GPR Awards – Hungary 2021

With a rainy, chaotic first corner, a restart that felt like a surreal homage to the infamous 2005 United States Grand Prix, and a first-time winner in the shape of Esteban Ocon, the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix had so much to offer viewers going into the much-needed summer break.

As we reach the halfway mark of the season, Lewis Hamilton elevated himself to the championship lead by finishing second (after the unfortunate disqualification of Sebastian Vettel), snaring an eight point lead over Max Verstappen, who finished 9th after receiving damage in the first corner melee. It’s time now for us at GP Rejects to analyse what was truly rejectful about the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix – and there’s plenty of great candidates!

At Monaco he was the only one not at fault. At Hungary, however, Valtteri Bottas was entirely at fault and takes Reject of the Race!

Indeed, the Finn has done well to avoid a straight ROTR to his name this season after many a poor performance, such as at Imola and Baku. At the former his clash with George Russell was overshadowed by the comical clumsiness of Mick Schumacher; at the latter his champion teammate stole his limelight by missing turn 1, while Michael Masi did his best to anger everyone with his willingness to put the drivers’ safety at jeopardy.

Bottas qualified 2nd but his race was over by turn 1 with the aid of none other than himself. Photo: Mercedes F1/LAT Images

Bottas qualified 2nd but his race was over by turn 1 with the aid of none other than himself. Photo: Mercedes F1/LAT Images

At Hungary, Bottas gets to take centre-stage. He lost places on the initial getaway from 2nd as the field slithered away in the wet, stayed too close to Norris on the run into turn 1, and simply braked far too late. The result was an aquaplaning and facepalm moment that delivered the worst pileup we’ve seen this year: Bottas, Norris, and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Pérez were all destroyed at the first turn hairpin, with only Max able to keep going – although with essentially half a car missing. The fact he could barely overtake Mick Schumacher during the race’s first stint was proof at the extent of the damage his RB16B had suffered from the impact.

The chaos induced by Bottas wasn’t the only thing happening down into turn 1. A little further behind, a fast-starting Lance Stroll found himself taking evasive action amidst the chaos happening right before his eyes. The Canadian dived right and, in a moment of panic-induced clumsiness, touched the grass and lost control of the car.  Becoming a passenger, his Aston Martin proceeded to torpedo Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, who in turn hit Ricciardo’s McLaren. Stroll and Leclerc both retired from the race on the spot, while Ricciardo took his damaged McLaren to the finish line in 11th place, leading to one of the most heartbreaking moments we remember seeing after the finish of a Grand Prix.

The thing about great rejectful moments is that they can often be the direct cause of others. The ensuing moments of the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix are a perfect example of this. The chaos at turn one required a lengthy clean-up job and so a red flag was declared, providing just enough time for the track to dry out. Despite that, everyone left pit road on the intermediate tyre before soon realising that they were gifted a bone-dry track surface.

The perfect way to pay homage to the 2005 United States Grand Prix. Imagine having to explain this image to your grandchildren!

Lewis Hamilton, race leader, took to the grid, but it quickly became apparent that he was the only one there, as the rest of the field dived into pitlane to switch onto dry tyres. What followed was an unforgettable moment whereby one car took the restart. One car. Alone on the wrong tyres, Hamilton did a full lap on his intermediates before finally pitting to ditch them, dropping to last place in the process. The seven time world champion of course made a textbook recovery drive in his Mercedes, but truly his most famous moment of the race was that restart. A picture says a thousand words.

The final retirement of the race, Nikita Mazepin, was the unfortunate victim of our final strong candidate for ROTR. Coming into his pit box, the Russian driver was hit by Kimi Räikkönen, who had been released too early by his team.  A 10 second penalty was issued for the collision on Kimi, who somehow was able to come out of Hungary with a point, despite his team doing their best effort to thwart the race of its both drivers.

Meanwhile in the other side of the Alfa Romeo camp, Antonio Giovinazzi’s dry-tyre gamble during the first start was prescient. Not only did his early pit avoid the first-lap pileup, but he was on the perfect tyre for the drying restart. Instead, Alfa Romeo switched him back to intermediates for the restart, putting him with the rest of the pack and with no advantage whatsoever. If he had taken the restart with Hamilton, he would have been leading the race on the correct tyre in a brilliant gamble!

Instead, Giovinazzi proceeded to speed in the pitlane and be slapped with a penalty for his troubles. A single measly point for Alfa Romeo when both cars finished in a chaotic race (and only after Vettel’s disqualification) was a grim day for the Italian marque – especially considering the great race by both Williams which leapfrogged the Grove outfit ahead of Alfa in the manufacturers championship.

As in the race, Alpine dominate to take Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race at Hungary!

The Infinite Improbability Drive awards were far more straightforward. There was only one real winner, and that was the team that won the race on Sunday. Alpine, in its new branding, has been right in the thick of the midfield, with both Alonso and Ocon trying their best to continue to put points on the board. Alonso has a great points streak going since his heroics in Baku, while Ocon got back on the scoreboard at Silverstone following a chassis change. Both drivers have been competitive on their day, but we don’t think anyone was really prepared for what would happen come race-day in Hungary.

Esteban Ocon holded off Sebastian Vettel to take his first win in F1.

Esteban Ocon held off Sebastian Vettel to take his first win in F1. Photo: Alpine F1

Following the restart, Ocon found himself in second place, and after Hamilton dove into the pits, the Frenchman took the lead and proceeded to hold it all the way from a very determined Sebastian Vettel throughout. Ocon’s consistency and domineering display saw him collect his maiden win in convincing fashion, reminding everyone of the immense talent that the Frenchmen has.

Ocon’s race win was also aided by an awesome defensive display from Alonso. For ten incredible laps, the veteran Spaniard kept the charging Lewis Hamilton behind him, all while driving a vastly inferior car. It was one of the greatest defensive drives ever witnessed, and when Hamilton finally shouldered Alonso aside, he had too few laps to catch Vettel and Ocon before the chequered flag was flown. One of Alonso’s finest drives and perhaps one of his greatest moments as a teammate to someone else – his delight for Ocon highlighted their post-race celebrations. It was Enstone’s first win since Kimi Raikkonen won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, and what a way to achieve it!

Elsewhere, Nicolas Latifi and George Russell secured Williams’ first points finish since the 2019 German Grand Prix, and their first double points finish since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. Latifi and Russell were both impressive in their own right, but it was the Canadian who put up arguably his strongest drive in F1 to date, coming across the finish line in a strong seventh ahead of Russell, who finally broke his “curse” with the Grove squad. The duo kept their heads while others drove around headless, and made no mistakes amidst all the chaos surrounding them – Latifi even ran third after the restart! It elevates Williams to 8th in the manufacturers standings and baring another chaotic race or two, it’s hard to see how Alfa Romeo or Haas will be able to overtake them in the second half of 2021.

The Williams team celebrates their first double points finish since Monza 2018.

The Williams team celebrates their first double points finish since Monza 2018.

Sebastian Vettel’s heroics – both on and off-track – with Aston Martin took him to his second podium of the season (on the road), finishing just behind Esteban Ocon (and he could have won the race if not for a sticky wheelnut in his pit stop) before his disqualification for a fuel irregularity. Regardless, it was a determined drive to the podium in a car far inferior than the Ferraris and Red Bulls he used to drive. His season has been far from perfect, but it has been astounding how often he has been taking advantage of the decisions that arise up, in a very Sergio Pérez-esque way. Experience is paying dividends for Vettel in a season where many had written him off.

His compatriot Mick Schumacher left the Hungaroring without points, but he had gained a little respect. He too put up a fight against Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen and Hamilton during the middle part of the race. It is difficult to put up a fight in this year’s Haas, and so doing a decent job of it, Mick was our final candidate for IIDOTR.

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Valtteri Bottas 59% (16) Alpine 92% (24)
The one-car restart 19% (5) Williams 8% (2)
Alfa Romeo 19% (5) Sebastian Vettel 0% (0)
Lance Stroll 4% (1)  Mick Schumacher 0% (0)
Number of votes: 27 Number of votes: 26

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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2021 Spanish Grand Prix
2021 Monaco Grand Prix
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2021 Austrian Grand Prix
2021 British Grand Prix