GPR Awards – 2022 Formula 1 São Paolo Grand Prix

As George Russell ends an eleven month winless period for Mercedes, his double victory in both the sprint and on Sunday’s race was overshadowed by incidents and accidents throughout the field, and above all by team politics in the Red Bull garage. And of course, it is the latter which we are talking about for Sao Paolo. 

Max Verstappen sacrifices his fraternity with his teammate and the team to take an extra two points and our Reject of the Race award 

Following his championship coronation in Suzuka, the only thing left for Max Verstappen to achieve in 2022 was to set a new record for most wins in a season, which he did in Mexico City. As Red Bull took the constructors’ trophy, the team’s last goal is to secure 2nd in the championship for Sergio Perez. They made a right meal of things in Brazil, mostly down to the actions of their Dutch superstar.

It started in Saturday’s sprint, in which after despatching Kevin Magnussen extraordinarily out-of-place Haas for the lead (more on that later), he was eventually reeled in first by George Russell and then by the Ferraris, and the former went on to dominate the weekend from there. Already on damage limitation the following day, Max was too greedy at the inside of turn 2 following the Safety Car restart, and shaved off his own front wing while driving into the side of Lewis Hamilton. Just like their antics 12 months earlier at the same track, controversy erupted.

Oh Max you best look a bit worried, you’ve caused a major problem sunshine!

A recovery drive from the pits saw him rise up to an eventual seventh place after another Safety Car period. However, with Sergio Perez in front of him, he just couldn’t sit where he was and protect the Mexican’s points. In spite of team orders to hold station, he overtook his teammate in a typical banzai move at the first corner, which in turn angered Perez, his mechanics, and Christian Horner. Ignoring direct orders from Horner to let Perez back through, Max performed quite an impressive job at the end of the day, turning what should be a victory parade into yet another headline in the endless treadmill of Red Bull drama. As a result, Max Verstappen deservedly wins Reject of the Race in Interlagos. His move may not just have cost Perez second in the championship, but also a willing helper in the years to come whenever Max might need a favour. 

Mid-way through the race, Lando Norris’ car jumped into anti-stall and refused to go any further, ending an already bleak day for McLaren. Stuck midwaymeant a mid-race Safety Car that bunched up the pack and allowed some of those further back to unlap themselves. All except Yuki Tsunoda apparently. The race stewards, in their infinite wisdom, somehow forgot the Japanese driver’s existence in the race, and poor Yuki was not allowed to unlap himself! The commentators were as dumbstruck about this decision as the audience were back home, and it was a welcome moment of positive rejectdom to look back upon. 

But it will be hard to go too much further without discussing McLaren, and in particular Daniel Ricciardo. Out at the end of the year, with only a reserve driver role at Red Bull in the pipeline, he finds himself in desperate times as his F1 career possibly comes to a close. Despite his trials and tribulations, he remains a popular driver with the casual Formula 1 fanbase. However, punting out Kevin Magnussen on lap 1 after he had been on pole only two days previously was sadly not the way to keep that relationship staying strong. It was yet another clumsy move from a driver who we expect much much better from him, which quite rightly ended in instant karma when Magnussen’s spun car rolled right back into him, pitching the McLaren into the barriers and retirement.

We’re getting slightly bored having to source photos of Ricciardo for the ROTR section!

One last mention to the Alfa Romeo mechanic, who bears a striking resemblance to team principal Fred Vasseur, who decided it would be a wise move to walk into the open pitlane during a round of stops. As Mick Schumacher drove towards his pitbox for Haas, the AR mechanic seemed shocked to find a Formula 1 car about to run over his feet, and leapt backwards. It was a rare moment of danger in the pitlane, and another near-miss in a championship that seems to be a-okay dicing with danger a lot more recently. The FIA responded exactly as one would expect them to, with a €1,000 fine, which is a third of the price of a grandstand ticket at Las Vegas next year. 

For surely the most unbelievable pole of the season, Kevin Magnussen wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race 

While the championship winner covered themselves in infamy, on the other side of the F1 paddock the infamous Haas team were celebrating on Friday like they had won a championship! Kevin Magnussen achieved what really is infinitely improbable; not having a drive until the early months of this year, he returned to the team who spurned him and took pole position in changing conditions. Just to rub it in for his performance, his teammate Mick Schumacher qualified plum dead last!

The car in front is a Haas. Murray Walker would’ve had a field day with this one!

It was a performance that outshined even George Russell’s double win. The scenes in the garage as Magnussen jumped on his car in elation were infectious, and only the coldest-hearted could begrudge him and Haas this result. It will be one for the team’s hall of fame room (even if it’s a very small one), and in spite of Daniel Ricciardo doing a Russell on him on lap 1 of the race proper, nothing will take away the golden moment for the Dane and the team on Friday. 

Alpine had an embarrassing sprint race, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso clashing on track and the pits erupting into open warfare. Quite unexpected too was the turnaround for Alpine’s inexplicable pace on Sunday, tanking through the field and finishing with Fernando Alonso ahead of both of the Red Bulls – aided of course by the internal squabbling over there. The Spaniard is not exactly leaving the team in the best of moods, and the two parties probably can’t wait to be rid of each other by now. But fifth place is fifth place, and entirely on merit from the back of the grid. 

This car finished 4th about 75 minutes after this image. Nah, us neither!

Charles Leclerc’s recovery drive was overshadowed by all the other drama. On Sunday’s race he too was punted off by a McLaren, except this time by the usually-sensible Lando Norris. A hard crash into the barrier on the safety car restart had him looking like a goner, but somehow the Ferrari was intact bar its front wing. Charles recovered to the pits and was soon back in the race and likewise jumping up the order with Sebastian Vettel in tow for the most part. Fourth place had him ahead of both the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso. A textbook recovery drive. 

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Max Verstappen 11 (44%) Kevin Magnussen 16 (73%)
The stewards forgetting Yuki Tsunoda 7 (28%) Fernando Alonso 6 (27%)
Daniel Ricciardo 5 (20%) Charles Leclerc 0 (0%)
Possibly Fred Vasseur 2 (8%)
Number of votes: 25 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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