Winning rather supremely in spite of a sleep-induced spin, Max Verstappen waltzed off to another predictable win, in a season and sport that is rapidly moving towards the artificially unpredictable. Let’s dive into the Australian Grand Prix.
Race Control, once again, take Reject of the Race for their preference towards chaos-inducing decisions, and their obvious consequences
In an Australian Grand Prix that was, it is bizarre to say, otherwise straightforward, the audience at home were treated to a herculean trio of red flags. In a season with 29 racing days (8% of all the days in the year), Race Control and its overseers are determined to make every moment as riveting and as revolutionarily breathtaking as the last, all for The Show. The first red flag was for Alex Albon’s spin, which saw him rebound off the wall and briefly into the racing line in sector two. Commentators were keen to point out that, apart from his race-ending unforced error, Albon has been nothing but positive all weekend, unlike Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who received nothing but scorn and shame for his own unforced error the day before. The true reason for the throwing of the red flag was, however, actually gravel that had been spewed across the track, a reasoning which baffled almost every seasoned Formula 1 fan.
This first red flag ruined George Russell’s race. Mercedes have been complaining about Red Bull having the fastest car of all time, prostrating themselves to the public claiming they’re the greatest underdog of all time, all while both drivers overtook Max Verstappen in the opening seconds of the race. An early pitstop seemed to have Russell in the box seat when Albon’s crash brought out the Safety Car, however the red flag dropped him deep into the field, never to recover. The rarest of rare things – a Mercedes engine blowup – finally ended a miserable afternoon for the Briton.
The second red flag happened much later in the race, with Kevin Magnussen also committing an unforced error into the first double turn of the track. With his wheel kissing the concrete and going on holiday, a safety car was converted to a red flag a coincidental two laps from the end. This would give Liberty Media and the shareholders what they wanted: last-lap mayhem and hopefully a couple of changes down the order.
Well, we got that. Carlos Sainz tapped Alonso around, before Pierre Gasly accidentally rammed teammate Esteban Ocon into the wall, while Logan Sargeant used Nyck de Vries in front of him as a braking tool – shades of Ricardo Rosset at Spa 1998. Stroll overshot the second right-hander and the red flag was soon shown to clean up the wrecks caused by the previous red flag. During the stoppage, the cars reassembled where they were after the second red flag was shown, only without the wrecked Alpines and with the clean-starting Hulkenberg being demoted back from a great podium position to seventh.
After yet another prolonged decision, illustrating just how poorly written the FIA’s rulebook is, the race finished behind the safety car anyway. Sainz got a penalty for spinning Alonso, while Sargeant and Gasly got nothing at all for much more egregious incidents. Gasly especially is on the verge of being banned, and the lack of action against him seemed to confirm the FIA don’t really care too much for the penalty pointys sytem.
Therefore, Reject of the Race goes to Race Control. In these articles and our podcast we have often discussed Liberty’s spicing up of The Show™ for those extra engagements on TikTok, MSN, and Friends Reunited. Baku 2021 deliberately and cynically set a precedent that Melbourne simply continued from. Just as the penalty points system can be ignored, so can the first 56 laps of a 58 lap race.
Of course, the drivers do not get off scot-free. There were lots of errors (which, admittedly, we love to see here at GP Rejects) all weekend. Sargeant’s aforementioned slam into de Vries ranks among the more embarrassing crashes of recent years (the cherry on top of a poor weekend featuring multiple offs for the American in practice and qualifying), while Gasly wiping Alpine’s points off the scoreboard won’t do the two teammates’ famous harmony any good. Ferrari, famous for throwing it all away, threw it all away at Melbourne too. Sainz ended up with a big fat zero after his transgressions during the second restart, but Charles Leclerc produced a far more embarassing performance. At a track where the Monegasque driver dominated 12 months earlier, his Sunday lasted three corners and concluded with a pathetic spin into the kitty litter.
Nico Hulkenberg, for being duly robbed of his long deserved podium finish, takes Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race
Everyone’s favourite German Nico Hulkenberg, produced an genuinely excellent weekend all round. He easily had the measure of Kevin Magnussen, who for so many years has been the general yardstick for pace at Haas. While the Dane, in this author’s view, defeated Romain Grosjean quite convincingly more often than not, he did especially well to humiliate that other German, Mick Schumacher last year. However, being paired alongside Hulkenberg is really exposing the cracks in Magnussen’s performance. Had the final red flag not reset the grid to how it was after the second red flag, Nico would even be equalling his Danish teammate on podiums…
Valtteri Bottas seems to be showing something in common with Magnussen, with himself too being thoroughly beaten by Zhou Guanyu in qualifying and the race. Qualifying dead last, he is going to need to up his pace if he doesn’t want to lose out on 2024 through anonymity alone. Zhou on the other hand is making a convincing argument that he deserves to be in Formula 1 on merit.
Final words should go to Alpine and McLaren. While Alpine did throw it all away, Pierre Gasly ran fifth and genuinely on pace to fight the Ferraris, Mercedes and Aston Martins for a vast portion of Sunday’s race. Their wipeout two laps from the end did not take away the fact that they have the pace to challenge if they can be consistent. However, they lost ground to McLaren, who were surely the biggest benefactors of it all, with Lando Norris and home hero Oscar Piastri both taking points and reviving at least some hope in the team for a brighter future. McLaren are 5th in the constructors despite an obviously compromised car!
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Race Control||15 (63%)||Nico Hülkenberg||13 (57%)|
|Driving Standards||6 (25%)||McLaren||8 (35%)|
|Logan Sargeant||3 (13%)||Alpine||2 (9%)|
|Ferrari / Pierre Gasly||0 (0%)|
|Number of votes:||Number of votes:|
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.
2023 Grand Prix Rejects Awards
2023 Season Preview
2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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