GPR Awards – 2022 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix

After Austria, Ferrari appear to be back in the game. At the very least, they appear to have upped their pace in the fight against Red Bull, even if their own reliability woes persist. As the season reaches its halfway mark, we look at the biggest and brightest in rejectdom here after the Austrian Grand Prix.

AlphaTauri’s lack of anything this weekend earns them Reject of the Race in Austria

Our previous race report even commented about the downfall of pace at Red Bull’s sister team compared to last year. AlphaTauri have not been dismal, in plain speaking, and they have benefited from Yuki Tsunoda’s apparent rise in form in 2022– although it could be a demotivated Pierre Gasly falling behind.

Getting both cars into Q2 was about average for them this season, although had Sergio Perez’s bizarre late penalty been applied correctly, Pierre would have found his way into final qualifying. In the sprint race the Frenchman found himself accidentally sandwiching Lewis Hamilton as he raced alongside Alex Albon into the first turn, the inevitable contact subsequently resulting in a spin to last place.  Even with Pierre boosting his way up through the field to reclaim many of his lost positions, his Japanese teammate was anonymous, dropping two places and finished behind him.

Pierre mate, the Österreichring doesn’t exist any more fam.

The team’s abysmal race pace did not improve for the main event on Sunday. Tsunoda continued to be absolutely nowhere, and even with Gasly pushing the track limits beyond their allotted number of times, didn’t allow the Frenchman to make a dent on their opposition. A late collision with Sebastian Vettel (who sounded as bored as he was annoyed) sent the German into the gravel, and awarded Pierre his second penalty of the day. In spite of all this and a total lack of speed, he still beat his Japanese teammate, with the two ending the Austrian Grand Prix only ahead of Sebastian Vettel, whom one of them had punted off. When serving those penalties, the FIA briefly claimed the team had not correctly served them, but that turned out to be a fault of the FIA’s, not AlphaTauri’s. However, for certain AlphaTauri’s shocking lack of pace, both due to the car and their drivers either being too slow or error-prone to get anything out of it, earns them an easy Reject of the Race.

The team’s shocker of a weekend tended, as many ROTR winners do, to mask other more bizarre incidents that occurred throughout the weekend. The track limits situation proved too much for the greatest drivers in the world to handle: 64 lap-times were deleted, with penalties handed out to a number of the drivers during the race. The drivers kicked up a stink about the supposed effects of running a few extra millimetres off track, with Max Verstappen bluntly suggesting to simply increase the amount of gravel or to erect a wall at those corners. It provided yet another thing for the drivers to complain to the FIA about, as the special relationship between these two parties has something far from a vintage year.

Track limits means keeping the car on the tarmac bit, Lewis..

And speaking of track limits, last-placed Sebastian Vettel had already himself broken that rule and taken a five-second penalty. After his punt by Gasly, he brazenly reversed onto the track amid multiple cars passing him, made a fed-up comment or two, and strolled into last place. And speaking of Stroll, the Canadian is continuing to make 2022 his annus horibilis, with no pace to back up his permanent position at the team (so long as Lawrence continues to fund for the foreseeable future). A race such as this, when his champion teammate runs into trouble, is the perfect opportunity to make a positive impression. Instead, both Aston Martins were eliminated in Q1, and Stroll drove off into anonymity on both Saturday and Sunday. Like AlphaTauri, the team got nul points out of a weekend when Haas and Williams seemed to prosper.

While Alpine prospered on Sunday, their Saturday sprint was a disaster. Fernando Alonso, with an electrical issue, was abandoned on the grid going into the formation lap with his tyre warmers still on. Then, when he was wheeled into the pitlane, the car did not start anyway, putting him out with a DNS before the event had even begun. The team improved with great pace to see Esteban Ocon score sixth and fifth places, while Fernando Alonso’s tenth place allowed the team to match McLaren’s fourth place in the standings. However, the sprint start fault was a perfect successor to AlphaTauri’s sticky tape repair at Baku for bizarre moments this season.

Mick Schumacher, a third of the way to unrejectification, wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!

It is said that Mick Schumacher needs a season and a half to come into his own. It was the case in European Formula 3 and it was the case in Formula 2. Stronger pace in a stronger 2022 Haas didn’t stop him throwing away results earlier this season, before he finally came good in Silverstone. While that result was aided by a bit of luck and some well-timed safety cars, here in Austria it was all Mick. He had the edge over Kevin Magnussen, whose early-season pace has dampened a little after a string of recent average performances, and the two of them seemed to be driving a rejuvenated Haas team.

Schumacher vs Hamilton, have we ended up back in 2012?

The team are known for their dreadful in-season development, so for the two drivers to finish in the top ten in every session in anger this weekend was a brilliant performance. However, the credit goes to Mick primarily, for his excellent defence against Hamilton in the sprint, and for his sixth place which, had the community been told would happen a few weeks ago, would have registered as crazy talk. Well done therefore to Mick.

Ocon’s quiet drives in the top six all weekend deserve some mention. While Alonso’s early season dip now sees the Spaniard back around to last year’s pace, the decision last year to have Ocon at their team for the coming seasons seems to have been a wise choice. He is consistently a safe pair of hands, and again comfortably took his car to a brilliant fifth place, best of the rest, to put Alpine with a decent shot of taking fourth in the standings from McLaren this year.

Merhi added an excellent epilogue to his future GPR Driver Profile this weekend.

The final word this weekend goes to the Formula 2 race. Future GP Reject Roberto Merhi has seen a late career revival as a supersub in the feeder series, dating all the way back to 2017. Four years after his last race in the series, he was given a last-minute call-up to replace the injured Ralph Boschung, and he did not disappoint. In changeable conditions, the 31-year-old mastered his opponents to take second on the road and after a string of track limits penalties, including one for himself, saw the Spaniard in third place! Not only does it make something of a mockery of the field that Merhi could perform so well against them, it revives the argument that more top drivers should be invited to drive in the series and give the F2 regulars a real test.

Full Results
AlphaTauri 11 (52%) Mick Schumacher 13 (68%)
Alpine 5 (24%) Roberto Merhi 6 (32%)
Track limits 4 (19%) Esteban Ocon 0 (0%)
Aston Martin 1 (5%)
Number of votes: 21 Number of votes: 19

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.

2022 Grand Prix Rejects Awards
2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
2022 Australian Grand Prix
2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
2022 Miami Grand Prix
2022 Spanish Grand Prix
2022 Monaco Grand Prix
2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
2022 Canadian Grand Prix
2022 British Grand Prix