Mercedes nearly ended their win drought of 2022. Emphasis on “nearly”, however, as Max Verstappen was able to overhaul a well-placed Lewis Hamilton to take a record-equalling 13th win of the season in Austin. While the media focused on their battle along with Red Bull’s dodgy tax returns and the age-old FIA inconsistencies, we here at GPRejects are focussing on those most rejectful events and actors of the United States Grand Prix.
Lance Stroll’s dangerous move against his future teammate wins him Reject of the Race in Texas
Lance Stroll is a driver who often fights against a reputation he cannot control. Nobody gets to F1 without a little talent and a lot of money. Stroll has both, just more than anybody else in the championship does. With this he receives a lot of overhead flak regardless of how well he performs. However, when he performs badly, as he did at Austin, it’s doubly unfortunate for Lance.
It’s extra fortunate for his victim, Fernando Alonso, that when Lance did an extraordinarily late kink to the left and sent him airborne, that the Spaniard was not injured, that he avoided the concrete barrier by centimetres, and that he was even able to keep going and finish in the points, despite the crash ordering on red-flag material. Lance knew as well that it had been him at fault, and we were fortunate to see both drivers walk away unharmed. A centimetre each way for Alonso and the wall, or Esteban Ocon and company encountering Stroll’s stricken car a few seconds earlier, and a very different story would have been told.
It’s also unfortunate that Stroll seems unable to learn from his mistakes. Even earlier this year, he was guilty of turning too late during a session at Albert Park, causing the hapless Nicholas Latifi to take to the grassy verge just to avoid a collision. His peripheral vision has long been wanting, but for it not to improve and to cause accidents as we saw at Austin? That is more than worthy of Reject of the Race.
While not close, there were other contenders for the position. George Russell, for example, performed what this author shall start referring to as a Classic Russell Manoeuvre™ when, overambitious into the first turn, he decided that a frustrated Carlos Sainz Jr. was going to let him past, having already surrendered the lead to Verstappen off the line. Sainz took his expected line through the corner, and George thought it was his. Spinning the Ferrari around, he caused irreparable damage that sent the polesitter straight into the pits and retirement in less than a lap.
Yet again, what makes these candidates’ flaws so infuriatingly predictable ROTR fodder is, especially in George’s case, a complete refusal to willingly take blame for their incidents. Mercedes’ new golden boy again accused the Spaniard of having “turned into me”, while only taking a measure of the blame later on in a packaged press statement. His penalty was minuscule: five seconds for no visible or immediate damage on his own while punting off a possible (well, technically possible) winner of the race. While he cannot yet challenge for championships, Russell will have to improve his behaviour, because these manoeuvres don’t make friends of his competitors, nor the folks watching at home. People have long memories.
Speaking of competitors, Daniel Ricciardo effectively wasn’t one after finishing the race almost last, while his teammate Lando Norris finished best of the rest. Partaking in the race but certainly not competing in it, that’s for sure. It was yet another bad day at the office in a long line of bad days at the office. One has to wonder why McLaren haven’t taken the opportunity to soft debut Oscar Piastri, with their battle against Alpine for 4th in the constructors slipping away.
Finally, Valtteri Bottas provided a classic moment of rejectdom. The Finn has seen himself and Alfa Romeo slide down the field since Formula 1 was last on North American soil, with Zhou Guanyu scoring Alfa’s only point in the last TEN races! Bottas himself had a golden opportunity to cement Alfa’s hold on 6th in the constructors, but lazily spun himself into the kitty litter under no pressure at all.
Fernando Alonso, for the recovery drive of the year, wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!
The most remarkable thing about the Stroll/Alonso incident is not just how dangerous it was, or how close Alonso was to hitting concrete dead-on, but in fact his ability to keep going in spite of it all! Nobody would have believed it if they were told that the Spaniard was able to drag that damaged Alpine – which, remember, had briefly been airborne – to a brilliant seventh place. Considering the fragility of the Ferrari in the case of lap 1, it is a testament to the determination of Fernando and the engineers at Alpine that they not just finished the race, but achieved what would have been a great result even without the incident occurring. Now that’s improbable!
A close second, perhaps overshadowed by Alonso and even his own team, was Sebastian Vettel. Seb has blown hot and cold in 2022, but this weekend gave us a glimpse of the Seb of old – the one who had hope. A very long first stint helped him d gain place after place on a circuit where Aston Martin were excelling at this weekend. Vettel even managed a lap or two in the lead while the frontrunners switched rubber, but then a 16 second masterclass in pitlane tomfoolery from Aston dumped the German down the order. The sheer frustration must have been immense, but he was able until the very last turn of the last lap to make up lost ground and finish 8th when he was as low as 13th. Robbed of an easy sixth place, his efforts have not gone unnoticed by us. That Aston are even in a position to pass Alfa Romeo in the constructors given their horror show start to 2022 is down to efforts like this.
Much further under the radar, but Kevin Magnussen also made the tyre strategy work. It’s rare that the Haas team do well on strategy and pace, but here they did so, and Magnussen used his experience to take a respectable ninth place during a time when Haas are really not expected to score well at all.
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|Number of votes: 22
|Number of votes: 21
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.
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