The Azerb Grand Prix
Baku’s surprisingly low-key affair was highlighted by a few key events during the second race on Sunday. What won our community’s Reject of the Race was the decision to allow photographers into a live pitlane, all while the race organisers knew that Esteban Ocon had to serve his mandatory pitstop, and was perfectly entitled to do so on his penultimate lap. The event ended with an Alpine ploughing into the pitlane with a whole crowd of people in front of him. Luckily nobody was touched in the incident, but it was another valuable lesson in safety for a series a little too keen to relax the rules that have kept itself almost entirely injury-free for decades.
Elsewhere, the more convenient talking points were Nyck de Vries’ lazy and unforced drive into the wall, where he left the car in such a place as to bring out a rather well-timed safety car; well-timed in the sense that it handed a free victory to Sergio Perez, who was on equal pace with Max Verstappen all of Sunday. De Vries’ pace has been called into question even at this early stage in the season, and a very rejectful combination of events in hitting teammate Yuki Tsunoda in the sprint, as well as crashing out during one of his hot-laps in qualifying, put him already in danger of facing Dr. Helmut Marko’s infamous meat grinder.
Two of the other A-teams, Alfa Romeo and Alpine, did their very best to punch below their weight all weekend. Valtteri Bottas had one of his worst weekends in a very long time, sitting as he did in last for the majority of the race on merit. His teammate suffered yet more reliability problems not seen on such a level in some years now. Alpine and Ocon spent so much time depending on a safety car that their last-lap pitstop was the result of this desperate strategy to climb up the order from a pitlane start. With Pierre Gasly’s own quali crashes and his team’s points haul of zero following the event, we can safely say it was a weekend to forget for both.
On the other side, Yuki Tsunoda’s single point in 10th place was about the only thing that was even somewhat unexpected. In a weekend with one and a half race event formats, it was too much to ask the formula to somehow sort it out – as if a boy would be poking F1 with a stick, begging that it do something. Besides the continued good form of Sergio Perez, there was little to get people too excited about The Show™ this year.
The Iami Grand Prix
During another Red Bull romp, this time to the benefit of Verstappen, there were a few more rejectful happenings further down the field, not least restricted to Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver was only somewhat to blame for his inability to keep the Dutchman honest in 2022, but as Ferrari’s pace gets worse rather than better, he is starting to make more and more mistakes and show more and more weakness in the face of his opponents. Indeed, he immediately put himself on the back for the race by crashing in Q3, though it masked his own race pace as he would slip down the order and spend most of Sunday fighting with one Kevin Magnussen. The Danish driver has hardly been very highly rated this season, so for a driver keen to cement himself as Max’s chief rival, he is finding himself shown up not just by the resurgent Perez, but also his own teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, who had no such trouble all weekend.
Someone else miles off his teammate was Lance Stroll. The Canadian has been let off the hook somewhat following the context of his biking accident that left him with a broken hand. In many ways we should be impressed that he is on the grid in the first place, but perhaps a little less so when he is being knocked out in Q1 and spending all of Sunday near last place. When teammate Fernando Alonso goes from second on the grid to his fourth podium out of five races, the imbalance between the two sides of the garage is striking. Regardless of the context (and let’s face it, Lance has only himself to blame for his injury), Stroll is being absolutely destroyed by a man nearly two decades his senior, and it doesn’t look to be a one-off performance!
Other areas that drew the community’s ire were the pre-race Show™ that almost nobody bar Liberty Media’s business and partner development team enjoyed. Parading the drivers out in artificial hype events to placate and attract sponsors again feels very alien to an international audience, and simply accelerates the Americanisation of the series. During the race itself, there was a notable downturn in performance from one Martin Brundle, who has commentated on races since before half of the grid were even born. At Miami, however, even he sounded fed up with the present state of things, and may have contributed to make an average and passable race sound far worse than it actually was. As the Sky audience are exposed more and more to decent alternatives like former Hispania and Team Lotus driver Karun Chandhok, we might be starting to think that Brundle should genuinely move on.
And finally, the McLaren team’s solid performance at Baku was followed up by a double Q1 dropout and a pointless Sunday spent at the back. Enough said for a team that was best of the rest in 2022. We can only sympathise with their two drivers.
On the positive side of things, Kevin Magnussen was a positive sight to see as he qualified well and held up a certain Ferrari for a solid portion of the race. His point at the end of the event will put him in good stead for the final standings, although it might not seem much in itself. Alpine had a rollercoaster event after Baku, with two cars in Q3 and two cars in the points. Redemption perhaps for Australia, though at least they will be able to fulfil their dream with this kind of pace and finish “there or thereabouts” by season-end.
The general public should get the last word, for being brave and strong enough to sit through the Miami Grand Prix weekend. It was not a classic, and not every race ever will be, but as the stratified nature of F1, combined with the saturation of race events, and Liberty’s ever more inventive way to make a very ordinary dominant season from Red Bull into something greater, the public can be commended for their efforts in staying up to watch the whole thing. Good job!
Full Results – Azerbaijan
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|Photographers in the live pitlane
|Nyck de Vries
|Number of votes: 18
|Number of votes: 14
Full Results – Miami
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|The pre-race show
|The General Public
|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.