Monaco is very rarely a sizzling event with the wideness of F1’s current cars, but the 2023 event at least provided a simmering level of intrigue. A little sprinkling of rain turned into a brief but sufficient downpour, enough for some much-needed tension to a championship that is wrapping up at a depressing canter.
Sergio Perez, for throwing away his slim chances at the 2023 title, earns Reject of the Race at Monaco.
The cliches write themselves about this event, and the criticisms of it have been well covered by other authors on this site. The dimensions of this generation’s cars are very much unsuited to an event so narrow and unmoveable as the Monaco street track, and it means more than ever that good grid position is necessary to have any kind of result here. As is proving typical for 2023, the fans at home were immediately let down when the only reasonable candidate to challenge Max Verstappen’s run of dominance, Sergio Perez, decided to bin it in Q1 and start the race from the back.
While Perez certainly wasn’t an outlier when it came to hitting the barriers, he did spend most of the Sunday running around the lower reaches of the field, with several mid-race incidents sufficiently damaging his RB19 enough to take him out of any possible late contention. To rub salt into the festering wound, he was then put on tyre testing duty for the remaining laps, checking out which of the wet tyres was more appropriate for their lead driver. Verstappen was never challenged up front and secured a 25 point increase in his cushion over Perez. Sixteen races remain, but even so championship momentum can still rise or fall on one single performance. For his dismal weekend, and for engraving Max’s first initial into the championship trophy, we award Sergio Perez Reject of the Race at Monaco.
Perez’s blunders had the biggest long-term impact on the season and the potential excitement the audience might have for the upcoming sixteen events (not including sprints). Lance Stroll too spent the entire race behind Fernando Alonso, often a lap behind the Spaniard. It was an event reminiscent of Daniel Ricciardo infamously being overtaken by then-teammate Lando Norris at this event two years ago, and one that apparently marked (at least one) nail in his career coffin. Unfortunately for meritocracy, Stroll doesn’t have to prove himself to keep his Aston Martin seat. However, he could still do better than spend the event wallowing among the Haases and the Williams, bumping and grinding and retiring the moment a positive opportunity came up, impacting the barriers around the hairpin when the rain arrived. A surprising blunder given Stroll has often performed well in wet conditions.
George Russell also escaped the spotlight of infamy for his full-on reversal onto the racing line in the middle of a rain-affected race. It was no surprise that Perez bumped into him and launched the Mercedes into the air briefly, and Russell rightly received a time penalty (and penalty points) for the incident. As Mercedes – not Ferrari – are looking like the chief contenders against Red Bull in 2023, it is up to Russell to iron out his mistakes and be there when it matters, instead of reversing out of escape roads like he’s Ricardo Rosset. This all adds up while his teammate Lewis Hamilton continues to get his head down and perform, picking up a solid set of points with fourth with fastest lap.
What made counting these nominations quite funny at the time was the fact that almost all the incidents, bumps, collisions, and chicane-jumping, were all committed by the same five or so people. We haven’t yet mentioned the Haases of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, who seemed to be responsible for every on-track bit of excitement, from late overtakes, to collisions, to bizarre pitstop strategies (like not pitting for wets in a wet race). Carlos Sainz Jr. made some badly timed comments over the team radio before driving nose-first into Esteban Ocon’s Alpine ahead of him. He then had another public spat with his engineers about pitting too late, before taking his own blame when he spun out multiple times in the wet.
Third place in Q3 to third in the race, in an Alpine! Esteban Ocon takes a well deserved victory in our Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award!
Alpine’s car has pace this year, as the Enstone team invariably always does. Ocon and Pierre Gasly have been just about evenly matched, and evenly unfortunate in the number of points that have been thrown away by a team which has the potential to challenge Ferrari this year. So, for Ocon to qualify an excellent third on a track where car advantage is minimised somewhat, and to then convert that to a podium spot during a wet event during which anything could happen – that is commendable and is surely among the strongest drives of the Frenchman’s career. Although somewhat overlooked by the commentators until the result was finally in, Ocon’s third place will do wonders for his intra-team battle.
A special shout-out has to be given to the race organisers as well. Their ability to run an entire race, rain-affected to boot, without throwing a virtual safety car or a full safety car, with limited yellow-flag events when drivers had offs, is equally commendable. Formula 1’s fans were treated to a proper, grown-up race where the drivers were trusted to put in their best and behave themselves.
Finally, the rain has to be credited for causing most of the rejectful nonsense on display from the middle point of the race onwards. Half the strategies were banking on “rain in five” actually occurring, and we got a nice simmering boil for Sunday at Monaco. Analogy over!
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Sergio Perez||13 (50%)||Esteban Ocon||21 (84%)|
|Lance Stroll||6 (23%)||The organisers||3 (12%)|
|George Russell||1 (4%)||The rain||1 (4%)|
|Carlos Sainz Jr., Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg, and all the rest combined||6 (23%)|
|Number of votes: 26||Number of votes: 25|
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.