GPR Awards – 2021 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix

The 2021 Russian Grand Prix brought the great wide world of Formula 1 what it has always been promised before, but never delivered: rain in five. With its Valencia 2012 moment – a not-very loved track producing a fantastic race – those ominous words finally came true with only a few laps to go at Sochi, turning what was already a great race into an unforgettable one. However, some would prefer to forget their weekend by Sunday evening, and it’s those people we’re talking about as always on GPRejects.

A three-way tie for Reject of the Race at Sochi between Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda and whoever was directing the TV cameras!

In what is possibly a first-ever occurrence in GPR history, we have not a two-, but three-way tie for Reject of the Race for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix. Our community just could not decide who they thought was the greatest reject and so they kindly awarded it to the holy trinity of Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris, and the TV direction. Let’s go through them one by one.

Firstly, Tsunoda. The Japanese driver is a hard one to evaluate at the best of times, as the combination of his hype, his fluctuating pace, his changeable personality, have given us heroics as much as rejectdom. After collecting a joint award with his team last time out in Italy, Yuki takes his second standalone award this season for yet another shoddy display behind the wheel. Despite having qualified just behind Gasly, Tsunoda’s race was ruined by his turn 2 escapade, when he ran through the escape road, hit a bollard and fell down to last. In the end, he was so slow in the race that he was only quicker than Mazepin, and with a terrible team strategy blowing any chance at improvement when the rain fell, he finished only ahead of the local in 17th.

Yuki Tsunoda put up a disappointing showing at Sochi. Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Yuki Tsunoda put up a disappointing showing at Sochi. Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Secondly, TV direction. This has not been the first time this season that F1 fans have spent an hour and a half watching an action-packed grand prix with apparently no action. Like at Monaco and at Monza, the Russian TV directors seemed to miss everything that was going on, be it overtakes, leaders pitting, strategic calls, all so that they could cut away for replays or to follow battles that weren’t going anywhere. Very poor show (no pun intended).

Thirdly, our almost race winner Lando Norris is the final winner of this award instead. In spite of a near-perfect performance for the first 50 or so laps, it was in the end the final few that did it for him. Leading strongly against Hamilton, Lando simply made the wrong strategy call when nobody else did, and he suffered big time for it. He snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, staying out on dry tyres when the rain just got worse and worse. Hamilton took his hundredth win while Norris finished a lowly, and ultimately undeserving, 7th.

The other main candidate, who is lucky there were so many other good choices this race, is Lance Stroll. Like Norris, he had a serious fall from grace in the space of a few laps: his start was magnificent to jump up to 4th on merit in the Aston Martin, but his final few laps were an embarrassment. He irresponsibly drove around his teammate, pushing Vettel and making contact. Then, as the rain fell, he span heavily, including into Pierre Gasly, who was minding his own business. It was riches to rags for the Canadian who – credit where credit is due – still finished 11th after all that.

In spite of his fall from grace, a near-perfect dry race earns Lando Norris a sympathetic Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award!

Onto the other, more positive side of things now. Norris, whom we just talked about, gets the Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award simultaneously has he does Reject of the Race. (My scholarly calculations tell me that this is only the second time in GPRejects history where this has happened, the previous time being Haas racking up both awards in Australia 2018). Norris was sublime in the dry, taking care of a fast-paced Carlos Sainz and then holding off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes perfectly well for a great deal of time. It would have been a deserved first win, especially after the sacrifice to his teammate that was made at Monza. Lando’s time certainly will come – or at least we hope – but it wasn’t to be at Sochi.

From pole position, Lando Norris was two laps away from his first victory in F1.

From pole position, Lando Norris crafted his finest drive in the sport thus far. Only rain in five actually happening took his victory away.

Sainz himself also deserves a mention for his brilliant driving. While some were pondering such a career move for the Spaniard to partner Leclerc, it has been pleasantly surprising just how much he has been able to compete with Charles. In some races, such as at Sochi, he has comfortably outpaced the man from Monaco, even if Charles has grabbed more headlines. Sochi was the kind of composed drive that, like for Norris, will lend Carlos a race win one day. A very Ferrari-esque driver Carlos Sainz Jr. is.

Max Verstappen gets a mention, not for his “charge” through the field that was mostly down to the luck of the conditions, but for his ability to bring home the second place finish from last place. With a new power unit and a penalty from Monza, Max started last and was in damage limitation mode. Second place is one hell of a way to limit damage under the circumstances. As has been oft-said by the community, those 18 points could be what tips a world championship in his favour.

And finally, old man Kimi Raikkonen, soon on his way to retirement, was our final positive candidate of the day. The Finn seemed to have lost all spirit in the first half of the season, and stand-in Robert Kubica seemed to be matching if not improving on his predecessor’s pace almost immediately. However, with experience mastering the dodgy conditions, Kimi brought his Alfa Romeo home to take 8th, which in Alfa Romeo terms is no slim pickings indeed. It was a comeback worthy of the name, but will it be the Finn’s last great race? We’ll have to wait and see…

Full Results

Lando Norris 28% (8) Lando Norris 50% (14)
The TV Director 28% (8) Carlos Sainz Jr. 25% (7)
Yuki Tsunoda 28% (8) Max Verstappen 14% (4)
Lance Stroll 17% (5)  Kimi Räikkönen 11% (3)
Number of votes: 29 Number of votes: 28

Disclaimer: The ROTR and IIDOTR awards are purely for fun purposes.

The IIDOTR is a democratically-decided award, based on the assumption that, at any moment in time, there is a non-zero probability that even the slowest, most inexperienced and least reliable of underdogs might win the race. That under every rock, there might be a gold nugget. This is the award for that first podium that we all celebrate, for the overtake no-one was expecting, for the underdog’s first win. This is the award, in short, for the driver or team that makes you go “Woah! Where did THAT come from?!”.

The ROTR is a medal of dishonour that celebrates the most noteworthy failure of a Grand Prix weekend, based on expectations heading into the weekend and general performance. That one brainfade, the silliest mistake or the most patent nonsense going on, all that is what being the ROTR is all about.

2021 Grand Prix Rejects Awards
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix
2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

2021 Spanish Grand Prix
2021 Monaco Grand Prix
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
2021 French Grand Prix
2021 Styrian Grand Prix
2021 Austrian Grand Prix
2021 British Grand Prix
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix
2021 Belgian Grand Prix
2021 Dutch Grand Prix
2021 Italian Grand Prix