After red-flagged practice sessions and a qualifying that was hit by intermittent strong rain, the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday was surprisingly straightforward. Predictable, of course, as Max Verstappen took another lights to flag victory and a win tally to equal Ayrton Senna’s. Some of the competition, however, covered themselves in some classic reject glory.
Nyck de Vries’ amateur bumper cars against poor Kevin Magnussen earns him Reject of the Race in Canada!
The Dutchman has come down to Earth quite dramatically since his hiring by AlphaTauri this year. His moment in the sun in Monza seems a long time ago, and after a humiliating unforced error at Baku, he now finds himself in the spotlight again for some amateurish argy-bargy against the bewildered Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen was pushed off-line when de Vries made an aggressive overtake into the first corner complex, and the two inevitably made contact for a protracted moment of clownery
When the two lost their positions to the recovering George Russell (more on him in a minute), and Magnussen stayed ahead, the Dutchman made yet another overzealous effort on the inside into the right-hander at Turn 3, locked his wheels, and even turned slightly left into Kevin. The two made contact, and the Haas driver was forced into joining Nyck in the escape road, where they both proceeded to spend another agonisingly protracted moment slowly reversing out and back onto the track, far far down the order.
It was another off-day for the 2020-2021 Formula E series champion, whose stock (and perhaps by association the stock of his former series) has dropped, and we’re already hearing the usual internal threats from the likes of Helmut Marko as to his sacking. How much longer does he have before he receives his P45?
Haas themselves avoided a direct spotlight after their incredible run in qualifying – nearly resulting in a front-row start for Nico Hulkenberg – was frittered away to nothing by the chequered flag. The team seem unable to build any kind of race pace or working strategy, so as always both drivers slipped down the order, never to be seen again. Of course, de Vries’ antics didn’t help matters, but it was still Haas’s own incompetence that they can’t make their car competitive over a race distance.
Perhaps the luckiest avoider of the ROTR spotlight was George Russell, who proudly proclaimed that he had the best spatial awareness on the grid at the beginning of this grand prix weekend. He threw some criticism on unnamed drivers whom he claimed he would be unable to trust in the event of an overtaking opportunity, as if he himself wouldn’t be the instigator of such contact. At the Canadian Grand Prix, he was the only driver to fully dump his car in the wall, and as such he threw away a potential podium and the opportunity for Mercedes to double-team Fernando Alonso and get the Aston Martin driver out of the way.
While the safety car worked in Russell’s favour and gave him ample time to have his Mercedes car fixed, a new front wing added, and then to have him back on track, matching the maximum delta, and then doing a full circuit’s worth of catch-up to finally make the grid by the time the race resumed, it was still all for nought in the end. Although he was up into the points and could have potentially grabbed the place away from the excellent Alex Albon, he was eventually called in for an early bath by the team and rather dejectedly apologised over the world feed.
This author has been critical of Gorgeous George in the past, but for someone praised to the heavens by British media as the potential heir to Lewis Hamilton, he has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to at least match, if not beat, the seven-time world champion. George’s problem is squarely that Hamilton is performing at a much more consistent and convincing level than he was this time last year, while the honeymoon of 2022, capped off by George’s double win at Interlagos, is now definitely over. He’s up against a driver who, almost without fail, never makes the kind of costly mistakes like George made in Canada. Too many of those and Russell will have no chance of overcoming Lewis’ metronomic results from each weekend.
Lance Stroll’s teammate took the biggest applause during the post-race interviews, and recorded yet another second place – six podiums from eight races! Fernando Alonso seems like the most likely driver outside of Red Bull to take a win this year, and we’re all very happy for the 41-year-old. Stroll, on the other hand, is continuing to run out of excuses. After being mostly anonymous for the first half of the grand prix, he spent the second half unable to overtake the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, as he sat near the back of the long DRS train that accumulated behind Albon. His ninth place finish felt like it had taken all of his effort as he pipped Bottas at the line. Hardly convincing stuff.
One final note goes to Ted Kravitz, who was on particularly poor form during the grand prix. He spent multiple laps bemoaning Lando Norris’ receipt of a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, with the counter-argument being “don’t they know he’s Lando Norris?” Kravitz was so offended by one of the British media’s own golden boys receiving such an insult, that he took it personally and informed the world feed of his annoyance. It was just another on the long list of ever more annoying instances of the exclusive Sky feed getting on just about everybody’s nerves. Thank goodness F1TV exists, at least.
Alex Albon, for his heroic seventh place, wins an easy Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!
It was such an easy win that there was just about no other convincing candidate for this award. Finally, after promising some progress mid-season, Williams brought over some really significant updates for Canada, which Alex used to absolute perfection on Sunday. After getting himself a few places further up the order than his already impressive grid position, he played an excellent defensive game at the front of a long and competitive DRS train for the whole final third of the race. To take that Williams, which was until now probably destined for the wooden spoon yet again this year, into seventh place ahead of Alfas, McLarens, and even titanic racers like Lance Stroll, was truly improbable.
Other good news stories came from Ferrari, who in a rather “damning with faint praise” moment had their best weekend of the year to take fourth and fifth places by race-end. Their strategy of staying out during the safety car period worked in their favour, and they were able to hold onto their newly earned positions to the end. The competence of Ferrari’s strategists should always deserve a mention for its improbability.
Bottas and Ocon, though overshadowed by the Williams ahead of them, likewise had quiet and sensible weekends. The former has especially drawn some criticism for his rather unconvincing performances against Zhou Guanyu as of late. More weekends like this and he will feel a little safer at Alfa Romeo for 2024.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Nyck de Vries||10 (43%)||Alex Albon||18 (82%)|
|George Russell||6 (26%)||Somebody else||4 (18%)|
|Lance Stroll / Ted Kravitz||3 (13%)|
|Number of votes: 23||Number of votes: 22|
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.