GPR Awards – Emilia-Romagna 2021

The 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, whose full name is so rejectful I won’t even type it, brought F1 back to Imola again, and back racing after a three-week break. Max Verstappen took a dominant win to bring the title challenge to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. However, we at Grand Prix Rejects are far more interested in the real prizes: the Reject of the Race and Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race awards chosen by our community. Who shall be the named and shamed? Let’s see.

Mick Schumacher makes it a Haas 1-2 for Reject of the Race

Without getting too much into hyperbole, it’s safe to say that this is one of the more interesting set of opening rounds since Ferrari showed up as contenders in the 2018 season. Max Verstappen, and hopefully his teammate Sergio Pérez in the accursed no. 2 car, fought directly against the Mercedes duo in a wet and unpredictable Sunday race.

It ended up being another weekend of great performance fluctuations for Sergio. He qualified on the front row in the best Saturday result of his career (if you discount that session at Baku), but on Sunday that performance ended up meaning nothing. A pair of spins during the race, including one behind the safety car that saw him slapped with a  (rather needless) penalty for the shenanigans that followed, took him out of content for what seemed to be a certain podium come the end of the race. All that hard work for nothing, and by Sunday evening Sergio had no points whilst Max dominated. The Red Bull no. 2 curse lives on through Checo it seems.

And speaking of no. 2s, F1 fans had a great bit of drama to satisfy them, what with the infamous crash between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell. At the end of the day, you can make up your own minds about who was more at fault, but there’s no denying that both parties deserve at least some of the blame. Take Bottas. While Hamilton was out there fighting Verstappen for the win – until he made a rare on-track mistake – Bottas found himself struggling to heat up his tyres all race long, and made no progress through the field after qualifying down in 8th place . In fact, questions were less of whether Bottas was to blame, and more of why he was fighting directly against a Williams anyway? Russell, at fault or not, was punching above his weight and giving Williams their first chance at a points finish in two years.

Perhaps, this wasn't the most mature behaviour displayed by George during an F1 weekend.

Perhaps, this wasn’t the most mature behaviour displayed by George during an F1 weekend.

Russell gracelessly took to hitting Bottas on the helmet, complaining on social media regarding desperation from his Finnish colleague (or indeed deliberately dangerous manoeuvres) and ripped away all good faith and support he had built up over the last few years. It’s understandable in many ways – George believes he is good enough for the Mercedes seat and is in danger of becoming just another needless throwaway of the Merc junior team, but this is not the way to act when the incident was equally the fault of the Williams driver, and Toto Wolff made sure he knew that he did not enjoy this type of behaviour. Russell has since apologised, but one does question if the pressure and frustration of not being in that Mercedes is starting to take the toll on him.

His teammate Nicholas Latifi earned a good number of nominations this weekend too. Despite getting into Q2 for the first time in his career, and impressing overall with his pace across the weekend, Latifi’s race did not go as he intended. He spun on the first lap coming through the treacherous Piratella corner and, in the subsequent re-join, cut across Nikita Mazepin and ended his race instantly. A sad day for Williams, as they showed enough pace to be fighting for points with both cars around Imola.

Despite the underperformance of various drivers and all the mistakes that happened during the race, it would be Mick Schumacher’s mistake that would get him voted our Reject of the Race at Emilia-Romagna. The German driver performed a move that is worthy of the all-time great rejects – crashing into the pit wall behind the safety car while trying to warm his tyres. If the rather unfortunate crash was already unlucky, the ensuing two laps were even worse for young Mick. His crash had left debris strewn at the exit of the pitlane. With no other choice, race control closed the pits, guaranteeing that Mick had to do two full laps with most of his front wing missing. At least, in such an embarrassing moment, he had the company of his race engineer Gary Cannon keeping him company and calm! A moment of madness which sadly overshadows the rest of his performance on Sunday, as he finished almost a full race lap ahead of Mazepin.

AUTODROMO INTERNAZIONALE ENZO E DINO FERRARI, ITALY - APRIL 18: Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21, with a broken front wing during the Emilia Romagna GP at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari on Sunday April 18, 2021 in imola, Italy. (Photo by Mark Sutton / LAT Images)

Mick Schumacher drives his battered Haas VF-21 around Imola after crashing behind the safety car. Photo: Mark Sutton / LAT Images

Lando Norris sails through the chaos onto the podium, earning our Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race Award

Lewis Hamilton, for all his perfection, did mess up big time on Sunday, that is true. Going into the gravel whilst trying to put a lap on George Russell, and then driving into the wall on his own, put him so very close to earning Reject of the Race himself, but he turned his race around, effectively saved by the bell – the bell being Bottas’ and Russell’s crash causing a red flag situation, which allowed Hamilton to regain the lap he lost while getting out of Tosa‘s gravel trap. We’re therefore voting his luck as a candidate for Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race – there seems to be a never-ending supply of it that goes Lewis’s way, even on bad days. Maybe he just expended all of his bad luck at the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

Ferrari’s pace on Sunday could be argued either way. Charles Leclerc especially had a brilliant Sunday, bar a wobble on the formation lap, and Carlos Sainz too managed to get his car out of a bad qualifying position and into serious points. In spite of a few incidents from the both of them, they kept their cars on the road and made Ferrari look the most competent they’ve seemed in quite a while. It was the Italian manufacturer best collective result since last year’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Indeed, it was actually the quiet performances that spoke the loudest on some occasions. Lance Stroll once again put his critics to shame as he showed up Sebastian Vettel for the second race in a row. Despite both drivers having to take care of cars that weren’t exactly healthy, Stroll did put a very consistent drive to 7th on track, which then became 8th after a five-second penalty for overtaking Pierre Gasly while taking a trip through the gravel trap.

Lando Norris' had one of the best weekends of his career to score a podium. Photo: Batchelor / XPB Images

Lando Norris had one of the best weekends of his career to score a podium. Photo: Batchelor / XPB Images

In the end, few drivers got through Sunday without at least one major incident. Lando Norris was one driver who kept his nose clean all race. After almost qualifying in the front row on Saturday, Norris came from sixth on the grid to repay McLaren’s faith in him after a mid-race swap with Daniel Ricciardo to take a strong third place and the second podium of his career. He extracted everything he could from the McLaren, and his well-earned success in a crazy Emilia-Romagna earned Norris our Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race.

Full Results

Reject of the Race Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race
Mick Schumacher 38% (12) Lando Norris 63% (19)
George Russell / Nicholas Latifi 22% (7) Lance Stroll 17% (5)
Valtteri Bottas Ferrari 10% (3)
Sergio Pérez 19% (6) Lewis Hamilton’s luck
Number of votes: 32 Number of votes: 30

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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