As the Red Bulls floundered and Carlos Sainz Jr. triumphed, F1 fans were at last treated to a different team topping the podium in 2023, and in some style! Grand Prix Rejects reports on the best and worst from the Singapore Grand Prix.
George Russell snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, earning him Reject of the Race!
The final 15 laps of Sunday’s race, when the virtual safety car for Esteban Ocon’s recalcitrant Alpine had given Mercedes a shot at a 1-2 finish on new tyres, was arguably the best bit of racing in F1 this season! People often say how exciting the 2023 championship would be with one or both Red Bulls eliminated from the standings, and Singapore gave us a flavour of that, as Ferrari, Mercedes and Lando Norris in the McLaren had just about an inch of difference between them.
Sainz seemed to be operating on a different plane compared to the rest of the field this weekend. The Spaniard secured pole and led throughout, only really being challenged when Mercedes rolled the dice by pitting under VSC. With Sainz, Norris and Charles Leclerc the only cars ahead, all on ancient tyres, it seemed a fait accompli for Brackley. Leclerc was easy pickings for Russell and Hamilton as he faded from the lead battle. With the Mercs catching Sainz and Norris by a second and a half per lap, the danger to the front two increased with every mile.
Eventually, we had the first four cars separated by about 2 seconds and Sainz made the biggest of big baller moves to keep Norris within DRS range behind. By effectively driving the McLaren along with his own Ferrari, this strategic move meant the two had just enough in hand to negate Mercedes’ pace advantage. This action changed the whole nature of the conflict, and Russell got twice as aggressive in his attempts to pass Norris around the tight street circuit. In turn, Hamilton was now on Russell’s gearbox!
Then, just as it seemed the race was over and Sainz was safe, Norris behind him glanced the wall ever so slightly, and Russell followed him just a few centimetres to the right. In a momentary lapse of concentration, George was in the wall and out of the race. From hero to zero by a few inches, a race win was lost and Reject of the Race was secured! In a rare showing of humility, he immediately took the blame for his mistake in post-race interviews, so fair game to him. However, the glory went to every other frontrunner, especially Ferrari who scored a 1-4 in spite of everything. Even Hamilton, who had been behind Russell all of Sunday, was able to extend his inter-team points lead by 16 points.
George wasn’t the only driver to have a bad day in Singapore. Fernando Alonso was close to scooping this award himself after a disastrous weekend for both him and the Aston Martin team. A heavy qualifying crash in Q1 put teammate Lance Stroll out of the race before it had even begun, so the whole of Sunday depended on Alonso to bring the points home, which given the season Alonso’s had in 2023, should have been a relatively simple task. With that in mind, along with the knowledge that Aston Martin have significantly fallen back on pace from their front-running rivals, it did no good for Fernando to throw away a steady sixth n the second stint of the race by fluffing the pit entry and crossing the white line under the safety car. It’s a move which would be laughed off as a rookie error in most cases, but coming from a 42 year old double world champion it’s utterly inexplicable!
Slapped with a five second time penalty, things got scrappier for Alonso. He made multiple failed passing attempts on Sergio Perez, which ruined his tyres, all before eventually being passed by former teammate and everyone’s best friend Esteban Ocon. From there, he t overshot a corner into the escape road, at least without damaging his car, before then finishing the race in a lonely and depressing last place. And this from the man who was a shoe-in for third in the championship, and at a race when Red Bull were looking decidedly mortal. Post-race it was revealed that Alonso’s car had received damage early on in the race, but it wasn’t that which caused him to overshoot so many corners!
As for Red Bull, who seemingly turned up to Singapore with the automotive equivalent of a bad hangover, Russell and Alonso’s woes meant Milton Keynes minimised their bad weekend. Well, at least one side of the garage did. Max Verstappen was able to drive his way out of potential embarrassment in a Red Bull neither driver was able to set up on Saturday, but Sergio Perez showed no signs of recovery. After tagging the unfortunate Yuki Tsunoda on the first lap (who must have racked up a total of zero laps in two races), Perez also tagged Alex Albon in the closing stages, creating some stewards’ enquiries during the late VSC period, and seemed to be in the wars all weekend. We haven’t even mentioned his spin in qualifying.
Finally, most of this drama was started by a certain American by the name of Logan Sargeant dumping his Williams into the wall in an unforced error. Sargeant got his front wing duly stuck under his car, and then carried it all the way back to the pitlane before getting it fixed. The collective debris brought out the safety car, and if it wasn’t for the nail-biting finish, Logan himself might have been our king reject this time around.
Carlos Sainz’s intelligent victory slays the Red Bull juggernaut and wins our Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award!
It was a decisive victory made with common sense and measured driving from a quiet but quick driver on the F1 grid. Sainz ended Ferrari’s hopelessness with a decisive and intelligent drive, and there were few who would begrudge him it. His decision to keep Norris within DRS range was inspired, building just enough of a cushion for both to fend off Russell and Hamilton. It took Ferrari back into contention for runner-up spot this year, which has seemed inevitably to be falling towards Mercedes until now.
Liam Lawson too took the limelight with an excellent points finish in his AlphaTauri. It would seem appropriate to say that he has been far more promising in the Red Bull sister team than his two predecessors, and at the very least has a bit more potential in his than the ageing and washed-up Daniel Ricciardo. With Red Bull struggling to decide between the various drivers in their carousel, and with the 2024 silly season seemingly already hurtling towards its conclusion, we hope there might be a space for Lawson on the grid next year.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|George Russell||8 (53%)||Carlos Sainz Jr.||11 (73%)|
|Fernando Alonso||5 (33%)||Liam Lawson||4 (27%)|
|Sergio Perez||2 (13%)||Lando Norris||0 (0%)|
|Logan Sargeant||0 (0%)|
|Number of votes: 15||Number of votes: 15|
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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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
2023 Azerbaijan and Miami Grands Prix
2023 Monaco Grand Prix
2023 Spanish Grand Prix
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