GPR Awards – 2021 Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix

The return of the Formula 1 circus to Mexico saw perhaps a definitive moment of the season, as Max Verstappen and Red Bull triumphed the Mercedes pair in an unexpected reversal of fortune from Saturday’s qualifying. However, at GPRejects we’re discussing our top rejects and infinitely improbable stints that took place elsewhere on the grid on Sunday. It’s time to dissect the winners of the Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race awards.

Daniel Ricciardo wins Reject of the Race for an afternoon in the wilderness

Ricciardo's race started with contact with Bottas into turn 1. Photo: XPB Images

Ricciardo’s race started with contact with Bottas into turn 1. Photo: XPB Images

Daniel Ricciardo did not prosper last Sunday. The Australian had a decent qualifying with the help of the penalty-bound Lando Norris, but it all went undone at Turn 1. Going too hot into turn 1 and locking up his front tyres, and The Honey Badger found himself tapping polesitter Valtteri Bottas around. That single mistake had a grand ricochet of negative consequences, mostly for himself.

Avoiding a penalty but not avoiding front wing damage, Daniel was forced to pit together with Bottas (with the ensuing melee taking out Tsunoda and Schumacher) and dropped to the back of the order. With the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez revealing itself (again) to be a track where overtaking can be quite hard despite its long straight, Ricciardo struggled (failed) to overtake many of the backmarkers and finished outside of the points.

All this did was allow the Ferraris, whose chassis has noticeably improved going into the final act of the season, to leapfrog McLaren for 3rd in the championship. For a driver who seemed to have finally improved and got the hang of his McLaren, Mexico’s race was a drop back to the lowest lows of earlier this season, and he rightfully earns our Reject of the Race award.

In a strong second was Valtteri Bottas. A harsh nomination perhaps: it was primarily Ricciardo’s fault that the incident on lap 1 ever occurred. However, it is true that Bottas was particularly cautious into that first turn, and it is also true that he was hopeless in regaining positions when he found himself at the back. Much like Ricciardo, it was a pain to watch him be stuck behind Alfa Romeos (and indeed a certain McLaren). His fastest lap didn’t warrant him any points, but at the very least it took one from Red Bull, providing a comic relief to end an otherwise stale race. Small favour for Saturday’s number 1 man.

Another driver who did not have a particular good race was Lance Stroll. Despite a heap of pre-race penalties, Stroll did not seem to have any pace throughout the whole weekend. Finishing in 14th only because of Bottas’ last-minute pitstop, Stroll was comprehensively beaten by Vettel, who put one of his best drives of the season to score points in a time where Aston Martin seem to be already thinking more of 2022 than 2021.

It was a weekend where Williams found themselves in the no man's land of pace between Haas and Alfa Romeo. Photo: Williams Media

It was a weekend where Williams found themselves in the no-man’s land of pace between Haas and Alfa Romeo. Photo: Williams Media

A team noted for being mostly at the back in recent years, Williams have enjoyed a great resurgence during the occasional crazy weekend in 2021. Mexico saw them fall back to that real backmarker position for the first time in many a race. In spite of a monster start to take advantage of the madness on lap 1, Russell (and Nikita Mazepin too, crazily enough) couldn’t keep very many, if any competitors behind him. Before the race was even a third done, he was long out of hope of any potential prize by race-end. Latifi too, who gained an advantage over everyone else’s qualifying penalties, couldn’t even attempt to capitalise. An anonymous weekend all round for Williams.

Kimi Räikkönen provides a last hurrah to win Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race

Räikkönen provided one of his strongest drives of the season at Mexico. Photo: Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN

Räikkönen brought one of his strongest drives of the season at Mexico. Photo: Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN

They say you are only as good as your last race. Kimi’s great form at Mexico proves that correct, as the critics were swayed by a decent performance in a slow Alfa Romeo to take a handy 8th place, far ahead of Giovinazzi who, despite a great first stint, found himself on the wrong side of the strategy call. Although he made a few pre-race mistakes such as a pitlane infringement that nearly got him a penalty, he for once both kept his head down and had some speed to back it up with. Four points are good going for Alfa Romeo, and it was surprising more than anything to see Kimi actually hold his own against faster cars over the race distance.

Pierre Gasly, who has already impressed in previous rounds along with a somewhat-uplifted Yuki Tsunoda, was the absolute best of the rest in terms of the frontrunners. Crying out as he has been for the Red Bull drive, Marko and co. can hardly fault his performances this season. At Mexico he held 4th for the duration, taking home a position that equals Alpha Tauri to the Alpine team. He added even more points to dominate his rookie teammate and firmly plant himself as a prospect for a future change. One has to feel for the Frenchman: in spite of his run of success, who would take him?

Kimi was not the only old man performing well. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel each had quality weekends all-round. Vettel especially has been horribly inconsistent in spite of his occasional excellent pace. So to deliver, as Kimi and many others did, a quiet and consistent race for some much-needed points, was exactly what we didn’t expect. Alonso too had a clean and quiet race, recovering from a bad Q1 (even if his grid spot was higher) to take the points. With the midfield teams anxiously watching the standings, it was the old hands who triumphed to give their teams a fighting chance in the constructors’ championship.

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Daniel Ricciardo 12 (57?%) Kimi Räikkönen 13 (62%)
Valtteri Bottas 6 (29%) Pierre Gasly 8 (38%)
Lance Stroll 2 (10%) Fernando Alonso 0 (0%)
Williams 1 (5%) Sebastian Vettel 0 (0%)
Number of votes: 21 Number of votes: 21

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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