GPR Awards – Netherlands 2021

After the grim display at Spa-Francorchamps, the Formula 1 community got a welcome treat at the revived Dutch Grand Prix with a fantastic home crowd that celebrated Max Verstappen’s strong victory immensely. At points, it even seemed like the whole event was a massive beach party where, by chance, a motor race was happening right in the thick of it!

All the talk before, during, and after the race was on Max, but here at GP Rejects we’re far more interested in what those other folks did at the back. And there is quite a few things to talk about.

Haas and its Drivers attracted its attention for all the wrong reasons and earn Reject of the Race

If there was one team that wasn’t happy over the weekend – and there were many – it was Haas. Not only do they have the slowest car on the grid, but it also seems that not all is well behind the scenes. We have seen outbursts from Nikita Mazepin before, of course, and while Mick Schumacher seems to fulfil the good-cop part of the routine, it was clear after a fracas in qualifying between the two that almost caused a three-plus-car pileup with Sebastian Vettel, that Haas is not a happy place to be.

Gunther Steiner, hardly the high-bar when it comes to managing driver relations, seems to have lost his grip on Mick and Nikita. It seems, according to the Russian, procedural agreements between the drivers are being ignored, and while Mick has rightly kept out of the media spotlight, that didn’t stop the two drivers from almost colliding with one another come lap 1 on Sunday, reminiscent of a similar incident which happened at Baku between the two. Mick’s front wing was damaged, and he trundled around in last for the rest of the race to finish three laps down. Mazepin did the same, only for a hydraulics failure to cause him to retire half-way through. For all of this, the whole team shares the Reject of the Race award.

There was a strange proclivity of teams to commit rejectful actions together all weekend. Williams too somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It seemed that they would see their third great weekend in a row when both Latifi and Russell were destined for Q3. However, both drivers proceeded to bin the car separately, ruining each other’s timed laps for good measure!

During the race, fortunes didn’t exactly go better for the Grove squad. Latifi started from pitlane after his shunt and didn’t have the pace in his repaired FW43B to go beyond finishing ahead of Mick’s Haas and the retired Mazepin. Russsell, on the other hand, ran a race long fight with Stroll up until he retired in the dying laps. Despite that, the new Mercedes signing had by that point obtained a pitlane speeding penalty. It’s the kind of mistake he cannot afford to make at a big team like Mercedes next year.

Talking about the German manufacturer, Mercedes as a team had an interesting race, as they tried their best to create its own drama at the front, while trying to chase down the dominant Red Bull of Max Verstappen. As the race came to a close, Mercedes pitted 3rd place Bottas as a precautionary stop for vibration (or so they said), and then instructed him to not go for fastest lap.

Problem is, Bottas did get fastest lap anyway, despite slowing down massively in the third sector after his engineer radioed him, a message broadcast to millions.  In response, Mercedes had to pit Hamilton again for him to regain the fastest lap from his team-mate! If there was a position that all points matter in this year’s championship and that Bottas’ days at Mercedes were over, the last few laps of the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix showcased all of that. Not only was this the kind of rattled Mercedes confusion that we’ve rarely seen…ever in their time of domination before 2021, but it could have been avoided due to one tiny factor: Hamilton already had the fastest lap.

The final candidate for the ROTR award goes to Yuki Tsunoda. At a race where teammates seemed to succeed or fail together, Yuki was the driver most notably being dominated by the guy on the other side of the garage. The Japanese driver – who found out he’s keeping his seat over the past week – had never raced at Zandvoort before, but his struggles across the weekend were compounded by another strong performance by his team-mate.

Pierre Gasly took 4th place on the grid to a 4th place finish: a sensible, mature and quiet drive that almost makes the result seem unreal under the circumstances. Yuki was also subtle, in so far as he was anonymous. 14th in qualifying, 14th in the race – at least he was consistent. It seems Tsunoda himself knows he needs to up his game for 2022. Else, drivers like Liam Lawson, Juri Vips or the more likely-than-not future 2020 F3 champion Dennis Hauger will start knocking on the door of AlphaTauri.

Jumping into the car on short notice, Robert Kubica earns Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race

Just as we thought we’d seen the last of him, Robert Kubica made yet another comeback in Formula 1! The Pole, having done the occasional free practice run this year, probably never expected to actually drive again in the sport after his 2019 season.

Robert Kubica

On short notice, Robert Kubica put in a very solid performance. Photo: XPB Images/James Moy Photography

On short notice, Kubica obtained a respectable qualifying position ahead of the Haas’ cars. Then on Sunday, he kept his nose out of trouble and demonstrated consistently good pace – his fastest lap was just 3 tenths shy of Giovinazzi, who got into Q3 – to beat Latifi and Schumacher. For someone who got into the car with such short notice to drive on a racetrack he had never raced before, Kubica’s performance was enough to warrant him Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race for the Dutch Grand Prix. Perhaps, this was the comeback Kubica did indeed deserve.

As said previously, Pierre Gasly was arguably the driver of the day in the end (even if the award went to Sergio Pérez of all people!). The Frenchman started and finished 4th, somehow doing the job of the #2 Red Bull from an Alpha Tauri cockpit. In fact, Gasly’s performances are so strong it’s a wonder he isn’t linked for a return to the parent team one day!

Finally, the return of the Dutch Grand Prix t the calendar itself deserves a shout-out. The race had the potential to be rather dull, with a very narrow circuit somewhat unsuited to modern F1 cars. However, the home crowd brought a great energy to the proceedings, the banked corners provided a lovely variety when juxtaposed with endless Tilkedromes, and while the race wasn’t a classic, it certainly wasn’t an unwelcome addition to the calendar.

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Haas and its drivers 64% (14) Robert Kubica 55% (12)
Williams and its drivers 23% (5) Pierre Gasly 41% (9)
Mercedes’ self-inflicted drama 9% (2) Zandvoort and the Dutch Grand Prix 5% (1)
Yuki Tsunoda 5% (1)  Valtteri Bottas 0% (0)
Number of votes: 22 Number of votes: 22

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
2021 British Grand Prix
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix
2021 Belgian Grand Prix