GPR Awards – 2023 Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix

As Max Verstappen took the world championship in abnormal circumstances for the third year in a row, there were a grand array of reject talking points, from the usual driver maladies to the race weekend itself! 

Lewis Hamilton takes Reject of the Race after an embarrassing teammate collision at Qatar! 

The cliched rule holds true, that the cardinal sin of racing is taking out your teammate. Lewis Hamilton could have heeded this advice, but found himself starting the race on soft tyres which were already known to be useless after a few laps, and absolutely desperate to jump ahead of George Russell and Max Verstappen. At the start he had an amazing getaway and pushed George into the back of Verstappen, effectively negating his teammate’s ability to jump Max. Then, going around the outside of the first turn, he swiped across the now-trapped Russell in an event not too dissimilar to Ferrari’s start of the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. Hamilton slammed into Russell, lost his right rear wheel in the process and ended his race beached in the kitty litter.

Maybe choosing custom rims from a dodgy Dagenham dealer wasn’t the best idea…

Wanting to put his own spin on he matter, George slid off at the same corner with some minor damage sustained, but managed to get going again and pitted as a precautionary measure. Hamilton stood next to his car for a few laps, having already blamed Russell on the team radio, and then illegally crossed the track on foot under the safety car. Upon seeing the replay, Hamilton cooled down and admitted his own fault in the incident. It was an over-zealous move that cost the already-beleaguered Russell a podium, and effectively handed yet another race win to Verstappen on a plate in. There are only a few races left this season, and Hamilton could be losing 2nd overall in the standings through his own error: a surefire Reject of the Race! 

When the race got going, we were treated to the first of very many penalties as it turned out Nico Hulkenberg lined up on the wrong grid slot! Carlos Sainz Jr. never even began the grand prix after a fuel leak was detected under an hour before the race start. Hulkenberg started in the wrong place – Sainz’s place – and he could even be seen on the replay taking a look around in apparent realisation of his mistake. In the old days that would have been a wrap-up choice for this award, but there were just too many other opportunities to choose from! 

The same old drama reared its head in Qatar: track limits. This problem came back again as the drivers remained unable to keep their cars on track during overtakes, or indeed at all. Pierre Gasly especially made an art form of off-track overtakes which he had significant trouble accepting he was to blame for, and indeed gave back the positions with great reluctance. Likewise, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll copped penalties from the stewards for continued inability to follow the rules. Countless black and white flags were shown in warning, and Perez even got dumped out of the points by his own infringements, prompting some quite stern criticism over the team radio. 

‘ere Pierre, keep it on the black stuff pal!

A lot of the reason for this was due to the fact that Pirelli (whose contract to supply rubber to Formula 1 was just extended by a number of years) brought inappropriate tyres to the event that were unable to do lengthy stints to a suitable degree of safety. This enforced American-style maximum stint lengths, which on one hand set yet another new Americanised precedent for Liberty Media to follow up on in the near future, and on the other, wore out the drivers. In the high-temperature, high-humidity conditions, drivers were going full throttle all the time on short stints. They became sick, in one case vomited, and in another briefly blacking out. Logan Sargeant even had to retire early due to severe exhaustion. 

All this comes back around, as the track limit infringements were heavily influenced by the state of the drivers, and again made us question why Formula 1 even visits Qatar in the first place. The exhaustion was caused by the climatic conditions of racing in this part of the world in October; the tyres not lasting was caused by the spiked kerbs at the Losail circuit. Outside of financial input to the series’ coffers, there doesn’t seem to be a single argument in support of this grand prix. 

For a double points finish, Alfa Romeo win Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race! 

Not only did they do so, but Alfa Romeo are the first of any of the rear four teams to achieve a double points finish this season! None of Williams, Haas, or AlphaTauri have managed to do it, and of these four, Alfa Romeo can hardly have been at the top of anyone’s list to achieve such a feat. An 8-10 by race end was turned into an 8-9 when Perez served his aforementioned penalties, raising Zhou Guanyu up a place to slot in behind teammate Valtteri Bottas. At the very least it shows just how rewarding it can be when both drivers are dependable and stay on track! The team jumps ahead of Haas in the constructors, and could even threaten the likes of Williams if it has another weekend like this. It’s improbable, but that’s what this award is about! 

It’s rare to see Alfa in this section of our Awards articles!

Of course, we will end this piece by mentioning Oscar Piastri, who won the sprint race and finished second in the main event. It may not have been a grand prix victory for the championship, but to have won anything in his debut season is mightily impressive, and as a result the pundits are already highlighting the McLaren team as having the strongest lineup on the whole grid. Their massive uptick in form will have them ahead of Aston Martin in no time, and may disrupt Ferrari’s battle with Mercedes, or Hamilton’s attempts to relieve Perez of 2nd in the standings. We predict lots of scrapping in the final rounds!

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Lewis Hamilton 8 (36%) Alfa Romeo 13 (68%)
The tyre drama 6 (27%) Oscar Piastri 6 (32%)
The Losail Circuit 4 (18%)
Nico Hulkenberg / Track Limits 2 (9%)
Number of votes: 22 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
2023 Season Preview
2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
2023 Azerbaijan and Miami Grands Prix
2023 Monaco Grand Prix
2023 Spanish Grand Prix
2023 Canadian Grand Prix
2023 Austrian Grand Prix
2023 British Grand Prix
2023 Hungarian Grand Prix
2023 Belgian Grand Prix
2023 Dutch Grand Prix
2023 Italian Grand Prix
2023 Singapore Grand Prix
2023 Japanese Grand Prix

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