As Max Verstappen romped off, unstoppable, to another win in 2023, Grand Prix Rejects takes a look back at the race and its heroes and rejects.
The phantom rain in Spain falls mainly on George Russell’s visor, earning it Reject of the Race!
The Spanish Grand Prix saw a return to the Barcelona Circuit’s original layout, not seen since the glory days of pitstop overtaking in 2006 – a change generally welcomed in this era of easy DRS overtakes. It’s surprising that it had not happened sooner, and the sector 3 chicane that hung like a tumour on the track for sixteen consecutive seasons is hopefully gone for good.
Its removal did not make the Spanish Grand Prix a classic, or even memorable for that matter. We had a resurgent Mercedes running 2nd and 3rd. awaiting some kind of drama up front from the race leader Verstappen which never materialised. We had a couple of drops down the order from the start, but otherwise the action was mostly centred on the lower points positions as people grasped for possibilities.
Therefore, with “rain in five” predicted for Sunday afternoon, people looked forward to a potential shake-up of a usually predictable event. So when George Russell announced to his engineer, and therefore the world, that he had raindrops on his visor, F1 fans worldwide braced themselves in anticipation. The rain was about to bring chaos.
Only, that wasn’t actually rain. Those droplets had simply been sweat condensing on his visor from the heat. There was no such rain. It was a sunny day outside and George Russell had mistaken his own sweat for oncoming rain. It’s hard to tell whether he deserves it more for teasing the audience, or for the bizarreness of it even happening, but either way we are awarding George Russell’s sweat as Reject of the Race in Spain.
The man himself had a good go at securing Reject of the Race in his own right, with a bizarre incident in Q2 with his own team mate, resulting in George moving over and breaking Hamilton’s wing at nearly 190mph! One has to wonder just how much of a gasket Toto Wolff blew in the debrief on Saturday evening.
When it comes to the more straightforward events of the race, one has to look no further than Charles Leclerc’s performance at Ferrari. A Q1 knockout, he was going to start the race in 19th place before taking a whole raft of penalties and opting to start from the pitlane. From there, he never even looked close to challenging for the points. Like Valtteri Bottas, who also had a dreadful Sunday, he complained of car issues which in the Finn’s case were identified and understood. What makes Leclerc’s awful race so much worse is that Ferrari have (really? again?) announced publicly that they do not actually understand what the problems are! The prancing horses seem to be changing setup every weekend in an attempt to understand their current chassis, and on Leclerc’s side at least they seem to be failing miserably. It’s not the first shocker for Charles, and certainly not for Ferrari, but at this point it seems unlikely we’ll see Ferrari’s supposed number one driver on the podium, never mind on the top step, any time soon. Dark days for last year’s runner-up.
Further back, McLaren will want to maximise every points haul they can get, especially considering where they started this year. They won’t be doing very much challenging, so when they convert a 3-10 on the grid to a 10-14 by the end of the first lap, and then a 13-17 by race-end, it’s depressing if nothing else. Possibly the most promising teammate paring in F1 this season are stuck in machinery which cannot show off their talents outside of the occasional one-lap performance on Saturday afternoons.
A final honourable mention goes to Discord’s servers, where much of our membership communicates during the racing hours. Just about every message was double- or triple-sent and actual conversation was nigh-on impossible at points. Such a Deletraz-esque performance merits a mention here!
Zhou Guanyu, for a dominating display at Alfa Romeo, wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race!
On the positive side, we had three very easy and obvious nominees. Zhou Guanyu won Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race just because he had the full measure of Valtteri Bottas the whole weekend. While it has already been mentioned that the Finn had serious car issues, this was certainly not the first time that Zhou has stepped up out of the rather anonymous but accepted position he found himself in as the only rookie last year. As Alfa Romeo’s future has become less certain, so too has Bottas’ position. His initial few races in 2022 were wonderfully positive, but the cracks in his performances showed just about every time the car wasn’t good enough for points.
This year it’s seemed more than just “equal” between the two teammates. It’s starting to look like Zhou will actually beat Bottas over the long run, and the Finn runs the risk of going the same way as Daniel Riccardo, aka Grand Prix Rejects’ 2022 Reject of the Year! He may have a secure contract until the end of 2024, but he will need to show something for the money being invested in him, especially with Audi lurking in the shadows of Hinwil.
Likewise, Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz Jr. firmly had the measure of their own teammates. Sainz took second on the grid and was the next best thing behind the Red Bulls and Mercedes (especially on a weekend everyone expected Fernando Alonso to illustrate more magic), and we have already covered his teammate’s performance in enough detail! Tsunoda actually qualified behind teammate Nyck de Vries, but in race trim was able to fight it out with the Alpines and even the struggling Aston Martins. Ninth place (on the road) was excellent for an AlphaTauri that is in the middle of a very tight scrap for points, and how tragic for him and the team that all the good work was undone with a penalty for pushing Zhou off-track in the later stages of the race.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|George Russell’s sweat||11 (58%)||Zhou Guanyu||14 (74%)|
|Charles Leclerc||5 (26%)||Carlos Sainz Jr.||3 (16%)|
|McLaren||3 (16%)||Yuki Tsunoda||2 (11%)|
|Number of votes: 19||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.