The casual F1 audience must have thought that the summer break could not come soon enough when they were treated to the Belgian Grand Prix. As Max Verstappen took his eighth consecutive victory, much of his opposition did their best to earn our rejectful ire.
For a first-lap crash and a refusal all-round to accept defeat, Carlos Sainz Jr. wins our Reject of the Race award in Belgium!
Carlos Sainz Jr. has been attempting to capitalise on his teammate Charles Leclerc’s occasional struggles at the permacrisis Ferrari garage, while the team has also been trying to keep its head above water with a subpar product in direct competition not just with the Mercedes directly ahead, but new foes like Aston Martin and McLaren, who on their weekends are reliably chipping away at the scarlet team’s results.
In this environment, the team need any result they can get, and with Aston Martin struggling for pace all weekend, it was an opportunity to compete for third-best at least and maybe even a podium. Sainz threw it all away when he went far too aggressively into the first corner, forcing Oscar Piastri (who, let us not forget, had just qualified and finished second during the previous day’s sprint) into the barrier at La Source, ruining both of their races. Piastri was out on the spot, and a huge hole had been gouged into the Ferrari’s sidepod.
Sainz received no punishment from the stewards, though in practice the collision had itself been due punishment. Ferrari refused to pit him or retire the car, hoping that rain might level the playing field, so Carlos – perhaps punished by his team – dropped through the field to last before retiring altogether. All this on a day when the Aston Martins and the McLarens looked very vulnerable. Leclerc took a great podium for Ferrari in changeable conditions, and Sainz got nothing. A classic Reject of the Race case.
So, when Sainz was trundling around at the back in a crippled Ferrari, Piastri was taken out at the first corner, and Lando Norris was running a rear wing configuration which was hopeless in dry weather, where was Alpine? The answer is that they were nowhere, in spite of various frontrunning cars shooting themselves in the foot. Their management reshuffle has been the top F1 news for a few weeks now, and for them to actually be beaten by McLaren on the latter’s off-day means that the French squad can kiss that coveted fifth place in the constructors goodbye.
Speaking of being nowhere, Daniel Ricciardo came into his second race with a little more verve and preparation than he had received at the Hungaroring. Now he had more time to start the race in last and run an anonymous PNowhere all Sunday while Yuki Tsunoda troubled the lower points for the whole second half. Neither Tsunoda nor Ricciardo are proving to be the crème de la crème of Red Bull’s junior programme, and at a crucial moment where Sergio Perez’s seat may just have come up for grabs, Daniel could really have done better. Given his vocalised desire to see out the end of his career with the Red Bull family, this could come back to bite him in an ironic twist.
More bizarre nominations for this award came via Belgium’s very own Elton John impersonator, who did a wonderfully over the top iteration of the national anthem pre-race that got the crowd into the mood. The mood for what, we’re not sure. Finally, while junior drivers can be given more leeway than the 20 best drivers in the world for their mistakes, we are hard-pressed not to mention Pepe Marti after his incredibly dangerous track rejoin in the Formula 3 event this weekend. Ido Cohen was taken out through no fault of his own, and the speed differential could have meant dire consequences for either of them in different circumstances.
Yuki Tsunoda takes Infinite Improbability Drive for his snatching of the lower points in spite of all the rain!
We have spoken about the downsides to Ricciardo’s performance, and what it might mean in the long-run for a starved Red Bull junior pipeline. Tsunoda, while seemingly an outsider candidate at best, at the very least proved he can lead AlphaTauri in Gasly’s absence – an absence, this author might add, which is still very strongly felt in terms of their results. Therefore, to decisiviely dominate against a teammate once rated as one of the top drivers in F1 was all Yuki needed and needs to do to maintain his position at the team. Still, it was pleasantly unexpected to see him do so well, so hats off.
Should we mention Alex Albon? We should? Ok, well let’s mention Alex Albon. The Williams driver put himself and his team on the television screens all afternoon on Sunday as he appeared to overtake just about everybody three times over the course of the race. It was good aggressive driving, even if it didn’t end in a points finish.
A final mention will be given to Max Verstappen’s sense of humour, as he wound down the lethargic end to the race with a joking threat to his engineer and garage about pitting to do some practice. At least under that veneer, the Dutchman has a sense of humour.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Carlos Sainz Jr.||8 (44%)||Yuki Tsunoda||16 (94%)|
|Alpine||4 (22%)||Alex Albon||1 (6%)|
|Daniel Ricciardo||3 (17%)|
|Belgian Elton John
|Number of votes: 18||Number of votes: 17|
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
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