GPR Awards – 2021 Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix

When was the last time Formula 1 gifted its fans with two consecutive wet races in a row? The 2021 Turkish Grand Prix did exactly that, even if the race was very different from the final lap chaos at Sochi and incomparable to the craziness we were treated to in 2020. A year after being a slam dunk Reject of the Race at Istanbul, Valtteri Bottas dominated ahead of his rivals in what was among his best drives for Mercedes. It was a race to savour for many, an event saturated with plenty of Rejectdom for our community to feast on. It’s time to see who are our Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award winners for Istanbul!

Sebastian Vettel’s admirable yet hopeless dry tyre gamble wins Reject of the Race in Turkey!

While it was figured that the Turkish Grand Prix would start wet and eventually dry during the race, the “crossover” never came, again meaning teams had to convert their intermediate tyres into effective “slicktermediates” to master the conditions. As the laps ticked away, each consecutive “dry in five” radio message showcased that a dry line simply wasn’t going to appear, as the Istanbul track surface – in much better state compared to last years event – failed to drain the light rain that hit the track during the first half of the race. Towards the end, the somewhat half-dry, half-wet surface almost caught out Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, who after pitting for new intermediates, had to pray to the racing gods the graining affecting them wouldn’t cause them to lose more track position than their pitstops required.

A brave call for slicks on lap 37 ended up being the bane of Vettel's race. Photo: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

A brave call for slicks on lap 37 ended up being the bane of Vettel’s race. Photo: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

But if Hamilton and Leclerc’s struggles at the end of the race came as a surprise to the drivers (and teams) and mostly as consequence of the weird dynamic of the Istanbul track surface, the move pulled by Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin on lap 37 was the most shocking. Sitting in 10th place, Vettel decided to make the gamble of the century and came out of the pits with slicks tyres on. 10 seconds after re-entering the track, the four time world champion realised his folly when he proceeded to skid and slide and slip around every single corner. It was a brave but ultimately comical disaster for the German, who never seems to have a quiet weekend these days. He lost a potential point or two and plumbed the depths of the field for the remainder of Sunday’s race. By far the standout candidate, he is GPR’s Reject of the Race in Turkey.

Elsewhere, Nikita Mazepin also has been resurfacing on our radars following a reasonably anonymous mid-season. After contributing to some of the increasing team tension at Haas over the last few races, his incident at Istanbul was reminiscent of his early season spats with drivers from other teams. As Lewis Hamilton attempted to lap him under blue flags, he was chopped by Nikita heading into the 180mph turn 11. Again, it was carelessness that bordered very closely to reckless disaster, and thankfully its only outcome was Hamilton being delayed for a few seconds.

Daniel Ricciardo, after demonstrating that he is far from washed-up following the summer break, sadly seems to have started to returned to his early-season malaise. After a disappointing qualifying, one where Ricciardo was knocked out in Q1 by (a surprisingly great) Ferrari strategy, the Honey Badger started from the back after an engine penalty, and despite some fantastic pace mid-race, where he overtook half the field in new intermediates and looked ready to salvage points,  his lap times dropped off a cliff late on and he came home in 13th. Judging by their performance this season, finishing behind the Alfa Romeos is not McLaren’s goal, as their fight with the Scuderia for 3rd in the WCC continues.

Finally, we need to discuss Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has raced many a Turkish Grand Prix in the past, and in these conditions was expected to excel – especially considering his performances in the last few Grands Prix. Instead, he was spun at the first corner by an unfortunately-placed Pierre Gasly, and all the pre-race hype fizzled out onward. Gasly received an unjust penalty for what was Fernando’s overzealousness, and the Spaniard carried on with his winning ways by punting Mick Schumacher into a spin a few laps later. With driving standards being so high at Istanbul, a driver of Alonso’s calibre making mistakes which would embarrass a rookie was certainly unexpected.

It’s another tie! This time Sainz Jr. and the Number Twos take first place in IIDOTR!

What makes Daniel Ricciardo’s poor race so apparent on Sunday, was the direct comparison being made to his competitor Carlos Sainz Jr, who started with the Australian at the rear of the field. The Spaniard has been on a roll of pace these last few Grands Prix,  and absolutely tore through the pack from the very first, overtaking left right and centre, and finishing a well-earned 8th place for his troubles. Considering that the race saw no retirements, Carlos had his work cut out to salvage points for the Scuderia. It was a drive that Jenson Button – a master of slippery conditions – would be proud of.

A masterclass in mixed conditions for Sainz at Turkey. Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

A masterclass in mixed conditions for Sainz at Turkey. Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

A great surprise, perhaps sadly these days, is how well the number two drivers performed at Mercedes and Red Bull. Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Pérez earned their keep in Turkey, both doing exactly what their teams needed of them. Firstly Bottas, who seems something of a new man after the announcement that Mercedes will not be retaining his services into 2022, dominated from lights to flag. With a rapid Max Verstappen behind desperate to win and build a points gap to Hamilton, Bottas did more than simply defend against the Dutchman. Instead, the Finn displayed pace and metronomic consistency lap over lap ensuring that Verstappen never even came close enough to try an overtake. It was double redemption when any of us consider his nightmare last season at Turkey, ranking among his worst drives in F1, to perhaps his best drive for Mercedes. It may in hindsight be the most important.

Sergio Pérez too must have left the Red Bull head honchos happy. With a first trip to the podium since Paul Ricard in June, the Mexican battled directly with Lewis Hamilton to keep the defending champion behind, in spite of some very risky moves from both sides. After holding him back, Red Bull pitted Sergio on what turned out to be the correct strategy, and from thereon he could pick off Hamilton and Leclerc again to take a handy 3rd place. While Mercedes still extended their lead in the Constructors Championship, Pérez was finally where he was needed to be: bringing home the points and keeping Hamilton at bay. What it does is make all these candidates equally improbable in the eyes of our community, and all joint-winners of the Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award.

Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc also deserve comment for their impressive drives, although for different reasons. The Monégasque driver kept Bottas and Verstappen on their toes all Sunday long, finding himself with a chance of victory in the race with an improbable zero-stop strategy until his slicktermediates finally hit the cliff. Despite that, it was another terrific drive from Leclerc, salvaging 4th at the death. Ocon, on the other hand, was able to achieve a zero-stop race. Losing places towards the end, the Frenchman still managed to keep the car on track with tyres that would make even a dodgy car dealer in Dagenham think “they’ve probably had it”  towards an improbable 10th place, less than a second ahead of Giovinazzi. It marks the first time anyone has done this since Mika Salo at Monaco in 1997, which alone puts Ocon in a historic group. Good job.

Full Results

Sebastian Vettel’s call for dry tyres 62% (13) Carlos Sainz Jr. 45% (9)
Nikita Mazepin’s swerve 19% (4) The Number Twos (Sergio Pérez and Valtteri Bottas) 45% (9)
Daniel Ricciardo 10% (2) Esteban Ocon 10% (2)
Fernando Alonso 10% (2) Charles Leclerc 0% (0)
Number of votes: 21 Number of votes: 20

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
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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
2021 Russian Grand Prix