For the twentieth time, Formula 1 held a Grand Prix in 2023, and for the 17th time Max Verstappen won one. Over two seasons he has already overtaken both Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s win tallies, and if he keeps it up through to Abu Dhabi, he will beat Sebastian Vettel too. Despite a bit of competition from Lando Norris, Max was again unbeatable and won convincingly. Further behind him, however, Sao Paulo offered up a nice dose of rejectdom to help us get through the remaining burnt rubber rounds.
Charles Leclerc(’s car), and his bad luck to boot, win Reject of the Race at Interlagos!
Before the race even got started, Charles Leclerc was out. It almost doesn’t matter why, because the result is the same. After a great second place on the grid, he again put a Ferrari with no race pace in as good a starting point as he could, in the hopes of scraping together a drive for the middle points at the very least. However, his engine failed on the formation lap and the wheels immediately locked midway through the circuit. In a lazy and depressingly comical spin, he was into the barrier and shouting “why am I so unlucky?” at the world feed.
Rhetorical self-pity aside, it was genuinely bad luck for the Monegasque driver who, being a Ferrari driver, gets enough of it on his good days. A DNS happening on the formation lap is and always has been a slam-dunk Reject of the Race, regardless of the circumstances, and the GPRejects community chose as such in their wisdom.
As with every ROTR, there is always a shadow candidate wiping the sweat from their brow in the knowledge that they have avoided ignominy on this occasion. The spotlight for the rest of the race was focussed on the ailing Mercedes team, who had possibly their worst weekend of 2023 so far. Last year they recorded a 1-3 in the Sprint and a 1-2 in the Race (and a fastest lap), one point off a perfect score of 59. This year they recorded a 4-7 in the Sprint and an 8-DNF in the Race (Hamilton was the faster of the two with the 12th fastest lap).
While Hamilton did at least genuinely challenge Norris for second place in the opening laps, the Mercedes was dreadful on the slower medium tyre, and when they were forced to use it, both drivers dropped through the pack. First, Sergio Perez overtook them, then Carlos Sainz Jr. When Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll were doing so on the start straight without even a fight, the commentators really started to take note. David Croft in his usual balanced and unbiased fashion, started rabbiting on about how DRS was “too powerful” in a blatant attempt to try and save some face for Mercedes. Russell retired the car after a reliability scare, and Hamilton fell to Pnowhere, there was not much more to say. A very off-colour race for 2021’s world constructor champions.
The first corner crash defined the rest of the goings on at Interlagos. The spectacular tangle between Alex Albon and both Haas drivers forced a red flag. With a loose wheel damaging Daniel Ricciardo’s rear wing, and Oscar Piastri with deranged suspension, there was the genuine prospect of a restart with only 14 runners. The red flag allowed Piastri, Ricciardo, and Nico Hulkenberg to get repairs and rejoin the action, and the final retirements came from the Alfa Romeo duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu. This all marked an impressive four retirements out of six for Ferrari power, with Sainz reporting issues and Hulkenberg only making the end through that earlier luck with the red flag.
Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, and the Final Lap win Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race in Sao Paulo!
If the first lap set the scene, then the final lap was a great send-off for two popular and occasionally troubled characters. Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso have both had their own mid-season slumps, and the revival of Aston Martin into the final rounds has been yet another part of the interesting fight going on behind Verstappen.
Perez overtook Alonso for the final podium spot with the aid of DRS on the last lap, but Alonso was able to return the favour after the Senna esses and repass Perez. They diced and fought, and when Perez got DRS up the final straight they ended with a photo finish of under a tenth of a second difference. Alonso was on the podium again, and Perez was in the good books again in general. For the latter especially, it was a race that reduced the likelihood of Hamilton superseding him in the final rankings, and a good third in the sprint coupled with this fourth place allowed him to build that gap. Aside from having his Q3 lap botched by Piastri’s off-road incident, Sergio did well to hold off a charging Russell early on and finally generated some positive headlines going into a make-or-break 2024.
Aston Martin in general deserve some praise, as even the dreadful Lance Stroll was able to take fifth place, only his fourth foray into the top six all year. This seemed far more the confident team of the first half of 2023, and less the flailing squadron with toys thrown out of its pram which we’d seen since the summer break. Alonso’s performance to take the podium was universally praised.
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|Charles Leclerc(‘s car)
|The Final Lap (Fernando Alonso & Sergio Perez)
|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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