A shock pole by Lewis Hamilton on Saturday was just one of the many surprises on a shaken up grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix this year. However, one man made sure that the Sunday would be like every other in 2023.
As reward for his first-corner catastrophe, Zhou Guanyu wins Reject of the Race in Hungary!
Zhou has been impressive this year, at least in the context of Alfa Romeo. He has had the edge over Valtteri Bottas over many weekends, and is building outwards from his rather anonymous reputation gained last season. His fifth place on the Hungarian Grand Prix grid might go down as the most impressive qualifying of the season so far. What a shame therefore for there to have been a race on Sunday, because this is where the praise ends.
For Zhou had one of the worst starts seen since the days when Mark Webber was a championship hopeful, or when Rubens Barrichello was blah-blah-blah-ing his way out of another post-race interview. From fifth he dropped ten places to 15th by the time they had even reached the braking zone for the first corner. He was probably spooked and stressed, because the first thing he did was the amateur racer move by panicking, forgetting to brake, and taking out three other cars. Firstly he slammed into the back of Daniel Ricciardo on the latter’s return to Formula 1 – the impact did not look so severe from far back, but the onboard shows it was quite a hit.
Then, just like Valtteri Bottas’ bowling antics from this race two years ago, the two out-of-control cars slammed into both Alpines, who had judged their braking and cornering perfectly fine. Pierre Gasly was out on the spot without a functional rear wing and with only three tyres, and Esteban Ocon retired the car a lap or two later in the pits. For his cut-and-dry “hero to zero” moment, Zhou Guanyu takes an easy Reject of the Race award.
Lando Norris was also an unexpectedly popular candidate for this award. Not for anything he did on the track, mind, as McLaren were able to take another fantastic haul of points to cement themselves already as the fifth best team in the standings before the summer break hits. The reason he is mentioned here is for his antics on the podium, where upon smashing his champagne bottle on the floor to get it fizzy, he knocked over winner Verstappen’s trophy, which fell to pieces on the floor in the midst of all the fun. It all seemed very fun for Norris, who refused to make any kind of apology or even express any regret at the destruction of a €45,000 trophy that belonged to someone else.
The whole surrealism behind the incident, his attitude being so blasé and out of touch, and the fact after everything that this has actually happened before (he refers to his podium antics as his “trademark”), makes him a worthwhile mention here. We all know F1 drivers earn millions, and a mere unique five-figure trophy is basically pennies to them (note: Roberto Merhi’s yearly salary at Manor in 2015 was €50,000), but the general audience might find that kind of behaviour a little bit arrogant, wouldn’t one say?
Finally, while the first-corner incident was not of their doing, Alpine can consider that their two double retirements in a row effectively write them out of the race against McLaren, and they will now have to be content with sixth at best for the second half of the year. Now with news of yet more staff changeovers, things are not as rosy at Alpine as they used to be (were they ever?).
Nobody wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!
The Hungarian Grand Prix was not a classic by any means, but more importantly it did not have that sense of flavour where something unexpected happens, or when somebody truly punches above their weight in a way everyone can get behind. Now that McLaren’s upgrades have suited them perfectly for the present time, their success is not infinitely improbable. This leaves Alex Albon and a few others to do the occasional excellent race performance to get our attention.
Nothing like that this weekend. Ricciardo was caught up in Zhou’s failure at the first corner, even if he seemed perfectly dependable otherwise. The qualifying trial was at least successful in shuffling up the order a tiny bit and bringing Lewis Hamilton back to pole position after a long absence. Otherwise, there was little long-term of note, and all the hype was used up by Saturday evening.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Zhou Guanyu||14 (61%)||Nobody||10 (53%)|
|Lando Norris||6 (26%)||Qualifying trial||5 (26%)|
|Alpine||3 (13%)||Daniel Ricciardo||4 (21%)|
|Number of votes: 23||Number of votes: 19|
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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