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Round 17 Formula 1 Driver, Rookie, and Constructor Awards

Our team of Formula 1 writers and broadcasters vote on the top performers for each race

Posted on September 28, 2023


  Dane Miller, Stephen Vilardo & Greg Kokot

There are a lot of moving parts and players that go into a successful Formula 1 team.

From the principal to the technical director and mechanics, the team can include anywhere from 300 to 1,200 people.

But the drivers and constructors shoulder the better part of the glory and blame.

Each week, or Formula 1 “Round,” our team of writers and broadcasters vote on awards for the top Driver, Rookie, and Constructor (which designs and builds the engine and chassis).

Our selections for last week’s Japanese Grand Prix appear below, along with a table showing how each writer-broadcaster voted.

— Dane Miller, Series Editor

Summaries by Greg Kokot, Auto Racing Writer


Driver of the Week – Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Max Verstappen had his worst result of the season just one week ago at the Singapore Grand Prix where he finished fifth.

Many wondered whether the result was track-specific or related to a new technical directive targeting the flexibility of the wings in Formula 1.

After Free Practice 1 for the Japanese Grand Prix, it was quite obvious that the technical directive had nothing to do with the poor result in Singapore.

Instead, the struggles at the street circuit were truly just an off-weekend for Red Bull. Verstappen finished the first practice in Japan over a half of a second faster than his nearest competitor and over a full second ahead of his teammate.

Verstappen

From that point on, it became apparent that Verstappen was a man on a mission and there was little anyone else on the grid could do to stop him.

The Dutchman posted a grand slam, sweeping all the accolades for the weekend (fastest in all three practices, first in qualifying, and winner of the race).

Qualifying was something very special. Verstappen put together what some have considered to be one of the all-time greatest laps in F1 history, out-qualifying Oscar Piastri of McLaren by more than half a second.

Verstappen even chimed into his Race Engineer on the radio after the lap, making note of the challenge that he was presented with to get into the one-minute and 28-second lap times. He, of course, succeeded in doing so.

The race went as expected with some challenge from Lando Norris on the opening lap. Beyond that initial threat, Verstappen controlled the entire Grand Prix and the win for him was never really in question.

The lack of threat from behind was obvious in the fact that Norris finished almost 20 seconds behind Verstappen as the checkered flag waived.

While Red Bull did secure the World Constructor Championship at Suzuka, the next race weekend in Qatar is where Verstappen has the opportunity to secure his World Driver’s Championship.

The two-time champion from the Netherlands can clinch his third during the Sprint Race on Saturday.


Constructor of the Week – McLaren
After such a dismal start to the season, McLaren has made a charge in the standings.

The newfound success became apparent in Japan as McLaren joined Mercedes and Red Bull as being the only other team to have two drivers finish on the podium (First Place, Second Place, or Third Place) in the same race.

Mercedes accomplished the “double-podium” feat earlier this year in Spain.

The start of the race had both Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris fighting Verstappen going into the first corner. Verstappen fought them off while there was carnage behind the lead pack.

A safety car bunched the field up behind Verstappen and created a tight battle between the two McLaren teammates for several laps.

McLaren ended up making the right decision and employing team orders, allowing Norris to pass Piastri as he was the quicker of the two.

Both McLarens employed a two-stop strategy in the Grand Prix, which paid off in the heat at Suzuka. The Japanese Grand Prix ended up as a dry race weekend for the first time in a while, placing extra emphasis on tire degradation and pit strategy.

McLaren has put additional pressure on Aston Martin for Fourth Place in the Constructor’s Championship, closing to within 50 points of the Canadian-owned team.

If Aston can’t return to their pre-summer break form and Lance Stroll continues to fail to secure points, then McLaren will likely overtake them by the end of the season.


Rookie of the Week – Oscar Piastri, McLaren

Oscar Piastri came into the Japanese Grand Prix weekend having just secured a lucrative three-year deal with McLaren going out to 2026.

It is safe to say he proved himself worthy of that long-term contract after executing an excellent weekend at a very fast and physically demanding track.

Piastri approached the track at Suzuka very professionally, as he has at other tracks that are new to him, and eased into the weekend. In his first two practice sessions, he stayed in the Top 10, finishing P7 and P8 respectively. While in Free Practice 3 he finished P3.

Piastri

Qualifying is where Piastri substantially stood out. The Australian put himself alongside Verstappen on the front row and beat out his more seasoned teammate.

The Japanese Grand Prix was the first weekend that Piastri had the same upgrades as his teammate Lando Norris, which came a week earlier for him, and Piastri proved he could drive amongst what many have touted as a future World Champion in Norris.

As was shown a few weeks back in Monza, Piastri and Norris fought each other on track when there was somewhat of a bad strategy call from the pit wall. This race was no different.

But, instead of making contact with each other, the team made sure to get the quicker car ahead by instructing Piastri to give the position up to his teammate.

With a long-term deal and Norris currently being prioritized, Piastri may eventually become the one who is given the better strategy. But only if he can show he has more pace than Norris.

The rest of the 2023 season should be fun to watch as Piastri and Norris continue to battle, as well as in future seasons to come.

If history has shown us anything, it is that when more seat time comes there is more confidence, leading to increased on-track battles and the possibility of ignoring team orders.


How Our Writers and Broadcasters Voted

—Driver of the Week—
DaneLando Norris
GregMax Verstappen
StephenMax Verstappen
—Rookie of the Week—
DaneOscar Piastri
GregOscar Piastri
StephenOscar Piastri
—Constructor of the Week—
Dane
McLaren
GregMcLaren
StephenMcLaren



—More from Greg Kokot—