With a slight, self-imposed increase in difficulty, Max Verstappen won his eighteenth event of this gripping and exciting 2023 Formula 1 season. Behind and around him, the lights of Las Vegas were switched on to the championship for the first time since the days of Caesar’s Palace, where rejectdom was given plenty of space to flourish.
Above all other things, a drain cover wins Reject of the Race in Las Vegas!
Much like in other new events such as Miami or the unfortunate Corniche circuits, glitz and glamour have been ramped up dramatically. For Vegas, Liberty Media have concocted themselves a full event aimed squarely at the Rolex-purchasing crowd that Bernie Ecclestone so cynically pandered to just a decade a go. plus ça change…
With Max Verstappen moaning about the event and the track, and the entire permanent population of Las Vegas itself being against it, the event seemed doomed to failure under its own immense grandeur. The new and decadent advertising bubble, known rather ominously as The Sphere, threatened to blind the drivers as they attempted to set their pole laps.
While Sunday’s event ended up being quite fun and exciting, the most rejectful points of the event were got out of the way on the very first day. With under ten minutes of running into the first practice session, Carlos Sainz Jr. drove over a loose drain cover and smashed his Ferrari into pieces. There was so much damage that the team were forced to change multiple major parts. When the team pleaded for a force majeure to avoid penalties, Mercedes (Ferrari’s direct competition for second in the championship right now) vetoed the option.
On-track, the session was of course immediately red-flagged and the safety inspectors checked what was initially wrong. Bear in mind, reader, that the Las Vegas Grand Prix was being run on Japanese time, as late as possible in the evening to cause the least disruption to the locals and to be accessible to the core European demographic. Therefore, when the first practice session was never restarted, it was up to the organisers to run the second session at the last possible moment, mercilessly ejecting the patient viewing public from the grandstands (not the Rolex wearers in the paddock though – they were allowed to stay).
It was a horrible way to begin the debut weekend, and the initial bad press and its fallout was certainly enough to warrant Reject of the Race in our community’s eyes. As we hit the “golden years” of Liberty Media’s PR high, it is incredible how often the circuits are discovered to be unsafe, and the organisers utterly unsympathetic to their core audience! Better yet, the legalistic Americans are going after the organisers with a lawsuit – what a shame!
Beyond that, not a huge amount came out that was inherently rejectful. The exciting race did see some big surprises on Saturday, such as when both McLarens were ejected in Q1. They overshadowed a dreadful session where Esteban Ocon also qualified at the back following an on-track fracas with Verstappen as they started their laps, while Yuki Tsunoda wasn’t able to do even one clean lap.
Sergio Perez, desperately lurching his way into the runner-up spot in 2023, was knocked out with Lewis Hamilton in Q2. The latter especially has started to show chinks in his armour with regards to his greatest speciality, qualifying.
Max Verstappen’s greed in the race, when he pushed Charles Leclerc off track into the first corner, was rightfully punished, and again brought us another race where the Dutchman was at least briefly hobbled by his own actions, if not by the pace of his competition. Fernando Alonso made an unforced error early on and got collected by Valtteri Bottas, while Hamilton, Sainz, and Perez all hit each other in different ways.
Other than that, the only remaining rejectful moments were George Russell closing the door on Verstappen and getting penalised, Ocon’s rude refusal of team orders, and Sergio Perez’s loss of the lead through seemingly falling asleep at the wheel! Leclerc did very well to get the place back on multiple occasions, and leave Sergio losing a place on the last lap for two consecutive races!
Esteban Ocon wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race in Vegas!
In spite of his bad Saturday, and his intra-team conflict at Alpine, Ocon did have a really solid race. From all that hardship he moved up from near the back of the grid to fourth place! Getting past Gasly did end up being the correct move by race-end, and it built him enough of a buffer that as the field moved past the Williams trains, Ocon could keep far enough ahead of the Mercedes and the Ferraris that he had no trouble collecting very decent points.
This effort overshadowed Lance Stroll’s. The Canadian secured fifth place, just behind Ocon, and he had come up from even further back on the grid and for the same reasons. This, from much lower expectations and from such a frankly terrible season, deserves credit and notice.
Simply the race itself deserves credit for delivering such a quality event. The braking battle between Verstappen and Leclerc as the former took the lead for the final time was very impressive. Both Ferraris were fun to watch, although Sainz didn’t quite get the redemption from his stunted qualifying.
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|The drain cover
|The Las Vegas Grand Prix
|Number of votes: 17
|Number of votes: 14
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.
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