GPR Awards – 2021 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix

The 2021 United States Grand Prix confirmed two things to the world of Formula 1. Firstly, the packed house at the Circuit of the Americas illustrated that the sport has finally struck gold in the States, courtesy of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series. Secondly, the championship battle is still wide open, as Lewis Hamilton chased down Max Verstappen until the very end of the race, the Mercedes not being able to find a way past the Dutchman,  who extended his championship lead to 12 points with five races remaining. For us here at Grand Prix Rejects, it is time to reveal who the community has voted to receive the Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race awards.

Double retirement for Alpine grants them Reject of the Race

Alpine came out of the USA with a disappointing double retirement. Photo: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd

Alpine came out of the USA with a disappointing double retirement. Photo: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd

Alpine did not enjoy a good Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas, as both its cars failed to see the chequered flag. Ocon, who narrowly missed out on Q3 24 hours earlier, suffered front wing damage on the first lap after contact with one of the Alfa Romeos, and after an early pitstop for repairs, spent the rest of the afternoon trundling around in no-man’s land before his car cried no more. On the other hand, Alonso’s afternoon was pure chaos, as the Spanish driver attempted to carve his way into the points whatever way he could think of – occasionally overstepping the line while trying to overtake the Alfa Romeo duo. In the end, while running in 11th place, his car joined Ocon’s in the garage, guaranteeing a double retirement for Alpine and a Reject of the Race award for the Enstone folks.

Talking about chaotic races, Nikita Mazepin added another strike to his lengthy list of contretemps. While Mazepin did get a good start and found himself running in the midfield, he was forced to pit at the end of lap 1 to have his headrest adjusted. Presumably it got loose over the nasty bumps of the COTA circuit. After that, he spent the rest of the day running in the place he has mostly been found this year – last – and miles off the pace of everyone else, including his team-mate Mick Schumacher, who set a fastest lap a whopping 1.5 seconds faster the Russian. In the end, he was so far behind Mick he could’ve been lapped by the German. Mazepin continues to perfect his Ricardo Rosset tribute act: fast in junior categories, completely out of his depth in a F1 car.

Meanwhile, in a rather good races filled with battles, the TV direction once again saw criticism from our beloved forumites. It is not the first time this season this has happened, as the directors seemed to miss every single overtake and battle that was occurring on track. Fans want to see action, and a consecutive reproduction of the Lance Stroll meme isn’t exactly the best way to deliver it, as multiple overtakes were missed to check out something else happening on track that wasn’t as exciting . Many replays were shown, but not real live action of wheel to wheel racing – which there was plenty of.

Finally, it’s time we discuss Kimi Räikkönen. The soon to be retired Finn drove an excellent race and he was set to score a point with a fighting drive until he lost control of his Alfa Romeo through the esses in Sector 1, throwing away all of his hard work and sheepishly coming home in 13th place. A perfect synopsis of Alfa Romeo’s season: the occasional promise that is never fulfilled. For Kimi, it was a display shown all-too-many times across the year: while he continues to show flashes of his fearsome pace, silly mistakes illustrate he is right to be hanging up the helmet.

Yuki Tsunoda’s return to the points warrants him Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race award

Yuki Tsunoda was on his best during the United States Grand Prix, returning to the points after a five race absence. Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Yuki Tsunoda was at his best during the United States Grand Prix, returning to the points after a five race absence. Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Yuki Tsunoda has not had the easiest rookie season. While he has been the clear standout of the 2021 rookie class, this is not exactly a high bar to clear, given his fellow rookies are both lumbered with a car that reminds people of Forti. His inconsistent performances have showed glimpses of his sheer speed, but also of a very raw driver who needs plenty of time to mature within the cockpit. At COTA, we once again had a display of the Tsunoda capable of performing with the best, as he took the sole remaining AlphaTauri to the finish in 9th place.  Two precious points  were banked for his tea to aid their dogfight with Alpine for 5th in the WCC, and the Japanese driver’s performance was such that he was even able to hold off the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas for a long period of the race. For a consistent weekend, Yuki Tsunoda wins the IIDOTR award at the United States Grand Prix.

Further up the field, the fight for 3rd in the WCC continues, and COTA proved to be a great playground to rekindle an old F1 rivalry as McLaren and Ferrari acted out a dramatic tussle with their drivers providing some of the best action on Sunday. Lap 1 was only the appetiser, as Norris and Sainz were involved in a race-long battle, while Leclerc and Ricciardo outpaced their team-mates, with the latter having one of his strongest drives of the season. In the end, Leclerc finished 4th ahead of Ricciardo, while Sainz beat Lando for 7th, allowing Ferrari to close within four points of the Woking squad.

Last, but not least, Red Bull’s aggressive strategy must be mentioned. The pendulum continues to swing between Mercedes and Red Bull pretty much every weekend, and in Texas, while it seemed at first Mercedes had the upper hand, it soon became clear the Austrian manufacturer had something up their sleeve, with Verstappen taking pole and Perez displaying great one-lap pace. While Max lose out to Hamilton at the first corner, an aggressive strategy by Red Bull saw him jump Lewis on the first pitstop cycle for the lead, a lead he would only lose during the next pitstop cycle. Red Bull’s call was the right one but, perhaps, had Hamilton been able to overtake Max in his late race charge, we would be discussing how Mercedes’ strategy was the right one. That is how close this championship is. Bring on the last five races.

Full Results

REJECT OF THE RACE INFINITE IMPROBABILITY DRIVE OF THE RACE
Alpine 39% (9) Yuki Tsunoda 50% (11)
Nikita Mazepin 35% (8) Ferrari/McLaren battle 23% (5)
TV Direction 17% (4) Daniel Ricciardo 18% (4)
Kimi Räikkönen 9% (2) Red Bull 9% (2)
Number of votes: 23 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
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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
2021 Dutch Grand Prix
2021 Italian Grand Prix
2021 Russian Grand Prix
2021 Turkish Grand Prix