GPR Awards – 2022 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix

As Max Verstappen won from much further back than reasonable this time, Formula 1 is already preparing to add the Dutchman’s name to the list of double world champions. His ascension to the history books certainly quickened at the Belgian Grand Prix, as we at Grand Prix Rejects add yet more names to our list of GPR Awards nominees.

Ferrari, for a third consecutive race, win Reject of the Race for their late-stage mega-mind superblunder in the pits!

While Verstappen secured his third victory on the trot, so did the Scuderia with their third consecutive Reject of the Race award! It seems Mattia Binotto’s outfit have decided to discover new and innovate ways a team can cock up a world championship challenge. Carlos Sainz Jr, who to his credit took pole after Verstappen’s qualifying penalty, did not embarrass himself on race day. A decent defence against an overly-ambitious Sergio Perez kept him in the lead before Verstappen’s first stint charge through the field inevitably saw Sainz leapfrogged.

His teammate Charles Leclerc made slow, if solid progress throughout the field for what was clearly damage limitation in a season that has apparently been damage limitation ever since the Monegasque’s unforced error at Imola. His eventual fifth place (on the road) was acceptable if not inspiring. Ferrari, however, had bigger things on their mind than a mere fifth place and ten points. They took what would normally be an easy gamble and pitted Leclerc in the closing stages for a fastest lap assault – only in  a rather arse before elbow kind of way. First of all, Leclerc didn’t get the fastest lap: even with new tyres in the closing stages of the race, he wasn’t fast enough to steal the point from the dominant Red Bulls. Secondly, the brains trust on the Ferrari pitwall seemingly didn’t bother to check if he had enough of a gap over Fernando Alonso in sixth, resulting in Leclerc rejoining behind the much slower Alpine. To cap the shenanigans off, it was then revealed young Charles had been a bit too eager in the pitlane, 1 kmh over the limit ensuring he would be penalised enough to finish behind Alonso anyway!

Ferrari, in all their infinite wisdom and budget and everything else that goes into making a race-winning team, make up for their lack of ability and initiative with enthusiasm. That enthusiasm saw them throw away a hard fought fifth place and ten points for an embarrassing sixth place, for a gamble that was never worth taking. For their ever-original ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of mediocrity, they continue to dominate Reject of the Race proceedings in 2022.

Alonso and Hamilton, recreating Chaos 2 vs Firestorm from Robot Wars!

It’s been a while since we had a lap 1 Reject of the Race winner, but Sir Lewis Hamilton nearly won such a prize on Sunday. His equally boneheaded decision to  squeeze Alonso while going side by side at Les Combes was bizarre. Even in spite of the Spaniard giving him every possible inch to avoid a collision, the seven-time world champion was launched into the air and came back to to earth with a wallop which no doubt KO’d almost everything on his W13. Unsurprisingly the car broke down a few corners later, consigning Hamilton to his first retirement of the year and the unceremonious ending of the last 100% finishing record  this season (Lance Stroll has technically been classified in every race this year despite his Aston packing up toward the end of Baku – Ed). To his credit Hamilton took full responsibility for his error, while Alonso ranted away on the radio post-collision. Thankfully, the Alpine was undamaged and able to make Ferrari’s life a nightmare later on.

World champions and wannabe world champions often unfortunately take the spotlight from the great reject moments at the back, such as when Nicholas Latifi took a very optimistic line exiting Les Combes on lap 2, touching the gravel, spinning around, and just ever-so-slightly collecting an innocent Valtteri Bottas. A move the likes of Taki Inoue and Jean-Denis Deletraz would have been proud of, it will not have helped the Canadian’s cause as he battles to retain his seat at Williams for 2023.

Daniel mate, have you tried driving the car faster, y’know?

It’s likely we’re in the death throes of Daniel Ricciardo’s career in Formula 1. The Australian’s time at McLaren is coming to an end, and both parties are surely counting the days until the divorce can occur. Neither did each other any favours at Spa, when Daniel was kept out far too long from a good starting position – he was undercut all round and lost any early advantage. For once it was both McLarens that were nowhere, with the team firmly behind a consistently scoring Alpine and looking very unlikely to hold onto fourth in the WCC standings.

Alex Albon secures a point for Williams and a worthy Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!

Alex Albon dragged his Williams to a brilliant Q3 and was able to hang around the top 10 throughout the race to secure another precious point for the Grove squad. The last time we saw a performance like that was in the mid- to late stages of George Russell’s career at the team. The core of Albon’s performance was rooted in consistency; solid on both Saturday and Sunday, able to take advantage of other drivers’ penalties, to execute overtakes when necessary and to nurse the tyres otherwise, all of which enabled the British-Thai driver to take a great result for his backmarker team. It’s not the career he hoped for when taking Pierre Gasly’s place at Red Bull several seasons ago, but it’s something.

A Pacific performance from Albon.

Esteban Ocon deserves a mention not for consistency perhaps, but for showmanship! The Frenchman has had good competition from his teammate Alonso (who we seem to have mentioned a lot in this article!), but he really does have the ability to show the audience what he is capable of, with some brilliant performances and overtakes. It is the latter that he illustrated around Spa: going three-wide on two separate occasions and executing a double-overtake both times! Legendary stuff.

Full Results
Ferrari 11 (42%) Alex Albon 19 (86%)
Lewis Hamilton 9 (35%) Esteban Ocon 3 (14%)
Nicholas Latifi 4 (15%) George Russell 0 (0%)
McLaren 2 (8%)
Number of votes: 26 Number of votes: 22

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
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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  

2022 Austrian Grand Prix
2022 French Grand Prix
2022 Hungarian Grand Prix