As Max Verstappen equalled the Ascari/Vettel record for consecutive wins, it seemed on Sunday evening at Zandvoort that nothing, not even the weather, could stop the Dutchman taking a clean sweep for the rest of the year. However, with changeable conditions came rejectdom from a few likely, and unlikely, places.
For a disasterclass performance all weekend, Charles Leclerc dominates the Reject of the Race vote!
As has been noted in previous reports, Charles Leclerc has not managed to show his best during the moments when he is most needed. While there remains a lot to be desired for the team atmosphere at Ferrari, it is also true that Carlos Sainz Jr. has managed to at least keep his head above the water and, at the very least, reduce his trips to the gravel trap to the sessions that don’t count! Leclerc, haunted by Paul Ricard last year the same way Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari stint is haunted by Hockenheim in 2018, appears to be unable to convert the high-pressure weekends in recent years, whether at Monaco or, now more recently, in the rain.
At Zandvoort he was off the pace anyway on Saturday, and did his utmost to prevent an exit from Q1 by a few hundredths of a second. While on his way to somewhere near the second or third row, he binned it in very unspectacular fashion and qualified ninth as a result. A good start saw him, like Sainz, take a few names when the rain came down. However, all sense of order and momentum was ended when he made a last-second decision to enter the pitlane. Ferrari weren’t ready, so Charles lost himself multiple seconds and a few places as the crew came out with the tyres in a performance that would have made Eddie Irvine cringe.
From there, Leclerc made minor contact with Lando Norris a few laps later, pitted again as things started to dry, and in spite of a new nosecone, made no improvements from thereon in. As at Spa, the few Tifosi in the Zandvoort crowds were treated to watching one of their heroes slowly get overtaken by Alfa Romeos before admitting defeat and retiring out of embarrassment. For this gigantic combination of rejectful performances, we cannot award the Reject of the Race to anyone else other than Leclerc!
That is not to say that there were no other candidates for this award. F1’s strategy teams take a lot of the spoils here too, for it seemed that just about nobody could work out how to handle the changeable conditions with any kind of authority. Gone are the days when Jenson Button could feel his way through the Hungaroring’s weather through intuition (twice). Now, while the drivers scream at their engineers to come in or to stay out, they are roundly denied their request. This meant we got to see both Mercedes cars in the bottom five for a significant portion of the race, while nobody committed the Markus Winkelhock masterstroke, and in spite of an early-race twitch or two, nobody was able to match Verstappen on pace. It is rain races like these that should see top talent shine through. Let’s just say we got it a little more from the drivers than from their strategy teams in Zandvoort.
Finally, McLaren deserve a shout-out just as much as Mercedes. With Norris starting second on the grid, we were almost treated to an epic upset on Max’s home turf. The Brit’s initial push in the opening laps was nullified by the team’s unwillingness to bring him in. As a result, he lost place after place after place, until he had gone from the lead to 12th on merit in the space of two laps. He therefore spent the rest of the race scrapping for the lower points and finishing behind the aforementioned Mercedes.
Pierre Gasly’s performance in the rain wins him Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!
Gasly’s 12th-place start on the grid left much to be desired for the struggling Alpine. For him to then be among the first pitting group meant that he scampered up the field while his rivals floundered. Sticking in fourth and holding off constant assault from Sainz, the Frenchman kept his cool and warded off just about all the opposition bar the Red Bulls and Alonso ahead of him. However, a little luck was in store when Sergio Perez’s third place was demoted to a fourth place for a slam dunk pitlane speeding offence. Gasly was up to third – an incredible result considering Alpine’s mid-season slump before the summer break. A welcome boost of confidence for him and the team, surely, especially as new ownership takes over and tries to set the Renault works team right.
Of course, although we mention him almost every time, we have to sing the praises of Alex Albon, who is single-handedly leading the Williams team out of the doldrums. The car appears to be the fastest they have designed in half a decade or more, while on certain circuits the chassis just seems to work fluidly with the track. While teammate Logan Sargeant binned it at the banked curve (later attributed by the team to a hydraulics failure), Albon held on to the midtable points, and was as high as sixth on merit until even the late stages. Norris and Russell’s end-of-race contact ensured a minor handful of points for Albon after another showing of how to keep it cool.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Charles Leclerc||8 (47%)||Pierre Gasly||15 (88%)|
|F1 strategists||6 (35%)||Alex Albon||2 (12%)|
|Number of votes: 17||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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