unit was replaced. In qualifying he found himself needing ever more front downforce but ran out of wing angle and dropped out in Q2, complaining of the inevitable understeer. His race ended early after he clouted a kerb and his suspension broke.


Pascal Wehrlein – Admitted Yas Marina had “too many corners” for the Manor and found his set-up tweaks after first practice did not work as hoped in the second session. He was upbeat about the track, however, and snagged a place in Q2 at the expense of the Toro Rossos. But he made a sluggish start and tangled with Magnussen, dropping to the tail of the field. A slow pit stop compounded his problems but he still managed to finish in front of the Saubers.

Esteban Ocon – After sitting out first practice so Jordan King could drive Ocon pipped Wehrlein to the team’s quickest time. But in qualifying he was another driver who was stumped by the ultra-softs, unable to find more time from them. “I was standing still and my team mate and everyone else was improving,” he lamented. The race went better as he moved up to 11th at one stage but contact with Nasr damaged his front wing. Given Manor’s championship situation the move was a risk worth taking.


Romain Grosjean – Friday was the usual blur of disgruntled radio messages and spins. A water pressure problem eventually forced him into the pits. The race went better – “there were some laps where my pace was amazing” – and he climbed to 11th place.

Esteban Gutierrez – Enjoyed a smoother Friday than Grosjean as was fractionally quicker, a performance he replicated in qualifying. However he was passed by his team mate in the race and finished there.

Vote for your driver of the weekend

Which driver do you think did the best job throughout the race weekend?

Who got the most out of their car in qualifying and the race? Who put their team mate in the shade?

Cast your vote here:

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Browse all 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

11 comments on “2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix driver ratings”

  1. Mercedes:
    Hamilton – 4/5 – My driver of the weekend. Did what he needed to do. Employed a sneaky tactic which was perfectedly legal, and instead gets a lot of unnecessary hate for it.
    Rosberg – 3/5 – An average weekend from him but his driving against Verstappen was superb and he pulled a brilliant pass under pressure.

    Vettel – 4/5 – Not very good in qualifying but his strategy allowed him to climb from 6th to 3rd and he had a chance of a possible win near the end, but once again the INCREDIBLY ANNOYING TURBULENT AIR got in the way and he couldn’t pass. I hate these cars. This era will not be missed. 2017 might be even worse in this case. I hope the tyres are good enough.
    Raikkonen – 3/5 – Beat Vettel in qualifying once again but he was stuck behind cars for a while and was unable to pass because well, guess why. It’s incredible frustrating…

    Bottas – 3/5 – He retired early on so nothing much to assess here unfortunately.
    Massa – 4/5 – He had a very good weekend to cap off a good F1 career. Out-qualified his teammate, had a good fight with him in the race, and finished in the points. Solid job from him. Obrigado Felipe!

    Red Bull:
    Ricciardo – 3/5 – Did very well in Q3 but his strategy meant that he was also stuck behind other cars. Oh for God sake…
    Verstappen – 3/5 – He was sloppy in qualifying and made a mistake at the start hitting Hulkenberg, but he recovered through the field well. However, he could not pass Vettel at the end, partly because of the tyres, and partly because… *breaks into tears*

    Force India:
    Hulkenberg – 4/5 – Out-qualified and finished ahead of his teammate. I hope he finishes on the podium next year!
    Perez – 3/5 – He’s dropped off a little at the end of this year, but he still picked up a decent amount of points for the team.

    Magnussen – 2/5 – I have nothing to say. Nothing.
    Palmer – 2/5 – I wasn’t really paying any attention to him either.

    Toro Rosso:
    Sainz – 3/5 – The 2015 Ferrari engine is really old now, and that problem, coupled with the wheel issues, meant that there wa not much that the Toro Rosso pair could do.
    Kvyat – 3/5 – Same as Sainz.

    Nasr – 2/5 – He only finished ahead of Palmer.
    Ericsson – 2/5 – He qualified last, and strategy brought him ahead of his teammate.

    Alonso – 4/5 – Alonso reaching Q3 yet again, and in the points once again. His talent is being wasted a lot right now. I hope that the 2017 McLaren is at least competitive for wins.
    Button – 2/5 – He didn’t really put in much effort as this was his final race and he retired early. I hope he gets a job at Channel 4 for next season. He would make a great TV presenter.

    Wehrlein – 2/5 – Reached Q2 but it all went downhill from there. Finished behind his teammate, but still beat the Saubers.
    Ocon – 3/5 – Was out-qualified by Wehrlein but finished ahead of him in the race. He also sat out FP1.

    Grosjean – 3/5 – Just missed out on points but finished ahead of his teammate.
    Gutiérrez – 3/5 – He ends the season with no points.

  2. Who would know about anything other than the top 6? Only on telly as replays after they ran into each other. The timesheets suggest that Massa was really pressuring the Force Indias in the final laps, overtaking Alonso in the process. And seemed to be a real battle between the Saubers and Manors for the chance of a point. Would have been good to see some of it.

    1. I remember the Manors fighting it out for a couple of seconds ;) and nothing at all from the Saubers. Yes, usually we get full laps of a lonely Mercedes driving into the distance, then the top teams, some of the midfield and a blink of the backmarkers if any. But yesterday, because Hamilton spent the race trying to back Rosberg into whoever came close enough behind them, we got to see one of the rarest views of the Mercedes dominated era: in only one shot Mercedes, Red Bulls and Ferraris. I hope to see more of that in the near future if the new regs make it possible instead of creating another round of one team’s utter domination to the level we have seen with the tokens system.

      1. We got to see lots of shots of unknown celebrities, particularly if there was some interesting racing going on. I don’t think the Abu Dhabi TV director actually likes F1 racing.

  3. No 5’s this weekend then eh.

    First time this season?

  4. Really hard to rate the drivers for the race as hammy was rightly or wrongly spent most of the race controlling and backing up the field , Seb’s charge was flattering because of this, bizzare why Ric called in so early it wrecked his chances also..the who race sucked

  5. Is it just me or have Redbull been in a position to punish Rosberg with at least 3 3rd place finishes, somehow it didn’t happen

  6. Your Red Bull ratings are priceless.

  7. Potentially faster but slipped up twice in Q3, started the race from P6 (so how large was that slip-up anyways?).
    Raceincident at the first lap… avoidable? Maybe, but it’s always been close in the first corners all year. Good save and race-on.

    From then on it was quite impressive again, Verstappen was overtaking about 14 cars in less then 10 laps.
    How could Verstappen overtake all these drivers on track and meanwhile save his tyres in a rather perfect manor…? How come Verstappen didn’t loose any time on track overtaking? how come Verstappen starting this race from P22 ended up P4, in front of his team mate who started from P3 and still gets the same rating?

  8. MATN Cos he SPUN through his own fault..was out qualied ..and Ric had l extra pit spot that was unnessary…

  9. Mercedes:

    Lewis Hamilton – 4/5 – He did everything he needed to do, but it wasn’t enough to win the championship.
    Nico Rosberg – 4/5 – He did what he was supposed to do, making a vital move on Verstappen
    early on, and safely following Lewis home to secure the championship.


    Sebastian Vettel – 5/5 – A decent strategy helped Vettel to make some spectacular moves to finish in a well-deserved third.
    Kimi Raikkonen – 3/5 – Another unspectacular race for Raikkonen, who was in contention for a podium early on but then fell backward.

    Red Bull:

    Max Verstappen – 4/5 – Recovered after the spin and fought for the podium in the latter stages, but was unlucky.
    Daniel Ricciardo – 3/5 – He would’ve finished third but the team couldn’t make the strategy work. Still a solid race for Dan.

    Force India:

    Nico Hulkenberg – 4/5 – A reasonable day for Hulkenberg, who outperformed Perez to finish seventh in his last race with FI.
    Sergio Perez – 3/5 – Trailed Hulkenberg for most of the weekend, but ended the year with more than 100 points for the first time.


    Felipe Massa – 3/5 – Was able to keep Alonso behind in what was thought to be his last race.
    Valtteri Bottas – 1/5 – Overtook his teammate early on, but unfortunately went out with suspension failure.


    Fernando Alonso – 3/5 – Scored the last point and finished in a well deserved tenth in the championship.
    Jenson Button – 1/5 – Final race was going good until unfortunately going out with suspension failure.


    Romain Grosjean – 3/5 – Fought hard but wasn’t able to get into the points.
    Esteban Gutierrez – 2/5 – Ended the year without points once again.


    Esteban Ocon – 4/5 – Beat his teammate and both Saubers to finish in an impressive P13
    Pascal Wehrlein – 3/5 – Beat both Saubers but still trailed his teammate.


    Marcus Ericsson – 2/5 – Qualified last and was lifted above Nasr by strategy.
    Felipe Nasr – 2/5 – A mediocre race for him, was beaten by his teammate and only finished ahead of Palmer.


    Jolyon Palmer – 1/5 – Outqualified Magnussen, but took out Sainz which ruined his race
    Kevin Magnussen – 1/5 – Outqualified by Palmer again and retired from the rs]ace.

    Toro Rosso:

    Carlos Sainz – 1/5 – Race was going OK until he was hit by Palmer and retired
    Daniil Kvyat – 1/5 – Outqualified Sainz, but went out with gearbox problems.

Comments are closed.