GPR Awards – 2023 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix

After a suspiciously competent Ferrari was able to challenge in vain against Max Verstappen on home soil, the Dutchman still took his record tenth consecutive win (not counting two more sprint wins added to that). Behind him, the amount of rejectfulness made us at GPR feel as if the field were falling over for his benefit! 

The uselessness of five-second penalties wins Reject of the Race at the Italian Grand Prix! 

Penalties have been a bone of contention in Formula 1 since the championship itself was begun. Whether draconian punishments for frivolous misdemeanours or a blind eye turned to years of illegal engine settings, F1 has seen it all. However, in the last few years, the very idea of punishing drivers has become weaker in its execution, and honestly rarer. The Show™ and franchise value have embedded themselves into the very core of the series during the Liberty era, just as the antagonism between teams and the FIA was removed under the inactivity of Jean Todt’s presidency. 

Now, we no longer have disqualifications mid-race (or indeed ever). We no longer have stop-go penalties or drive-through penalties. Teams instead are often fined four-figure sums in euros for their transgressions, and drivers are punished by slightly shorter pitstops. It is indeed true that the punishment must always try to reflect the crime in some spiritual way, but what was seen in Monza, when both Mercedes drivers clumsily barged their way into their final fifth and sixth positions on track, there should have been a worthwhile response from the stewards to show that this behaviour on track is not to be permitted. 

Instead, when George Russell cut the first chicane to overtake Esteban Ocon and then kept the place, he was issued with a five-second penalty which did absolutely nothing as his Mercedes powered away by over a second a lap from the Alpine. Later on, when Lewis Hamilton turned under braking and wiped out Oscar Piastri from the race, he too received a five-second penalty. However, when the same three teams are always so far ahead on race pace than the rest, what use is a five-second penalty when Hamilton finishes ten seconds ahead of the next driver? Likewise, when fighting for the last of the points positions, Logan Sargeant bumped the side of Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo and almost stopped the Finn from taking a well-earned tenth place. His penalty, along with both Mercedes’, had no effect on the final order, and were meaningless. 

George Russell, illustrating the Playstation line through the Rettifilo

After Monza, and the governing body’s uninterest in rightly issuing Pierre Gasly with a race ban in Australia, the F1 audience can be safe and secure in the knowledge that Formula 1 doesn’t award penalties of any significance any more. 

With that rant over, we can look to other more conventional candidates for Reject of the Race. Alpine, for example, never even made Q2, only one weekend after Gasly’s great podium at Zandvoort. The Renault engine has been…lacking in some aspects, not least its overall speed. At one of the fastest tracks on the calendar, Alpine suffered tremendously and never looked with a snowball’s chance in hell of troubling the points. Instead of licking their wounds and accepting an inevitable sixth in the year-end standings, they instead watched as Williams’ Alex Albon again used the superior Mercedes to a great seventh place, while Esteban Ocon exited ignominiously as the only in-race retirement. Again, with internal politics dominating discussion about the Renault works team, it seems like things will get worse in the long term before they improve. 

Quite frankly, Enstone would’ve done better not getting out of bed…

Other candidates fell by the wayside, such as Lance Stroll’s continued efforts to achieve this year’s Reject of the Year candidacy. His pace was off Alonso’s even in a race where Aston Martin were clearly down on speed compared to their direct rivals. Yuki Tsunoda’s DNS was a great moment of nostalgia for long-term F1 fans, and the stunted restarted only added to that. 

For a very busy day at the office, Carlos Sainz Jr. wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race in Monza! 

Sainz has been pushing things in his favour somewhat at Ferrari for many races now. Whereas before he was the unreliable if speedy equal to Charles Leclerc’s slightly more reliable and speedy strengths, now it seems the two sides have reversed. Sainz seems more at one with the team, or at least more ambivalent to it than Leclerc, who seems to be going through the typical late stages of talented drivers languishing at the scarlet Ferrari marque. As Leclerc loses motivation perhaps, and seems to make more mistakes than normal, it creates the perfect opportunity for Sainz to pull some excellent results out of his pocket, such as at Monza. 

An epic, valiant effort by Carlos Sainz Sr’s son.

He seemed to spend the entire race in some kind of action or other. After holding the lead from Verstappen, he was able to sandwich the Dutchman along with Leclerc, forcing a tow for the both of them which kept Sainz busy for just about every single lap. When he wasn’t holding Verstappen behind, it was then an effort to hold his teammate. It was fantastic, firm but fair defensive driving which especially drove Charles near to the limit of his overtaking abilities, such as when the Monegasque flat-spotted his tyres at the chicane. But for letting Verstappen through, Sainz could not have done much better on the day, and deserves a huge amount of respect for his busy Sunday. It is hard to believe that this is Sainz’s first podium on a Sunday for the whole of 2023! 

Liam Lawson deserves a lot of credit for his continued efforts in the AlphaTauri. It does him favours to know he will be in the car for another two races at least, while an 11th in Italy will do his confidence no end of good. Especially in a scenario where teammate Tsunoda didn’t even start, there was a lot of pressure for him to provide the goods, and again aside from a missed point or two, he did everything right and is potentially digging the grave of Daniel Ricciardo’s career. 

A rare occasion where a special livery actually results in a points finish!

Finally, a mention of Valtteri Bottas, who after many races managed to drag his Alfa Romeo to a point. It wasn’t the stuff of legends, but considering that they are only one point behind Haas for a whole championship position, every little helps. Considering the state of all the back three teams, a tenth place or two might just tilt entire prize money allocations!

Full Results

Five-second time penalties 9 (50%) Carlos Sainz Jr. 12 (67%)
Alpine 7 (39%) Liam Lawson 4 (22%)
Mercedes drivers 2 (11%) Valtteri Bottas 2 (11%)
Lance Stroll 0 (0%)
Number of votes: 18 Number of votes: 18

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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