After the indoor firework that was Silverstone and the strategical intrigue one week later at the Red Bull Ring, the relatively sedate French Grand Prix (perhaps the last one for a while…) served as a breather for many. Even so, the Formula 1 paddock left the Circuit Paul Ricard contemplating the major championship implications which occurred mid-race. Let’s get to it.
An appalling unforced error while leading seals Reject of the Race for Charles Leclerc!
The most decorated Monegasque driver in Formula 1 history has had a rough 2022 despite arguably having the best raw package on the grid. Ferrari’s apparent quest to throw away both championships in ever more innovate ways has cost Charles Leclerc multiple wins already, and apart from the spin at Imola Leclerc has almost been blameless. This time however, the disaster that befell him at Paul Ricard was the fault of him and only him.
It looked as if Leclerc was in total control of proceedings in the first stint, looking after his tyres better than Max Verstappen and easily repealing one attack from the reining champion. Suddenly, TV cameras cut to a Ferrari sticking out of the tyre barrier around turn 11. The replays detailed a total schoolboy error, the sort of spin which immediately makes someone a Reject of the Race contender. That he binned it from the lead under no pressure at all while in a golden position to reduce his points deficit to Verstappen made it a no-brainer decision. The 63 point gap to the Dutchman is already looking like a unsurmountable obstacle, and that scream on the team radio will be nightmare fuel for Leclerc fans for many years to come.
Talking of no-brainer decisions, Ferrari’s woes deepened, leading some to nominate the entire team bar Carlos Sainz Jr for this prestigious award. Despite showing the first signs of tactical nous by deploying Sainz to provide a tow for Leclerc in Q3, knowing the Spaniard would be consigned to the back row thanks to an engine penalty, on raceday it was the predictable shambles we’ve come to expect from Mattia Binotto and co. To rub further salt into their wounds, Ferrari’s sole remaining driver was slapped with a time penalty for an unsafe release from his pitbox, hobbling their already-hobbled damage control efforts
Having already worked his way towards the podium positions, the pitwall dithered for ages as to whether to pit the Spaniard again for fresh tyres, with concerns being raised that his Pirelli mediums wouldn’t last the distance. All the while Carlos had picked off George Russell and was making a decent stab of removing Sergio Perez from the podium to recover some points from Red Bull. This dithering led to Ferrari radioing their driver to pit while he was putting together an impressive multi-corner pass of the Mexican, and unsurprisingly Sainz had some choice words!
Ferrari eventually brought Sainz in for a tyre change, but with only 11 laps to go and the time penalty to serve, there was no chance of salvaging a podium from the day. Carlos argued, and many agreed, that he could have gone to the end on his mediums and built enough of a gap over Perez to nullify the penalty. It left some wondering, how on earth can Sainz have a better grasp of strategy and race reading while driving around at 190mph+ in scorching conditions than the air-conditioned Ferrari pitwall who have all sorts of monitors and data feeds to work with?
Alfa Romeo failed to impress around the French countryside, with Zhou Guanyu consigned to a slightly earlier bath when his car conked out a few laps from the chequered flag. The Chinese driver had already been involved in a contretemps with Mick Schumacher, leaving him to trundle around in last place before the aforementioned car failure. Valtteri Bottas fared little better, unable to extract any pace from his mount, 14th being the best he could achieve.
The stewards also raised the ire of some in the community. Many believed Sainz’s unsafe release merited more than a five second time penalty given how close the Spaniard came to clipping a McLaren mechanic. The virtual safety car thrown for Guanyu’s stricken Alfa, while the right thing to do to ensure a green-flag finish, was handled so incompetently that a number of drivers, most notably Perez and Russell, received notification that the period was ending and resumed racing…only for it to be reinstated a few seconds later due to a software glitch. Ultimately this cost the Mexican third place, as he was caught napping by the British driver when the VSC was finally withdrawn for good!
Scraping the bottom of the improbability barrel, Mercedes secure Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race for a double podium finish
Events at Paul Ricard were sedate enough that the team who’ve won the last eight Constructors Championships consecutively ended up effectively winning this award by default. The Mercedes W13 was notably closer to the leaders pace all weekend, allowing Sir Lewis Hamilton to secure his best finish of the season with 2nd, only 10 seconds behind Verstappen. His team mate was also able to join him, after being embroiled in a fractious contest with Perez for the final spot on the rostrum. With Ferrari only 44 points down the road and seemingly determined to throw away wins and podiums at every turn, second in the Constructors is starting to look less of a pipe dream and more of a goal for Brackley.
The lack of anything overly improbable at Paul Ricard led some to decide that no-one deserved this award. Others looked elsewhere in the motorsport world. with many impressed by Jimmie Johnson’s efforts during the IndyCar races at Iowa over the same weekend. The NASCAR legend’s stint in the series has led to much derision and mickey-taking, particularly at the road courses and street circuits, but his russlin’ at the Iowa oval gave a glimpse of the man who was once untouchable in the Cup Series during the latter half of the 2000s. A great effort by the Jimmie Russler.
|REJECT OF THE RACE||INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE|
|Charles Leclerc||6 (60%)||Mercedes||6 (46%)|
|Ferrari bar Carlos Sainz Jr||3 (30%)||No-one||4 (31%)|
|Alfa Romeo||1 (10%)||Carlos Sainz Jr||2 (15%)|
|Unsafe releases||0 (0%)||IndyCar at Iowa||1 (8%)|
|Number of votes: 10||Number of votes: 13|
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.
2022 Grand Prix Rejects Awards
2022 Bahrain Grand Prix
2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
2022 Australian Grand Prix
2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
2022 Miami Grand Prix
2022 Spanish Grand Prix
2022 Monaco Grand Prix
2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
2022 Canadian Grand Prix
2022 British Grand Prix
2022 Austrian Grand Prix