With Max Verstappen only two laps short from yet another grand chelem, the Japanese Grand Prix was a massive reversion to the norm after the chaos of Singapore. However, as always we like to focus on the outrageous and the disastrous, and there was plenty of that at Suzuka, not least from within the Red Bull garage.
For another tour de farce performance, just as his team secure the constructors’ championship, Sergio Perez is Reject of the Race at Suzuka!
What to say about Sergio Perez at the sixteenth round of the season? Miami seems an eternity ago when the Mexican was challenging for wins against his world champion teammate, and ever so close (due to Verstappen’s eagerness to stay ahead with some fastest lap points) to being championship leader. His drop-off in performance has been seismic as the year has gone on, and Japan was just a continuously messy affair.
Unlike a certain Canadian, Sergio was at least able to make Q3 alongside Max, but when the final session drew to a close he was a way off, leaving Verstappen exposed to the two McLarens at the start. At the start, he found himself in the wrong place at the start, bumping wheels with the Ferrari to his right and Lewis Hamilton to his left. All the debris brought out the safety car, and Perez was found to have committed an overtake when both entering and exiting the pits, bringing him an immediate penalty. After this phase he dropped out of the points, and started his recovery drive well by shunting Kevin Magnussen off the road from a mile back, knocking the Haas driver out of any rare points contention he might have found himself in.
The damage caused him to retire, but not before the big brains on the pitwall decided to send him out again to fulfil his penalty before Qatar! By Sunday evening, his teammate was victorious again and Red Bull were the constructors champions. How many points did Sergio provide? Zero. With such performances, Hamilton is creeping up to him in the overall standings despite being in an inferior car. Reject of the Race is the only option for Sergio at Suzuka, and he even seems to be building up a portfolio for the Reject of the Year rankings!
Who else was rejectful in Japan? Logan Sargeant for one. His dramatic crash at the final sweeping turn was caught on the world feed, adding we are sure to a particularly worthy crash compilation on YouTube somewhere. After Zandvoort and Suzuka, we are looking at three races out of four with unforced crashes in sessions of anger. For him then to take out the hapless Valtteri Bottas at the start has not done him any favours for 2024 seats.
These two towered over the rest, but there was further drama down the pack. Mercedes seemed to be fighting each other as much as their opposition, if we paraphrase George Russell’s on-track remarks. George was defending heavily from Hamilton, and even got squeezed off-track on multiple occasions, before being ordered to give the place to his champion teammate. When we see how much the two bicker under normal circumstances, it will be fascinating to see what happens if or when they fight for a world championship…
Amid a great deal of apathy, McLaren and their drivers win Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race at Suzuka!
While the Japanese Grand Prix was hardly the most shocking event in F1’s history, there were still positive news and events from the race result, not least with the McLaren duo again succeeding with a double podium. It’s incredible to think that they, of all the teams, would become Red Bull’s main competition in the second half of this year, but, as in years prior (Renault in 2008 comes to mind) you just never know in F1. Oscar Piastri took his first podium, and Lando Norris was close enough to Verstappen to at least not make it look like a walkover. It’s the small victories in life that keep us going.
The timing couldn’t have been better done by Red Bull when they announced that AlphaTauri (or whatever its future name will be) would be running Daniel Ricciardo in the second seat alongside Yuki Tsunoda, instead of their new wunderkind Liam Lawson. Lawson, fresh off his first points in Singapore, continued to impress by staying ahead of his Japanese teammate for the vast majority of the race. Finishing 11th, he showed what the car is capable of even by a rookie in his first few races. As far as we know, he has one more race in Qatar before Ricciardo will be fit enough to return, which is a great shame considering how good his replacement has been. What with the complete lack of imagination by teams on their 2024 line-ups, we are starting to circle back around to reject territory!
When we get this late into the season, things become more predictable, and as the order gets established, we start getting pickier about what counts as improbable. However, at Suzuka we saw the usual suspects at the front and at the back. Let us hope Qatar can conjure up more imagination.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Sergio Perez||13 (81%)||McLaren||6 (40%)|
|Logan Sargeant||3 (19%)||Nobody||6 (40%)|
|Liam Lawson||3 (20%)|
|Number of votes: 16||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
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