GPR Awards – 2022 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

As Max Verstappen avenges the lost win of 12 months ago, it seems Formula 1 is truly going in Red Bull’s direction this year. The defending champion took another win and another closer step towards a possible second championship this year. However, their rivals’ stumbling gave us at GP Rejects absolutely plenty to talk about in the aftermath of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Ferrari take a rather easy Reject of the Race Award for their quadruple retirement and subsequent collection of zero points

Easy is the word for it. There have been countless seasons in the years of Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton whereby the eventual champion seems to have had it too easy. Verstappen and his team were the laughing stock after the opening rounds, with initial unreliability robbing the team of serious points hauls. Now it seems that the tables have turned – Red Bull and Max are winning race after race, while Perez has come on strong enough that he could himself be an outside contender for a title. Now, with porpoising becoming a medical issue for Mercedes’ two drivers and Ferrari falling over themselves to throw the championship away, Red Bull have it just a little too easy.

And indeed it is the latter whom take the brunt of the blame for this change in fortune. Ferrari again brought the best car in one-lap pace (at least in the hands of Charles Leclerc). Their de facto leader took pole yet again, and comfortably, with Carlos Sainz Jr. fourth and ready to make Verstappen’s life difficult in third. Instead it was Perez in second who jumped the leader, with the Dutchman hounding him from behind in the earlier stages. It then only took eight laps for Sainz’s hydraulics to fail and take him out. Thirteen laps later, after taking on a risky “Ferrari strategy” that could have made things interesting, Leclerc’s engine blew up on the start straight.

Even running the Italian flag wasn’t enough to appease the Italian gods of reliability otherwise!

If being the first two retirements and handing Red Bull a 1-2 wasn’t enough, Ferrari’s disaster spread to its engine customers, with Guanyu Zhou suffering yet another technical retirement this year, apparently due to the overheating. Kevin Magnussen in the Haas likewise had an ignominious power unit failure, while neither of their teammates ended up in the points. Not just the constructor, but the whole marque left Baku pointless on Sunday. Simply what more is there to say about the state of Ferrari?

Indeed, their absolute desperation to throw away both championships made sure that Ferrari overshadowed other issues, such as the absolute pummelling that Lance Stroll received by his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Just like last year at this very venue, the German seems to be able to conjure up a performance or two outside of the usual mediocrity these days, and in spite of a ten-second loss when he ballsed up a pass on Esteban Ocon, he still brought home a dog of an Aston Martin to sixth place. He outqualified Stroll by ten places on a grid with twenty places, and Stroll himself never ran higher than 14th during the race before he too anonymously parked the car in the closing stages.

Stroll, who in his position always seems to need to fight for his reputation despite the collection of great drives throughout his F1 career, seems to be really struggling in 2022. Not that he deserves any overdue sympathy: he must prove his drive just like everyone else. It is probably safe to say that this is his weakest start to a season, and he will at least need to prove to his father, if not the rest of the team and the crowd, that he is fit to be on the grid.

A bit of string and sticky-back plastic and she’ll be right as rain!

Even the, Stroll’s demonstration of mediocrity was overshadowed by Yuki Tsunoda’s DRS fix. In what was perhaps a first for the technology, the Alpha Tauri driver’s DRS seemed to snap off on one side. Unstable especially at the high speeds of Baku, he was rightly meatball-flagged by the stewards and sent to the pits. While the Sky commentators were highly critical of the procedure, it was reject gold to watch the mechanics strap up Yuki’s DRS system with duct tape and send it back out on the road. For the goodness of all things common sense and holy, it was wonderful to even so briefly see a glimpse of the unpolished, real world of F1. The tape held, the car was safe, and in the event of a safety car, Yuki could have bagged a point or two, who knows? The negative reaction by the commentary team to what was nothing more than the pure showing of how F1’s professionalism is merely a necessary façade at the end of the day, was rather depressing. This author for one praises those mechanics for saving Tsunoda’s race!

Sebastian Vettel takes Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race for his sixth place at Baku

This article has already gone through the pummelling Lance Stroll received at the hands of his teammate. Even in spite of Vettel’s mistake, the German still finished far, far up the field ahead of the Canadian, bringing home a treasure trove of precious points for the beleaguered Aston Martin squad.

One place ahead of him by the end was another overachiever in Pierre Gasly. Like Stroll, Gasly’s start to the season has been noticeably weak so far. Tsunoda seems to have got the hang of the 2022 ruleset from the get-go, while Gasly has been unable to keep up his form from last year. All that changed in Baku, however. Pierre managed to keep his excellent sixth place in qualifying, before moving up to fourth as the Mercedes tried to work out what strategy they were going with. As Lewis Hamilton made yet another move up through the field from a poor start and a strange strategy, Gasly settled for fifth.

The lads and ladettes at Brackley are wringing results out of the W13 – but at what long-term cost?

And speaking of Lewis Hamilton, the race was a classic example of Mercedes pulling out an awesome result on a track they really shouldn’t have prospered in. Their car was not suited for the track, and yet their mechanical invincibility (it is now almost four years since Hamilton suffered a DNF from reliability – an unbelievable stat) and dependable drivers, they took a 3-4. This was all also in spite of the porpoising issue that has affected the team far worse than any others. Russell in particular has been vocal in getting the FIA to reduce the medical risks for the drivers, while the team has been posturing in a way to avoid having only themselves lose out in a possible u-turn of the rules. Hamilton had to be helped out of the car, and while one worries for the health of the two drivers, the team can at least be happy for their points haul on Sunday evening.

Full Results
Ferrari 14 (74%) Sebastian Vettel 10 (59%)
Alpha Tauri’s DRS Fix 5 (26%) Pierre Gasly 7 (41%)
Lance Stroll 0 (0%) Mercedes 0 (0%)
Number of votes: 19 Number of votes: §9

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