Abu Dhabi GP driver ratings: Leclerc question posed as Russell saves best until last

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and George Russell on the podium

Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and George Russell ended the season on the podium

The final race of the 2023 season is in the books and it ended as most have, with Max Verstappen on top.

Away from the Dutchman, there were good performances all around the field while some will be only too happy to get off on their holidays.

Driver ratings explained: Every driver starts the weekend slap bang in the middle with a 5/10 rating and we operate on a sliding scale from there. We take the entire weekend into account, not just the race itself.

However, the scores will be weighted more towards a driver’s race performance, but qualifying performances (good or bad) are also factored into our ratings and, in extreme circumstances, practice will also play a minor part in the overall score.

For the final time this year, here are your driver ratings:

Max Verstappen 10

The perfect end to a perfect season. It is hard to see that there will ever be as dominant a season as this one. In Abu Dhabi, Verstappen notched his 19th win, 21st podium and accumulated 1,000 laps led.

The race itself was a portrait of the season. Fending off a minor attack at the beginning before keeping everyone at arm’s length.

Perfect Red Bull. Perfect Max Verstappen.

Charles Leclerc 9.5

A very strong race from Leclerc but one that asked the same question, why can this not be the case every week?

For once, Ferrari got their strategy right with Leclerc gaining from the undercut but it was not to catch Verstappen but instead keep their driver ahead of the chasing pack.

In the final stages, Leclerc attempted to produce some smart tactics by allowing Sergio Perez past but ultimately it was not this performance that stopped Ferrari from securing P2 but rather what came before.

George Russell 9.5

Saving the best until last, George Russell produced his most complete drive of the season when Mercedes needed it most.

Having lost out in the opening exchanges, no doubt due to the W14’s difficulty in firing up its tyres, Russell battled and as the grand prix settled, he found he had the pace to start attacking those in front.

His final duel would come late on when he tried to hang onto the coat tails of Perez and he ultimately did enough.

Sergio Perez 8

If Verstappen’s race was his season in a microcosm then perhaps Sergio Perez’s was too.

Once again he had to recover from a poor quali performance and once again he did just that but it is the final 10% where Perez has proven vulnerable this year.

A clumsy mistake in which he pushed Lando Norris off the track may have been a harsh penalty but Perez should have recognised he had the speed not to get involved in any kind of engagement that would land on the desk of the stewards.

It was P4 in the end for the Mexican and an end to a rather poor season even if it resulted in his highest finish.

Lando Norris 8.5

The race only served to show just why Lando Norris was so annoyed with his quali mistake as had he started ahead of Leclerc then he most likely would have stayed ahead.

The McLaren looked the second quickest car at the start of the race but needing to chase and defend, he found the tyres going out from under him.

His race was not helped by a slow pit stop which seemed to be caused by the car rather than the crew around it.

Oscar Piastri 7

The one weakness in Oscar Piastri’s skillset once again showed itself in Abu Dhabi with the Australian unable to manage his tyres quite to the level of those around him.

He started third but lost out to team-mate Norris early on and it seemed more of a case of Piastri trying to hold on then move back up the order.

It resulted in P6 but an otherwise excellent year for the rookie.

Fernando Alonso 7.5

Described as the worst car on the straights by far by Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard did at least manage to find some pace to use to his advantage.

He was engaged in an enjoyable battle with Lewis Hamilton and was perhaps fortunate to avoid a penalty for a perceived brake test.

Yuki Tsunoda 8.5

Yuki Tsunoda delivered a fitting present for Franz Tost’s final race as team principal and even led at one point, becoming just the second Japanese driver in F1 history to do so.

AlphaTauri gambled with Tsunoda’s strategy by putting him on a one stop but of the three drivers to try, only Tsunoda managed to turn it into a points finish.

Ultimately it was not enough to move AlphaTauri above Williams but it was a fine way to end the season for Tsunoda.

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Lewis Hamilton 7

Probably the busiest driver on the grid and yet somehow he leaves Abu Dhabi with just two points.

Hamilton has struggled for pace this weekend compared to his team-mate and it led to him having a number of battles including with Ricciardo, Bottas and later on Alonso.

Despite Toto Wolff encouraging him by telling him he was the fastest driver on the grid at one point, it was not enough to spur Hamilton higher up.

Lance Stroll 6.5

A low points finish for Lance Stroll is pretty much par for the course for the Aston driver who had a fairly uneventful race.

He ends the year 136 points behind his team-mate.

Daniel Ricciardo 7.5

As has often been the case for Daniel Ricciardo this year, he was a victim of some misfortune as a tear off from another driver’s visor somehow got stuck in his brake duct.

Afraid it could cause further problems, AlphaTauri pitted the Australian very early which ultimately compromised his strategy.

Having started P15, finishing P11 was by no means a bad race but could have been better had his luck been just a little more favourable.

Esteban Ocon 7

Received the earlier pit stop than Gasly which proved to be beneficial but opting for a one stop was always going to be difficult.

In the end, Ocon rose one spot from his starting position but it was not enough to overtake Gasly in the standings.

Pierre Gasly 7.5

It is not the first time this season that Pierre Gasly has been on the wrong end of some questionable Alpine choices.

Despite being the lead car, Alpine gave the clearly superior undercut option to Esteban Ocon first and it resulted in Gasly moving well down the order.

From there, he found it a real struggle to rediscover the pace that had seen him battle earlier for a good haul of points.

Even with new tyres compared to his team-mate’s, Gasly could only manage P13.

Alex Albon 6.5

Not a track that overly suited the Williams car and Alex Albon ultimately finished the race where he started it.

It does mean he has been ahead of team-mate Logan Sargeant in all but two races this year and his performance through 2023 have raised his reputation no end.

Nico Hulkenberg 6

Surely on the top of Nico Hulkenberg’s Christmas wish list will be a car that does not eat through its tyres so easily.

In his return to F1, the German ends the year on on just nine points but his performances, especially in qualifying, warrant so much more.

Logan Sargeant 5.5

In defence of the young American, he did well to rise from last to P16 but it is yet another point-less race, giving him the unwanted title of 21st in the standings.

In regards to his contract, the silence is very much deafening and having been set what Williams described as clear targets, it is hard to see how he has achieved them.

Zhou Guanyu 5.5

A P17 finish for Zhou Guanyu which was the same as his starting spot and just another race where the Alfa car had almost zero pace.

A season total of six points for the Chinese driver and he will be desperate for a better car next year.

Carlos Sainz 5.5

Ferrari gambled and ultimately it did not pay off with the team wanting a safety car to save Carlos Sainz from losing a lot of places.

But ultimately, it was not the team’s fault Sainz finished out of the points but rather the driver’s as he just looked off the pace.

No doubt the limited running he had in the build-up played a factor but not a great way to end the year for Sainz.

Valtteri Bottas 5

It may have resulted in another point-less race for Valtteri Bottas but at least he was involved in some battles in Abu Dhabi.

He was one third of an intriguing scrap with Ricciardo and Hamilton but he would lose out with both drivers going on to finish ahead of him.

Bottas ends the year on 10 points, his worst tally since 2013.

Kevin Magnussen 5

Nowhere to be seen as has often been the case for K-Mag this year. Like Hulkenberg, Magnussen found himself limited by the Haas’ car but last over the line will not be the way he imagined the season finale.

Read next: Abu Dhabi GP – Win No.19 for Max Verstappen as Mercedes beat Ferrari to P2