GPR Awards – Britain 2021

Drama drama drama. That’s what Formula 1 fans were exposed to all Sunday afternoon at the 2021 British Grand Prix, with the clumsy but inevitable crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton making the headlines every day since. That drama and the fallout from it are just some of many things we’re going to discuss here at GP Rejects as we hand out our coveted Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race trophy to their lucky recipients, in a race weekend also marked by the debut of the Sprint Race format. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

The Team Leaders, for their improper reaction, take Reject of the Race together at Silverstone!

In case you somehow missed it, there was a lap 1 collision at Silverstone between Verstappen and Hamilton for the lead. Neither gave way into Copse, resulting in a violent shunt and DNF for the Dutchman, and an eventual win for the Englishman. In between the crash and the win, the folks at home were treated to a barrage of immature and unbecoming behaviour from the team bosses at Red Bull and Mercedes during the extended red flag period for barrier repairs at Copse.

Hamilton and Verstappen crash

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crashed into Copse on lap 1, creating a chain reaction of drama that has lasted the last week. Photo: Peter Cziborra / Reuters

Helmut Marko, Toto Wolff and Christian Horner all decided, in the wake of a high-speed crash that saw the championship leader go for precautionary checks at hospital, to air out their dirty laundry in public for half an hour. The recent addition to the broadcast of the sport allows for the public to hear team-to-race control radio gave fans a real and rejectful insight to the behaviour of – particularly in this case – Wolff and Horner behind the scenes. Marko, on the other hand,  asked for Hamilton to be suspended for reckless driving.

The crash itself was silly, yes, but to take the Red Bull management perspective and to say it was deliberate, was nothing short of cynical opportunism to get Hamilton disqualified (and try to get further in Mercedes’ mind). Mercedes, via Toto Wolff, opted for the strategy of demanding race director Michael Masi read his emails live on air, with the Australian telling Toto that he didn’t read them during races.

Hilarious, but this did happen during the red flag – it’s almost something you wouldn’t believe if you didn’t hear it. Whatever was on those emails was irrelevant, because all the public saw was two team principals absolutely desperate to dish out or avoid punishment for Hamilton. When asked to see the stewards in person, Wolff got lost and had to be directed – all on camera.

This bickering continued, and still continues almost a week later. It set a very poor example, and a divisive community started throwing accusations of deliberate manoeuvres from Hamilton, which wasn’t far off what the Red Bull team themselves were insinuating. Things got ugly online fast, and there even had to be an anti-racist stand from both Mercedes and Red Bull to try and clamp down on some of the most extreme reaction towards Hamilton.

If Wolff, Horner and Marko had been a little more mature and patient with the proceedings rather than desperately trying to throw the blame on each other like a bunch of guilty schoolboys, there is a chance we might even have had some sensible discourse. Therefore Marko, Horner and Wolff get a joint Reject of the Race award between them for their efforts to completely militarise their fanbases against one another on live television. In the end, the FIA gave Hamilton a 10 second penalty for causing the crash, but the seven time world champion still came back to win, with a move on Charles Leclerc into – ironically – Copse corner in the closing laps of the race. Alanis Morissette would be proud.

Another nomination, simply titled Drama, allowed our frustrated forumites to vent their anger at how the whole thing happened. F1 will always benefit from engagement and fandom, but there has to be a careful middle ground between apathy and rampant dogmatism. Somehow it feels like we’ve gone from one extreme to the other in just a year or so.

But as for all classic Rejects of the Race, they are so rejectful that they cover up the terrible actions of those who on a quiet Sunday would sweep the award right away. Firstly to discuss Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez would have been a runaway winner on another day for his double disaster in the sprint and in the real race. As Silverstone played host to the first ever Sprint Race in F1 history (if you discount heat races), there was only one reject nomination that could be made from it. Pérez, in an unforced error, slid off the track before the Hangar straight, dropping him almost to plum-last. His tyres were flat-spotted, and his car was retired a lap before the end.

Sergio Pérez did not have a happy race after spinning in F1s first ever Sprint Race. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Sergio Pérez did not have a happy race after spinning in F1s first ever Sprint Race. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

If starting from the pitlane on Sunday was bad enough, the Mexican barely had the pace to crack the top ten – the dirty air proving too much of a hassle for overtakes in the midfield – and when he finally did a few laps from the end, Red Bull pitted him to instead grab the fastest lap – if not the point itself, to take it from Lewis. Pérez, like in Baku, should have been there when Max wasn’t, to take advantage and give the team a strong result. Instead, he never rose higher than one lap spent in 8th during pitstops – hardly the pace needed from a team aiming for this year’s constructors championship.

Finally, Sebastian Vettel had a race to forget. He made a great start to be sixth when the red flag was brought out, but that was all undone in the first lap of racing after the extended stoppage period. The four time world champ lost the rear of the car coming out of Luffield, and his unforced error dropped him to last place. After that, he was only able to overtake both Haas’ before retiring the car. At least he won back the fans by staying after the race to help clean the litter left behind by the fans!

For being only a few laps away from an unlikely win, Charles Leclerc wins Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race

It was almost no contest in the end. Charles Leclerc is Ferrari’s latest long-term hope, and while they have not yet given him a championship-capable car, Leclerc can hardly be accused of slacking in the meantime. Starting from fourth place on the grid (a place he got both in qualifying on friday and sprint race on saturday), the monegasque driver jumped Bottas on the start and then was offered the chance of jumping Hamilton for the lead moments after the infamous contact between him and Max.

Leclerc put a flawless drive to second place in the British Grand Prix. Photo: Foto Colombo Images / Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Leclerc put a flawless drive to second place in the British Grand Prix. Photo: Foto Colombo Images / Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Leclerc held the lead on the standing restart after the red flag period and clung to it until Hamilton overtook him with three laps to go. It was oh so close for Leclerc, in a race that was also marked by intermittent issues with his power unit that threatened, at one point, to end his fight early. In the end, it was the most lap a Ferrari had led since late 2019, and Leclerc’s first podium since  the first Silverstone race last year was great reward for his flawless drive – even if he deserved the victory.

Who also had a great weekend was Fernando Alonso. The two time world champion was the biggest winner from Saturday’s sprint, being able to take full advantage of his soft tyre choice and win six positions during the opening lap in incredible, Alonso style fashion. His efforts in keeping up a Trulli Train for the whole 17 laps were admirable and was rewarded with a seventh place start for the actual race on Sunday, and finishing there, two places ahead of his team-mate,  Esteban Ocon, who after a chassis change, had a better weekend compared to the last few outings.

The final two feel-good candidates were Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo. The former recovered from a Q1 exit to push his way to a point by Sunday evening in what can arguably be described as his most mature drive yet in his promising, but spotty, rookie season. Ricciardo, on the other hand, gave at least the kind of drive that is being expected of him by McLaren, matching Norris’ pace throughout the race and taking his best finish of the season – even if he seems to be already putting his mind into the next season.

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Christian Horner, Helmut Marko, and Toto Wolff 56% (18) Charles Leclerc 83% (24)
Sergio Pérez 22% (7) Fernando Alonso 14% (4)
DRAMA 13% (4) Yuki Tsunoda 3% (1)
Sebastian Vettel 9% (3)  Daniel Ricciardo  0% (0)
Number of votes: 32 Number of votes: 29

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.

2021 Grand Prix Rejects Awards
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix
2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

2021 Spanish Grand Prix
2021 Monaco Grand Prix
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
2021 French Grand Prix
2021 Styrian Grand Prix
2021 Austrian Grand Prix