GPR Awards – 2021 Formula 1 São Paulo Grand Prix

The 2021 Formula 1 championship is tightening up, and there doesn’t seem to be any clear idea over who will win it between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. With three races still to go, this gruelling but exciting season is coming to a close, and the São Paulo Grand Prix delivered to the high standard of races the fans have been treated to in 2021. However, at GP Rejects we want to know who or what was the most rejectful thing of all on Sunday, and the community has spoken:

Yuki Tsunoda makes our Reject of the Race at Interlagos

It was a very close call at Interlagos for who would get Reject of the Race – just one point separating Yuki Tsunoda and the whole ordeal that spurned from another coming together between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on-track. In the end, the AlphaTauri takes the prize after another disappointing weekend. On lap 4 of Sunday, Tsunoda made an attempt at an overtake into Turn 1 on Lance Stroll that was never going to work, making contact with the Aston Martin and triggering a Safety Car period for cleaning the debris.

Tsunoda’s race after that was pretty much done, as he got a ten second time penalty penalty for the contact, even if he somewhat disagreed on the verdict. To make matters worse, the Safety Car getting released onto the racetrack halted the gap the Red Bull pair of Pérez and Verstappen, running 1-2, had created at the start to the pack. While certainly pace has been there on the occasion, Tsunoda’s 2021 season continues to be full of ups and downs (mostly downs) and he is making few friends on racetrack.

The erasure of the early gap created by the Red Bull pair played majorly into the hands of Lewis Hamilton, who charged all the way to race victory from a tumultuous weekend that started on a high, became disastrous, and then went back up even higher than where it started. Hamilton, on a class of his own with the aid of a new Mercedes power unit, charged from 10th on the grid to the lead and eventual race win, but not without another clash with Max Verstappen.

Last of the late brakers and off to Narnia they go!

Last of the late brakers and off to Narnia they go!

The Dutch driver, in an attempt to keep the charging Lewis Hamilton behind him, took “last of the late brakers” to its conceptual conclusion, and both cars missed Turn 4 in the process. Neither car changed place, and no investigation was deemed necessary by Michael Masi, and the race continued. The resulting fallout from the two garages, to say nothing of the live radio feed between the FIA and the team principals mid-race, brought back haunting memories of Silverstone and Baku this year, but with an added twist: Masi’s decision to not notify the stewards about the incident was done without reviewing Verstappen’s onboard footage. The confusion has dragged on into the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, with the stewards refusing their right of review request over the incident.

If it weren’t for the two high-profile incidents mid-race, McLaren would have this award all but wrapped up. Since Sochi their pace has increasingly dropped, and Lando Norris, who was arguably the driver of the first half of the season, has struggled to get a good result for many races now.  A team that had had third-place sewn up in the championship took a mighty one point at Interlagos, as the two Ferrari drivers seem to have all but cemented third place with another 5-6 (plus a happy Sprint point). With a 30-point gap between the two teams, it is hard to see how McLaren can turn this around.

Finally, Antonio Giovinazzi’s poor performance all weekend has shown signs of what we now know, which is that he will not be an Alfa Romeo driver come 2022. Especially in the second half of the season, there has been a growing negativity around the garage, shown in team radios and erratic performances, and finally culminating in a collision between the two teammates! However, when Kimi recovered from last to finish just outside the points on Sunday, Giovinazzi did a sum total of very little, finishing behind a Williams that again proved desperately slow, and even in spite of some of his direct competition retiring.

One of Hamilton’s finest drives take him to a rare Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award!

It’s not often that the front-runners ever do anything improbable, as it is expected for them to be dicing at the front for a win – that is their job, after all. However, a performance like Lewis’s on Sunday and across the entirety of the weekend won us over in how measured and successful it was. Having the quickest car in the field, Hamilton was demoted to the back of the grid for the sprint race over a DRS infringement, but he fought back to 5th by the end. Starting from 10th, he then charged up to race victory despite Verstappen’s best attempts at defending to the total celebration of his (in an ironic twist of fate) adoring Brazilian fans.

Hamilton put one of his finest career drivers at Interlagos this past weekend. Photography: Jiri Krenek

Hamilton put one of his finest career drivers at Interlagos this past weekend. Photography: Jiri Krenek

In a race with rejectdom aplenty, there wasn’t much to go around for positively improbable things. Alpine, however, did very well to keep themselves in the fight against Alpha Tauri. The one-man Italian team has put Alonso and Ocon under a lot of pressure in the second half of the season with consistent pace, and it already seems a long time ago since Esteban’s win in Hungary. For them to keep up the fight this late in the game is a testament to both drivers’, if not the chassis’, fortitude in this constructors’ battle. Both teams are on equal points with three races remaining – bring it on!

And a final nod goes to Nikita Mazepin, who put in a quiet and strong performance at Interlagos, especially by his standards. His teammate Mick Schumacher made a clumsy early move against Kimi Räikkönen, which dropped him to the back of the grid and anonymity for the rest of the race. The Russian driver was instead measured, composed, and drove to the standards expected of him. For a potential Reject of the Year, that’s a strong weekend!

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Yuki Tsunoda 10 (42%) Lewis Hamilton 20 (87%)
The incident 9 (38%) Alpine 2 (9%)
McLaren 4 (17%) Nikita Mazepin 1 (4%)
Antonio Giovinazzi 1 (4%)
Number of votes: 24 Number of votes: 23

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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