GPR Awards – Italy 2021

The end of the summer break has certainly brought us nothing short of drama and intrigue. An exhausting triple header has been made bearable by the boiling-over of tensions among the front-runners, exacerbated by the coming together of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix. It’s time for us at GP Rejects to to delve into the talking points of the day, as we announce our Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race at Monza.

From a race win to a complete no-show, Alpha Tauri’s performance in Italy earns them Reject of the Race

Pierre Gasly

AlphaTauri’s streak of points finishes ended with a double DNF at Monza. Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly has some good memories of Monza, as he took his first and, thus far, only Grand Prix win here last season. This year, however, the pictures certainly won’t end up in the album. After a string of great performances, the Frenchman just didn’t have luck on his side as he continues his quest of impressing Red Bull for another chance at the team’s second seat for 2023.

Despite having qualified a great 6th place and made a good start in Saturday’s sprint, Gasly’s race was over come Curva Grande, victim of a front-wing failure caused by contact in the first chicane with Daniel Ricciardo. With the car needing repairs, his last place on the grid was converted to a pitlane start. That pitlane start was converted to a collective anxiety from the Alpha Tauri garage as they discovered throttle issues that might prevent him from starting. He managed to get to lap 3 before the car failed.

His teammate’s weekend was even worse. Yuki Tsunoda was out in Q1 when his best time was deleted. Making contact with Robert Kubica in the sprint (about which he was typically less than gracious), he finished the race up by one position after his teammate crashed. Then in the end he didn’t even start the race when a late-stage issue cropped up in the garage. This all comes not only a year after AlphaTauri’s wonderful win, but it also marks the first time all year that the team have not scored points on Sunday. They were the only team with this record until now.

It wouldn’t be much of an article if we didn’t mention the title collision as well. Verstappen and Hamilton, who seem to both be used to making contact at this point, made a monumental collective cock-up at halfway through the race. Both drivers had bad pitstops, and by pure chance came towards each other at the same point of the track at the exact same time. The inevitable happened: Verstappen was too greedy, Hamilton left little room, the sausage kerb did what sausage kerbs do. Both title contenders were out on the spot, with Verstappen walking away as Hamilton tried in vain to recover his stricken and battered Mercedes onto the racetrack.

Lewis and Max Verstappen collide.

Verstappen’s Red Bull sits atop the stricken Mercedes of Hamilton. Photo: LAT Images

Verstappen received a three-place grid penalty for Sochi as punishment for majority (if not universal) blame. It was something the entire Formula 1-watching public have been predicted since early season, and nowadays it seems we cannot go one race without a Merc and a Red Bull colliding. The crash was scary – the halo possibly saved Hamilton’s life on Sunday – and a continuing reminder that the atmosphere in the paddock between the rivals is souring by the week.

There was further rejectdom up and down the track. Sergio Pérez somehow committed the same act of poor sportsmanship twice (perhaps in homage to his driving at the Red Bull Ring) when he overtook other drivers after cutting the second chicane. While in the sprint race he gracelessly gave the position back, his antics warranted him a five-second penalty on Sunday and cost him a podium as a result – to Mercedes, no less!

Antonio Giovinazzi, who seems like Williams to have found some good form in the off-season, had yet another poor Sunday where he, like Pérez, made a questionable move cutting the Della Roggia chicane in front of Carlos Sainz Jr. Sainz had nowhere to go, hit Giovinazzi, and Antonio gave away yet another possible points finish. If Zandvoort was consequence of bad luck, Monza was a consequence of Gio’s own doing. With his seat continuously under threat, it’s not the Sunday performances that the Italian is in need right now.

The poor coverage of the weekend is also worth a mention. Not only to the actual broadcast, but also to the commentary team at Sky. The former seemed to have been imported from the Monaco GP team, missing all the real action and showing most of the overtakes on replay instead; the latter made many blunders, notably switching the Alfa Romeo drivers around multiple times as the race went on.

Lastly, the final mention goes to Nikita Mazepin. While he did finish ahead of Kubica and Schumacher in the sprint race, on Sunday he committed the cardinal sin of racing: hitting his team-mate. His Haas eventually crawled to a stop just after Ascari, putting an end to another miserable and underperforming race from the Russian.

McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris win a feel-good Infinite Improbability Drive of the Year at Monza

The Italian Grand Prix might have been the feelgood moment of the year. Remembering how  Daniel Ricciardo finished the Hungarian Grand Prix, to have seen such a turnaround in performance is nothing short of remarkable. His popularity with the fanbase has kept him safe from the strongest of criticism, but that is not to downplay that Daniel really achieved a sea-change in performance at Monza.

Daniel Ricciardo wins at Monza

Back on top for the Woking squad after 9 years, courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo. Photo: McLaren F1

He had winning pace on Sunday without the title collision. Norris was completely on par with him, and in any other circumstances would have challenged him for the win too. The pair, and indeed the team, seemed almost unmatched, and grabbed their first win in almost nine years and their first 1-2 since the infamous 2010 Canadian Grand Prix. McLaren fans can rejoice: they are back on the top step of the podium.

The only other driver who wanted to win more was Valtteri Bottas. With his Alfa Romeo contract signed and announced, the Finn seems to be driving with less pressure that was brought on him by Mercedes to defend their championships. He won the sprint, but unfortunately had to start last on Sunday due to an engine change. Instead of getting bogged down, he went from strength to strength and clawed his way to a podium position. It was the kind of pace we haven’t seen from Valtteri in some time; that kind of pace that makes you think he is the best driver on the field on his day (while also providing one of the greatest moments of the season during post-race interviews!). Had he been on pole, there is little question that Bottas would have dominated proceedings.

Mentions also go out to the halo for its role in protecting Hamilton during what was an initially scary crash. With Verstappen’s wheel going over the monocoque and scraping the top of the car, Hamilton could have been killed in a bygone era. The halo has proven a remarkably positive addition to the F1 chassis, and we thank it for keeping the drivers safe.

And finally, how times have changed. George Russell finishing in 9th place in a Williams would be front-page news in another era. However, here it is becoming par for the course for the now-official 2022 Mercedes driver.

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
AlphaTauri 81% (21) McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris 81% (21)
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen 19% (5) Halo 8% (2)
Antonio Giovinazzi 0% (0) Valtteri Bottas 8% (2)
Sergio Pérez 0% (0)  George Russell 4% (1)
Number of votes: 26 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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