Formula 1

Winners and losers from F1's 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

8 min read

As has been the case for much of the 2023 Formula 1 season, there was plenty going on in Max Verstappen's imperious wake in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Here's our pick of who ended on a low and who can go into the winter satisfied.

WINNERS

GEORGE RUSSELL

Surely George Russell had more than one podium to his name in 2023 coming into the season finale?

The fact he didn't succinctly sums up how badly this season has gone for the Mercedes driver.

No matter - Russell came good big time in Abu Dhabi. While Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton struggled to pick his way through the pack (more to come on that) Russell was the right level of aggressive and led the Mercedes fight as it bid to keep hold of second in the constructors' championship from Ferrari.

He was effective in passing Oscar Piastri early on after a couple of failed attempts and that put him in position to benefit from a slow McLaren pitstop by jumping Lando Norris too.

From there he kept Charles Leclerc in sight and while Sergio Perez perhaps caught Russell off guard, he did enough in the final laps to make sure he moved back ahead when the Red Bull driver's five-second penalty was applied.

Doubling his 2023 podium tally was a just reward for spearheading the Mercedes attack when it needed someone to step up. - Jack Cozens

MAX VERSTAPPEN

Such was Verstappen’s advantage in this race that he took to ordering Red Bull when to pit his team-mate!

It looked like Leclerc might have something for Verstappen on the first lap, but he extended a gap that felt very managed at 1.3s - AKA out of DRS - and as soon as he bolted the hard tyre on he was on another planet pace-wise.

Clearly watching a big screen, he graciously offered team-mate Perez the first of their second stops in order to help his race, and that summarises the bandwidth he was operating with.

A graining front-right - everyone had that really - and early Leclerc harrying were his only issues.

A touching tribute to ex-team-boss Franz Tost on the radio was a lovely way to finish. Doughnuts, anyone? - Jack Benyon

YUKI TSUNODA

The race started with a nice pointer on his helmet to AlphaTauri team boss Tost retiring, and Yuki Tsunoda did everything in his power to send Tost off in the best possible way.

Sadly, his long first stint did little more than make him one of the few Japanese drivers to lead multiple laps of a grand prix, and although he was the top finishing one-stopper, it didn't work out as he dropped two positions from his starting place - sixth on the grid becoming eighth at the flag.

He wasn’t scared to get his elbows out though, and while holding position over Lewis Hamilton on the last lap felt more due to a botched Hamilton effort than an amazing Tsunoda defence, he did place his car well and secured the position.

Even after arguably taking the wrong strategy, he gave the team a fighting chance of beating Williams in the constructors’, even though it didn’t in the end. - JB

MERCEDES

Ultimately there was little to celebrate in terms of the race itself, but by having both cars in the top 10 and crucially George Russell in third, Mercedes held on to second in the constructors’ championship.

It had held the place for most of the year but a strong end to the season from Ferrari lowered the gap to four points pre-weekend.

Given Mercedes only just pulled off the result, it feels a bit like Ferrari lost this rather than Mercedes winning it owing to Carlos Sainz’s bizarre and woeful weekend, his second in a row after Las Vegas.

But as you’d probably argue the Ferrari is a faster and crucially more consistent package, this is still a huge result for Mercedes even if it came with an element of fortune. - JB

FERNANDO ALONSO

There are a couple of obvious blots on Fernando Alonso's Abu Dhabi copybook: his moan that "we have the slowest car on the straight - by far" and the peculiar moment where he appeared to inadvertently brake test Hamilton.

Despite Alonso's protests, the Aston Martin was at least good enough for Alonso to pull a handful of DRS-assisted passes late in the race. Considering two of his three were on Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, the third on Tsunoda might not sound that significant - but it was crucial for Alonso's final standing.

That overtake on the AlphaTauri driver and the resulting six points he gained for seventh place put Alonso a point clear of Norris in the drivers' championship and level with Leclerc for fourth overall - a position that went the way of the two-time champion on countback by dint of his superior number of third-place finishes.

While Aston Martin's largely been fighting the tide of late, this was a timely reminder of just how impressive a campaign Alonso has had. - JC

WILLIAMS

Williams never looked like a points threat in Abu Dhabi, so 14th- and 16th-placed finishes seem about right.

They also don't seem like reasons for the team to be included in our winners' section.

But ultimately its pace didn't matter too much; the way it reflected on the Abu Dhabi GP was always likely to be dictated by how AlphaTauri got on, and the fact its rival for seventh in the constructors' championship fell short of scoring the points it needed made this a BIG day for Williams.

There's still plenty of work to do, but the signs of progress in 2023 have been clear, and are validated by a best constructors' championship finish since 2017. - JC

LOSERS

LEWIS HAMILTON

The job Hamilton's done to secure third in the drivers' championship shouldn't be underestimated in the capricious Mercedes W14.

But his harmony with the car was all out of sync in Abu Dhabi and on a weekend where Mercedes had a real fight on its hands to keep Ferrari at bay in the constructors' championship, the seven-time champion offered little to its arsenal all race.

Toto Wolff's repeat appearances over Hamilton's team radio perhaps underscore just how much of a 'get it done' job this was for Hamilton, whose season came to a whimper of a finish as Tsunoda muscled his way back past the Mercedes on the final lap moments after being overtaken.

A subdued note to end the season on for Hamilton, whose final media appearance of the season included a grim prediction about how far up the road Red Bull might be again in 2024. - JC

SERGIO PEREZ

Does Perez have a point about his five-second penalty being harsh? Potentially, yes.

Was it also a slightly clumsy move that bordered on being a block pass? That's also the case, yes.

And petty though a summons might seem, did he need to earn himself one for suggesting the stewards weren't up to the job over the Red Bull team radio? No has to be the answer there.

Perez declared after the race he was happy with his Sunday performances in this second half of the season, while accepting his Saturday ones need to be a step up in 2024.

That much is true, but this was a third race in a row where the optimum result has slipped from his grasp. - JC

FERRARI

Ferrari's bid to deprive Mercedes of second in the constructors' championship had been gathering slow momentum, but overturning even a slender four-point margin looked a big ask as soon as Sainz was eliminated from Q1 on Saturday.

Leclerc did everything he could to win the points necessary - while staying on the right side of behaving in a sportsmanlike manner and not holding Russell up unduly - but the fact Ferrari, the only non-Red Bull team to win in 2023, fell short of runner-up spot does go down as a disappointment. - JC

ALPINE

A really disappointing race, especially for Pierre Gasly who was readily on the radio complaining.

First, it was because he felt team-mate Esteban Ocon got the priority in the first pitstops via an undercut, and then not long after Gasly locked up into the hairpin and Hamilton nudged his rear end, causing damage.

Already irked by the undercut incident with Ocon, Gasly then complained angrily, asking "why are we so slow?".

It made for a painful watch as he limped to 13th.

Ocon had a relatively quiet race - with the longest stint on the hards to start it - to finish one place ahead. - JB

ALPHATAURI

Ultimately Daniel Ricciardo's failure to match Tsunoda in qualifying contributed to AlphaTauri failing to usurp Williams for seventh in the constructors’ championship.

The Williams were 14th and 16th so out of the points.

Still, eight points was always going to be tough to net and arguably its long first stint wasn’t the right way to go with Tsunoda. Ricciardo had to pit early on and coming back to 11th was a nice recovery, but fruitless.

A disappointing way to conclude Tost’s team principal career, even if Tsunoda’s performance and the team's late in this season provide a bit of hope for 2024. - JB

ASTON MARTIN

After such a strong start to the year, missing out on fourth in the constructors’ standings has to be a disappointing result for Aston Martin.

Fernando Alonso kept the seventh position he started in and Lance Stroll moved forward from 13th to 10th with an unusual medium tyre from the start strategy, so it wasn’t a terrible race.

Alonso’s ‘gamesmanship’ with Hamilton and late pass on Tsunoda helped to give him fourth in the drivers' championship, but McLaren finishing ahead ensured it sealed fourth in the constructors’. - JB

CARLOS SAINZ

The crash in FP1 and 16th in qualifying after traffic troubles really hurt Sainz and Ferrari this weekend.

It almost felt like a hangover of the Vegas race weekend, which was another nightmare for Sainz.

In the race, a risky starting on the hard tyre strategy did not pay off, and doing a second stint on another set of hards really didn't pay off either. Ultimately he was listed as retiring from the race in 18th.

After being Ferrari's strongest driver for a fair chunk of 2023, it's a very sad end to the year for Sainz. - JB

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