The 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix gifted us Lewis Hamilton‘s second win of the season, beating Max Verstappen and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. While the race relied more on how the Pirelli tyres handled the surface of the Portimão racetrack to create some interesting strategy variance, further behind some plot lines developed, contributing to the soap opera that the 2021 Formula One season is turning into – culminating in a rather interesting fight for the fastest lap point at the end of the race between Bottas, Verstappen and Sergio Pérez.
Just like every weekend, GP Rejects elects – democratically – the winners of the Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race awards. It’s time to award the (un)lucky reject-elects of the third race of the season.
A slam-dunk Reject of the Race award for Kimi Räikkönen
In a race with low attrition, it became quite obvious who this site was going to nominate the most for our coveted Reject of the Race award. At Portimão, where Formula 1 fans were treated to their first straight-forward (and rather underwhelming) race after two crazy ones on the trot, the choice was slim, but obvious.
After the first two Reject of the Race awards were given to Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, two rookies just starting out in the harsh world of F1, it now falls upon F1’s most experienced driver ever, Kimi Räikkönen, to be elected as the recipient of the award. Going into lap 2, the 41-year-old Finn got a slipstream from his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi down the main straight and proceeded to drive straight into the rear of the Alfa Romeo.
Kimi was the race’s only retirement, and it was a shameful one at that – someone of his experience made a mistake one would expect of a rookie, and in a competitive field he deserves all the criticism he gets because of it – even his own son, currently in go-karts, teased him about the crash! At least he’s shouldered the blame for the incident, conscious of his mistake.
“Retire old man!” Räikkönen’s front-wing fails after he makes contact with his team-mate. Photography: XPB Images
Outside of the main incident, we had other nominees, though truthfully they didn’t come very close in the end to Kimi’s antics. We had yet another disappointing Sunday for George Russell, whose Williams FW43B seems to only work adequately in a specific window of track conditions. In Portimão he qualified an excellent 11th in his Williams which, while closer to the mid-field than last year, still seems like the second slowest on the car on the grid. Despite those valiant efforts on Saturday, the change in track conditions took its toll on Russell, who dropped through the field faster than an ACME anvil.
Speaking of falling to the back, we have had the ever-flailing hype surrounding Aston Martin’s grand return to Formula 1. Lance Stroll has picked up points before, but at Portimão he and Sebastian Vettel struggled for race pace. It is worth noting that Vettel reached Q3 for the first time in 15 races, while Stroll exited Q2 in the upgraded AMR21, but any sort of progress that the team the team has made wasn’t shown at Portimão.
After three rounds last year they were on 40 points – this year they are on five, all earned by Stroll. Well then, what does that tell us about Sebastian Vettel? 2021 is unfortunately shaping up to be the death-knell of the four-time world champion’s career, and whilst 2020 brought memories back of Damon Hill’s 1999, this year has Aston Martin doing their best 2000 Jaguar impression! The next race sees Vettel also receive the upgrades that Stroll got at Portugal, so it will be a test to see how much progress the team – and Vettel as well – are making right now.
Alpine‘s resurgence at Portimão earns them Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race
Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race was not a foregone conclusion, as Reject of the Race turned out to be. However, there were only two real options to choose from. Our winner in the end was our other “new” team on the grid, Alpine! Rebranded from Renault’s old project, they had a very slow start to the season, especially at Imola where they seemed only faster than the Haas drivers on merit.
At Portimão, from the start of the weekend it seemed clear the French squad had taken a step forward in their development, and Sunday proved that. Esteban Ocon was competing directly against Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc at the start, and kept up the pace to finish 7th, ahead of his teammate Fernando Alonso, who after a disappointing Q2 exit, drove in anger to an 8th place finish. Spain will be a good test for the Alpine squad now, as it is usually a track that reveals the pecking order of the field. If their Portugal gains are anything to go by, Alonso and Ocon should be ready to extract maximum performance of the car when required in the fight for 5th (possibly, 3rd) in the constructors championship.
The other standout performer of the race was Mick Schumacher. Only a race ago he was a standout Reject of the Race, and here he redeemed himself to a good degree. It is a sad state of affairs at Haas when we commend Mick with the achievement of finishing in front of another team’s car, but his pace was good – he once again beat Mazepin comprehensively, even when you exclude the Russian’s extra pitstop – and he had a great fight with Nicholas Latifi at the end of the race to take 17th place at the chequered flag.
In a race with little of note, performances like that get noticed.
|Reject of the Race||Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race|
|Kimi Räikkönen||92% (34)||Alpine||62% (21)|
|George Russell||8% (3)||Mick Schumacher||38% (13)|
|Aston Martin||0% (0)|
|Number of votes: 37||Number of votes: 34|
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.