GPR Awards – 2022 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix

It was a real achievement from everyone involved behind the scenes in Formula 1, that Max Verstappen winning the world championship for a second time at the Suzuka circuit was a genuine surprise to everybody. One has to hand it to their ability to provide something so unexpected as what we got in the context of that shortened, rain-drenched grand prix. However, these things did not come without a cost to the sport’s safety or dignity

The FIA, for the sitcom-esque reveal of Max Verstappen’s eventual world championship, win Reject of the Race at Suzuka

It was a sad state of affairs to see history repeating itself at Suzuka on Sunday. In the pouring rain, with cars so poor in the wet that the race had to typically be delayed, we had a scenario with a live crane on track with marshals present, all before this had been urgently communicated to the passing drivers. Race Control, who put out the red flag following Carlos Sainz’s first-lap retirement, put the drivers in a situation whereby Pierre Gasly, who too was irresponsible in driving at absolute full speed under such treacherous conditions, almost hit a recovery vehicle.

AlphaTauri’s new March 711-inspired nose was not a success for Gasly…

The blame is on both sides, but it is not equally apportioned. Gasly was indeed going far too fast, and he shows another classic example of the disregard, whatever the drivers might say, of their own lives for the sake of making up seconds on the track. It is a problem not just limited to Kimi Räikkönen at Baku last year, zooming as he did past Verstappen’s wreck on the start straight, and it is a type of behaviour that remains unpunished.

This is what makes it so strange that the organisers saw fit to publicly blame Gasly where they had not thrown blame before, for an incident which so clearly was more so their fault. To throw out a tractor and marshals on the side of the track in such conditions was highly irresponsible, and did truly endanger the lives of the drivers. Everyone involved in those valuable seconds were at the highest of risks, and for Race Control to pooh-pooh the outrage of others is more than enough to nominate them for our most prestigious award.

With scenes like this, surely motorsport will be better off when the FIA is closed down forever.

Winning it, however, was the FIA. This time the audience experienced déjà vu of the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, when Michael Schumacher was unjustly penalised for possibly the best overtake of the year, by a rule that nobody except one specifically crusty steward knew about. After last year’s race at Spa – the farce to end all farces – Formula 1’s governing body announced plans to reform the points system for shortened and cancelled races, with the idea to scale the points by halves and quarters to more accurately represent the amount of laps that had been completed in comparison to the 100% racing distance.

Only, they didn’t go with this plan. At least not entirely. Unbeknownst to the rest of the F1 community, the teams, the media, and the drivers, the FIA went with a strict wording that only applied these scalable points during races that were “unable” to continue due to cancellations. With the interpretation that the Japanese Grand Prix could go ahead and wasn’t stopped due to a red flag, but instead by an entirely self-imposed 3-hour counter system that was only discovered last year at Spa, the race was seemingly arbitrarily imposed with full points awarded.

It meant that, again, in the strangest of circumstances, Max Verstappen won a world title. He himself didn’t know it, believing even in the cooldown room that it hadn’t happened and that he would have to wait another round yet. But it did happen. Bewilderment isn’t the first feeling to come to mind, though, when being told one has taken a world championship…

Nicholas Latifi, for being the last full-time driver to break his points duck in 2022, wins a rightful Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award!

We thought it would never happen! Well, some strange corner of the internet (not ours), which chooses to ironically idolise everyone’s second favourite Canadian F1 pay-driver this year, believed that it would happen. But in the most treacherous of conditions, which have already been discussed above, Nicholas Latifi was perfectly dependable, and even showed up some of his contemporaries in what it means to be skilled and safe in wet-weather racing.

This time there were no surreal antics as there were in Hungary last year. There was nothing to take away the result, and Nicholas walked away from this race as a points-scorer. He achieved in 18 races what Nyck de Vries achieved in one, but anyone would be lying to themselves if they thought the Canadian had a future in the sport beyond this year regardless. Therefore, it is all the sweeter for Nicholas to have achieved what he did: points in the worst car on the grid, when nobody thought it was possible. Now that is improbable.

Vettel and Latifi starred in the wet. (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato)

Something that was only less improbable due to him having a better car: Esteban Ocon’s defence all race. The Alpine isn’t a slow machine – after all, it’s fighting tooth and nail for “best of the rest” after F1’s permanent top three – but to see how Ocon in particular kept his position, and even more so his dignity, ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in such wet conditions, was a brilliant performance.

Hamilton is just as good in the wet as he is in the dry, and even with that and a much better chassis behind him, wasn’t able to get himself ahead of Ocon for the duration of the race. Every lap saw lunges or attempts, with pressure on the Frenchman to lose the brilliant fourth place he found himself in. But it wasn’t to be: Ocon kept place and took all the glory. His fourth place, combined with Alonso’s seventh, takes Alpine back ahead of McLaren with four rounds to go, and it is results like these that are key, if not for winning championships, then key for winning fourth in the championship.

Full Results

The FIA 13 (68%) Nicholas Latifi 16 (89%)
Race Control 6 (32%) Esteban Ocon 2 (11%)
Number of votes: 19 Number of votes: 18

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  

2022 Austrian Grand Prix
2022 French Grand Prix
2022 Hungarian Grand Prix
2022 Belgian Grand Prix
2022 Dutch Grand Prix
2022 Italian Grand Prix
2022 Singapore Grand Prix