In the second US race of the year (and the fifth sprint), Max Verstappen took all but one of the available points to him. In what was a largely-reject free event, we look at who were the biggest losers in Austin.
Aston Martin, albeit hesitantly, win Reject of the Race in Texas!
It seems that just about every update ever applied on the 2023 Aston Martin is making it worse. Once the second-best team on the grid (at least in the hands of Fernando Alonso), they started off the year as a breath of fresh air to challenge the same three established teams as every year. However, a few blips in Spain and elsewhere started to develop into an overall trend which suggested they weren’t keeping up with the other teams in the development race. One by one, Mercedes, Ferrari, and then McLaren, all overtook them, relegating the green machines to scrapping for the occasional points at the lower end of the top 10.
Austin illustrated a notable decline when Alonso failed to clear Q1. The Spaniard is famous for hauling cars higher than they really have any right to be, and his performance gap to Stroll all year has been astounding. However, in spite of all his team’s recent woes, he had until Austin always made Q3. Not this time, however. Alonso no impression in the race other than to retire late on – above a technical reason, the team and Alonso look very deflated. Lance Stroll salvaged two points by finishing 9th, his first points since the summer break! Those two points would become six points after Stroll was promoted to 7th post-race following disqualifications above him, but to go from a potentially race winning car to, well, this, is damning. For that reason, we give Aston Martin a hesitant Reject of the Race.
We say hesitant mostly because the weekend went according to plan for just about everybody else. In spite of their recent downfall, it was not exactly shocking to see Aston’s pace, but more a sad acceptance of the new reality. Team strategies were variable, but none were shocking.
The only one worth criticising heavily was that of Charles Leclerc’s. The Ferrari driver went from pole to sixth by Sunday evening, having been kept out for a one-stop strategy that was clearly doing him no favours. It was yet another blunder in the very long Ferrari diary of strategy blunders. After that, it went from bad to catastrophic when the scrutineers looked at the Ferrari’s wooden plank and discovered it was too worn to be legal! The Ferrari driver was immediately disqualified from the event, along with Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton had been the only real contender for the race win outside of Verstappen, and one can only imagine the furore if he had been disqualified from his first win in two years. Given the way Hamilton was closing on Verstappen in the final laps, it was a very real possibility!
Considering just how much the cars were bottoming out, it is lucky perhaps that only four drivers were checked for this misdemeanour. Hamilton indeed called for wider checks post race, and Grand Prix Rejects would surely welcome such a move if it means 50% of the field being excluded to the benefit of backmarkers. This is because the first double disqualification since the late 2000s promoted Lance Stroll to seventh, but more importantly Logan Sargeant to tenth at his home circuit! The American’s first points (and indeed the first points for an American driver since the hapless Michael Andretti in 1993!) were one positive outcome of what had been a very straightforward event.
In general, Austin provided a very predictable race. There were numerous complaints about the suitability of the track to the sprint format. During the sprint itself, there was little action other than a few dodgy off-track overtakes by the Mercedes drivers, and the usual complaining by one George Russell about how everyone else is cheating except for him. Track limits reared their ugly head again from time to time, such as when Verstappen’s fastest time (capable of pole) was stripped when he left the track.
Haas, like every year, have gone backwards much like Aston Martin. Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen ran the old and new setups respectively, though neither made any impression all weekend. Finally, the less said about the booing, the better. Nobody wants to revisit the dark days of 2014.
Yuki Tsunoda overwhelmingly takes Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race at COTA!
After AlphaTauri recently made the questionable decision of promoting Daniel Ricciardo full-time alongside Yuki Tsunoda for 2024, we have seen little evidence that either of them are worthy of the seat, at least ahead of real prospects like Liam Lawson. Tsunoda was humbled by Pierre Gasly for two years, and he has at least shown he is capable of the occasional points finish, even if we don’t really know how good or bad that chassis really is. However, credit where credit is due: Yuki had the edge over Ricciardo all weekend at a track the Australian usually enjoys and does well at. He took tenth and the fastest lap, which was then promoted to eighth. Five points in one weekend for AlphaTauri is the kind of result that the team will look back on fondly by year end, and it was all down to Tsunoda.
The biggest beneficiary of these disqualifications, outside of the frontrunners, was Stroll. The Canadian is already stepping onto the podium for Reject of the Year, but he picked the right moment to finally take some points, which were then tripled on the Sunday evening. It was a brief, bright moment on a dreadful year so far. Can he turn it around in the remaining rounds?
|REJECT OF THE RACE
|INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
|Charles Leclerc & Lewis Hamilton
|Number of votes: 14
|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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