At Imola, hopes of a close championship were boosted with our first Red Bull 1-2 in six years. McLaren returned to their 2021 form with a totally unexpected podium, and while Lewis Hamilton is giving up the fight, it seems Max Verstappen is still in it. Let’s get to the winners and losers of our 2022 Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix awards here at Grand Prix Rejects!
Lewis Hamilton is Reject of the Race after a depressing drive to 13th on Sunday
It’s not often Lewis Hamilton gets this award. Winning championships often puts you under more scrutiny when you make mistakes, although Hamilton’s perceived Luck of the Gods, not least occurring at this circuit last year, have allowed him to avoid the honour of receiving an award from our community in many seasons. However, after a very unconvincing run on Sunday that saw him languish behind Pierre Gasly for at least 40 laps, his luck has finally run out.
Make no mistake; Lewis has been unlucky in 2022, especially with regards to safety car timing, but at Emilia-Romagna there was no denying that he was at fault for his poor pace. In conditions where historically the Brit has been nigh-on unbeatable in, after a so-so first lap he quickly found himself behind a long train of cars led by Yuki Tsunoda (more on him later) six or seven cars ahead. While there were magic passes to be seen from the likes of Valtteri Bottas and others, Hamilton was unable to progress forward. As conditions began to change, pitstops didn’t help matters either when he was rudely shunted by Esteban Ocon’s Alpine in the pitlane following an unsafe release.
The track started to dry and the Sky commentators begged for DRS to be activated so that their knight could slash his way through the field. But it was not to be: DRS made no difference to the order, and Alex Albon was able to successfully keep Gasly and Hamilton behind without the benefit of a free speed boost. George Russell’s great performance in the sister Mercedes only exaggerated Lewis’s woes, and the seven-time world champion appeared to have no answers this time around.
The whole affair seemed to be the opening of a conversation lying dormant since the year has begun. It has been clear that the Mercedes W13 currently cannot hold a candle to Red Bull and Ferrari, and so eyes have been focused on the seven-times world champion’s performances in a subpar car. Declaring himself out of the championship already with nineteen races still remaining(!), a miserable drive and a rejectful attitude has earned Lewis Reject of the Race at Imola!
In a not-so-distant second was our championship leader and main contender Charles Leclerc. He and his Ferrari team earned a joint-nomination for throwing away what was surely going to be an easy third place.
While Sergio Pérez was demonstrating exactly why Red Bull have hired him as Verstappen’s rear gunner, Leclerc was clearly going to have to settle for the final place on the rostrum. However, he and the team went for an alternative strategy to steal 2nd place and the point for fastest lap, a strategy that was doomed to failure. Pitting again for new tyres on a track where it is notoriously difficult to build tyre temperature, Charles proceeded to bin it into the wall while the live coverage was focusing on him. Luckily the impactwas more of a tap, but it still warranted a further visit to the pits, and a loss of valuable positions. The Monégasque was able to scythe his way back up from ninth to sixth for some damage limitation, but it was a situation he should never have been in.
Ferrari are still leading both championships, but this was the exact kind of weekend they need to avoid if they actually want to end their championship drought. Carlos Sainz Jr.’s first-lap retirement was unfortunate, yes, but these things happen, and it is up to the rest of the team to achieve the maximum possible results each weekend through consistency. Ferrari’s hare-brained scheme lost them valuable points in what looks to be a close match between teams.
Driving standards were refreshingly clean given the conditions. However, Mick Schumacher proved to be an exception to that statement. Attempting to make places up on the first lap, he straightlined Tamburello into Fernando Alonso’s sidepod. The damage eventually took Alonso out of the race – not quite the Schumacher-Alonso duels of bygone years! After an unforced spin later on, Mick was floundering in PNowhere, and now remains the only full-time driver other than Nicholas Latifi not to score a point this season.
The one person Mick finished ahead of was Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian, who seems simply unable to get the hang of his McLaren on almost any weekend, was again totally outpaced and outmatched by his teammate Lando Norris, who was one of the heroes of the race (more on that soon). His last-placed came as a result of first-lap contact taking Sainz’s Ferrari out. After pitting, Daniel found himself at the back and never looked likely to move forward. He acted as the dry tyre guinea-pig for the rest of the field when the weather eased up, but after a botched move to the hard tyres later on, he limped his way home in plum last.
Aston Martin prove us all wrong with a mighty comeback for double points and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!
Fortunes were more favourable to Aston Martin this weekend around. After the easiest ROTR award in many months around Melbourne, they thoroughly redeemed themselves at Imola. The AMR22 demonstrated improved pace not just in one-lap qualifying runs, but over race conditions too. When Sebastian Vettel took advantage of the first lap contretemps to run seventh early on, the surprising factor is that he looked perfectly comfortable. Able to keep in touch with the other midfield runners, he held off Kevin Magnussen’s Haas all afternoon to bank valuable points for Mike Krack’s outfit.
To see Lance Stroll perform similarly well against Esteban Ocon to nab 10th was the cherry on top for a team that has barely turned up this season. A freak weekend or not, Aston Martin have broken their points duck, and have results they can build on for the next few rounds.
Tsunoda and Bottas were both pleasantly fast. Yuki especially performed well, putting his more fancied team mate well and truly in the shade this weekend. He didn’t crack under pressure as we have occasionally seen him do, but instead kept the pace up to lead a train all the way to the end for a tidy seventh place. Ahead of him, the same could be said of the Finn in the Alfa Romeo. He must have been grinning under that helmet as he made multiple attempts to pass Russell’s Mercedes in the final few laps: a delicious irony considering what happened at this track last year.
Finally, a word on Lando Norris. If anyone could have done it, it was him. However, it was a still a tremendous surprise when the Brit brought home a podium finish in a car that had been fighting for last place in Bahrain only a month earlier. We all know Norris is good, but his ability to look after his tyres and take advantage of the opportunities presented to him speaks yet again of his talents. If McLaren can keep moving forward in the development race this season, more big results may present themselves.
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|Charles Leclerc & Ferrari
|Number of votes: 39
|Number of votes: 41
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.