Formula 1's Driver Power Rankings After 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix brought down the curtain on this year's Formula One season, and Nico Rosberg was once again the man on the top step of the podium.
The German has been in exceptional qualifying form since the Japanese Grand Prix in October, notching up six consecutive poles. And while he hasn't always been the best at converting poles to wins, the Yas Marina vcitory was his third in a row.
Lewis Hamilton was second to pick up his 17th podium of the season. Ferrari, meanwhile, scored their 16th top-three finish of the year as Kimi Raikkonen came home in third—ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel for only the fourth time in 2015.
Sergio Perez rounded out his excellent season with another strong result, Daniel Ricciardo did just about all he could with his Red Bull, and Jenson Button's 12th-placed finish was poor reward for a combative final outing in the dismal McLaren-Honda.
Romain Grosjean, too, deserves credit after going from 18th on the grid to ninth at the chequered flag.
But not everyone ended their year in style. Max Verstappen picked up two time penalties and three Super Licence points on his way to finishing 16th, while Fernando Alonso made a rare mistake at the start and paid for it all race long.
The drivers will be back in action for pre-season testing toward the end of February after a well-earned rest. For the final time in 2015, here's how they rank based on the last six races.
Note on Driver Power Rankings
These rankings should not be confused with the championship table.
Rather than looking solely at how many points each driver has, these rankings take into account race results, qualifying, each driver's overall performance and how drivers stack up against their team-mates. The relative pace of each driver's car is factored in, as is the identity of his team-mate.
For each race weekend, every driver who took part is awarded a score out of 10. The sum of these scores across the previous six races is given on each driver's slide and determines the driver's ranking. Races outside the most recent six have zero impact on the scores.
The cumulative total and ranking is, therefore, based only on recent form—it is not a reflection of the season as a whole.
As we're more than six races into the season, drivers will be dropping points from races earlier in the year; this, coupled with a very tight field, may result in large fluctuations.
All position changes are relative to where the driver was in the previous set of rankings, published after the Brazilian Grand Prix and available here.
Kimi Raikkonen drove one of his best races of the year to take only his third podium of 2015. The Finn kept the two Mercedes cars more than honest and finished just over 10 seconds behind world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Will Stevens also drove well against returning team-mate Roberto Merhi.
10. Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean ensured he retained 11th in the drivers' championship with a beautiful drive from the back.
He made it out of Q1 with ease but his car broke down at the start of Q2. Unable to set a lap time, Grosjean was classified 15th—and a grid penalty for changing his gearbox dropped him to 18th on the grid. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado took advantage to outqualify Grosjean for the second time in 2015; he started 13th.
When the lights went out, Grosjean made an average start on the slower, soft-compound tyres. He suffered a tiny lock-up into Turn 1 as his team-mate collided with Fernando Alonso but kept it on the track and ended the opening lap in 15th.
The Frenchman rose as high as fifth due to his long first stint. He couldn't hold back Sergio Perez, but Daniel Ricciardo was frustrated by his defending, only getting by when Grosjean made his first stop on Lap 23.
He spent much of the middle stint in seventh, at the head of a queue of cars containing Nico Hulkenberg, Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa. All three moved ahead when Grosjean made his final stop, taking on a set of new supersoft tyres for a short sprint to the end.
Kvyat was easy pickings as he struggled with an electrical issue, but there weren't enough laps left to have a proper go at Massa. Grosjean crossed the line in ninth—just half a second down on the Brazilian despite starting 10 grid spots behind him.
He's a new entry at No. 10.
9. Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel picked up a haul of points, but this wasn't his finest Abu Dhabi hour.
He was knocked out in the first part of qualifying due in part to an error by the team. Vettel hadn't set a good time on the slower soft tyres, but Ferrari thought it was enough. It wasn't, and he only managed 16th. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen—who'd been four-tenths quicker than Vettel on his Q1 soft-tyre run—ended up third.
The German started from 15th on the grid and didn't get off the line especially well. He had to swerve slightly to avoid the first-corner incident between Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado, but good work around the rest of the lap saw him rise to 12th.
Having started on the slower soft tyres, Vettel didn't have enough pace to overtake anyone up ahead but started to gain positions as the supersoft runners pitted. By Lap 12, he was up to second, but Lewis Hamilton and Raikkonen quickly sped through.
Vettel swapped places with Sergio Perez when he made his own first stop, but he got back past the Mexican soon after. His race from there on in was a quiet affair, with the only moment of note coming on Lap 36 when he let Raikkonen—who had already made his final stop—back past.
A switch to supersoft tyres for his final stint saw Vettel set the second-quickest lap of the race, but he was never going to catch his team-mate, and he crossed the line in fourth.
He's down four spots to ninth.
8. Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg secured 10th in the drivers' championship but wasn't at his best around Yas Marina.
He qualified seventh on the grid with a best Q3 lap of 1:41.686. Team-mate Sergio Perez, however, did a much better job, putting his VJM08 in fourth position—half a second quicker than Hulkenberg.
A flying start and a fine move around the outside of Turn 1 saw the German move up to fifth by the end of the opening lap. But having been within a second of Perez, Hulkenberg gradually dropped back throughout the short opening stint and came under pressure from Daniel Ricciardo.
The Force India's straight-line speed advantage looked to be keeping him ahead, but Ricciardo eventually got past thanks to some excellent late braking. Hulkenberg pitted one lap later, dropping to a net seventh.
He remained in that position for the rest of the race, but he had to work hard for it. Felipe Massa applied a little bit of pressure in the second stint before Daniil Kvyat took over in the third. The Russian spent a number of laps glued to Hulkenberg's gearbox before an electrical problem spoiled his charge.
Hulkenberg pulled out a small gap to Massa and was able to cruise to the line unopposed to finish a decent seventh.
He's a new entry in eighth.
7. Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas had any hope of a points finish taken away after a pit-stop error by his team.
His best lap of 1:41.656 was good enough for sixth on the grid, 1.4 seconds down on the polesitter's best. Team-mate Felipe Massa was eighth-quickest, around one-tenth slower.
Bottas got a decent start and was able to challenge Daniel Ricciardo on the run down to the first corner, but he had to back out at the apex and was slow through Turns 2 and 3. This allowed first Daniil Kvyat, then Carlos Sainz to slip by, and Massa also overtook going into the first chicane.
Having been relegated to 10th in space of five corners, Bottas tried to pressure Kvyat up ahead but wasn't quite quick enough. He went fairly long for his first stint and came in for his first stop on Lap 9.
There was nothing wrong with the stop itself, but Jenson Button was coming down the pit lane toward the McLaren garage and Williams released Bottas too early. Button aimed his car for his pit box and the pair collided, with Button's rear tyre puncturing and taking off half of Bottas' front wing.
The Finn was forced to do a whole lap before coming back in for repairs, and he emerged back in 18th. His pace from this point on wasn't bad—he was a shade quicker than Massa—but late on, his progress was halted by the most unlikely of cars.
Bottas caught Button very quickly but, despite having a Mercedes engine to attack the Honda-powered McLaren, he couldn't overtake. The Williams man followed Button home to finish 13th.
He remains seventh in the rankings.
6. Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen had a disappointing end to what has been one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory.
He missed out on a spot in Q3 for the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix, qualifying 11th with a time of 1:42.521. Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. was 10th.
Verstappen made an average start and ended the opening lap where he had started it. His first stint was spent in a queue of cars led by Daniil Kvyat, and after stopping on Lap 8, he rejoined in 13th.
Sainz had fallen back after a poor pit stop, and Verstappen was quicker. The team asked the Spaniard to let his team-mate through, which he did—but a few laps later, Verstappen had a huge lock-up going into Turn 8 and badly flat-spotted his tyres.
He let Sainz back through and had to pit for fresh rubber far earlier than he might have liked. His race was already compromised, but the Dutchman made things worse in the closing stages.
Verstappen was pushed wide at Turn 9 by Jenson Button as the pair duelled over 12th, but he kept his foot on the accelerator and completed the pass going through the run-off area.
The stewards gave Verstappen a five-second time penalty for the move, and a further 20 seconds were added to his race time shortly after that for ignoring blue flags when Lewis Hamilton was trying to lap him.
After the time penalties were applied, Verstappen was classified 16th—and the three penalty points he received on his licence saw him move to within just four points of a one-race ban.
He falls four places to sixth.
5. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton's mediocre run-in ended with another second-place finish.
The world champion qualified second on the grid for the sixth consecutive race—despite taking 11 poles in 2015, he hasn't started at the front since the Italian Grand Prix on September 6. Nico Rosberg was just under four-tenths quicker and started on pole.
A poor start saw Hamilton on the defensive going into Turn 1, but he held off the attentions of Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez to hold on to second. His pace on the supersoft tyres was poor, and Rosberg pulled out a gap of almost five seconds before the first round of stops.
Hamilton lost a further second in the pit-stop phase but looked significantly happier on the soft-compound rubber. The gap to his team-mate began to slowly shrink, and by Lap 31, it was down to just 1.3 seconds. Rosberg then pitted.
As the German set a series of quick laps to consolidate his net lead, Hamilton remained on the track seeking an alternative strategy. But despite a string of team radio messages heard on the live TV feed, the only option available was a shorter final stint.
He stopped on Lap 41 for fresh soft tyres—by then, he was 12.15 seconds behind. The fresher tyres gave him some pace advantage, but with Rosberg avoiding the graining issues he'd suffered in the second stint, it was never going to be enough.
Hamilton crossed the line eight seconds down to chalk up a record-equalling 17th podium of the year. He slips to fifth in the rankings.
4. Jenson Button
Jenson Button got no reward for an impressive final run in his MP4-30.
He made it out of Q1 for the first time since the United States Grand Prix and qualified 12th. His best lap of 1:42.668 was around two-tenths shy of giving him a spot in Q3—quite a feat around the long Abu Dhabi lap. Team-mate Fernando Alonso was 17th after a puncture ruined his quickest lap.
Button got an average start but was passed by Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap and slipped down to 13th. But rather than drop back, Button remained on the Ferrari's tail, the final part of a five-car snake led by Daniil Kvyat.
He eventually began to drop away from the points contenders after switching to the soft tyres at his first stop, but his overall pace was, for a McLaren, very good. Toward the middle of his third stint, he came up behind Marcus Ericsson's Sauber—a car powered by the competitive Ferrari engine.
Button couldn't overtake on the straights even with DRS, but he managed to stay close down the second long straight and produced a lovely pass around the outside of Turn 11 to seize 12th.
Max Verstappen stole the place a few laps later, and Valtteri Bottas closed up fast, no doubt expecting to relegate Button further. But, somehow, Button held off the Williams for seven laps to finish a respectable 13th.
He's up four spots to fourth.
3. Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo gave us two of the best moments of the race in Abu Dhabi.
The Australian qualified fifth with a time of 1:41.444, beating team-mate Daniil Kvyat by almost half a second to win the Red Bull intra-team qualifying battle 12-7. The Russian started ninth.
Ricciardo got a decent start but was passed around the outside of Turn 1 by Nico Hulkenberg and ended the opening lap in sixth. Clearly quicker than the Force India up ahead, he struggled to overtake due to his car's significant straight-line speed deficit.
Toward the end of the first stint, he got a good run out of the hairpin. He didn't really look close enough to attack into the braking zone, but he produced a beautiful piece of late braking to slide down the inside and take the place. Hulkenberg got back past on the straight that followed, but Ricciardo went late on the brakes again—this time, he stayed ahead.
The rest of his race was a mostly quiet affair. He was held up for a couple of laps by Marcus Ericsson in the second stint, but it was mostly a case of putting his head down and chasing Sergio Perez.
Ricciardo wasn't as quick initially in the final stint but looked after his tyres better and closed up with a few laps to go. But Perez was just that little bit too quick, and the Red Bull man had to settle for sixth.
He moves up a spot to third in the final rankings of the year.
2. Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez signed off on arguably his best-ever season with another fine performance.
Having looked surprisingly rapid throughout practice, Perez qualified fourth on the grid. His best time was less than a second down on the polesitter. Team-mate Nico Hulkenberg was half a second slower—he started seventh.
Perez made a great start but the gap he'd been aiming for—between Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton—closed up. He had to back out but was still able to retain fourth place, a position he held until his first stop.
He emerged in sixth and quickly overtook Romain Grosjean—who hadn't yet stopped—to take fifth. Sebastian Vettel was the next car up the road, and Perez returned to fourth when the German made his own first stop.
However, the Ferrari was a far better car, and Vettel easily retook the place at the halfway point of the race.
Perez was left to drive a lonely race to the chequered flag. Daniel Ricciardo closed up in the final laps, but the Mexican held off his attentions with little difficulty to finish fifth.
He rises four places to second.
1. Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg ended the year on a high with another relatively straightforward win.
He qualified on pole for the sixth consecutive race with a fastest time of 1:40.237. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton was 0.377 seconds slower; he started second.
Rosberg got off the line well and held first place into Turn 1. Throughout the short opening stint, he pulled out a comfortable gap to Hamilton, but after switching to the yellow-marked soft tyres, he encountered graining trouble.
Hamilton caught up, and it looked like we might get a decent battle for the lead, but Rosberg pitted on Lap 31. After emerging, he quickly built up a strong net lead as Hamilton tried to go long; when the Brit emerged from his own stop on Lap 41, Rosberg was 12.5 seconds clear.
Rosberg didn't suffer any graining in the final stint and looked after his tyres well to finish just over eight seconds clear.
He remains in first place.
Full seasonal rankings for every driver will be published in the near future. Follow me on Twitter for updates and general F1-related thoughts.