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Round 18 Formula 1 Driver, Rookie, and Constructor Awards

Our auto racing writer Greg Kokot selects the top performers for each Grand Prix race

Posted on October 13, 2023


  By Greg Kokot, SuperWest Sports

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,” I select the top Driver, Rookie, and Constructor (which designs and builds the engine and chassis).

My selections for last week’s Qatar Grand Prix appear below.


Driver of the Week – George Russell, Mercedes

George Russell may not have impressed in the lone practice session of the Qatar Grand Prix, finishing in 8th at the end of Free Practice 1.

The low result was in stark contrast to his performance in Qualifying later that day, which set the order for the Grand Prix on Sunday.

After a Quali session filled with track-limits violations, Russell ended up P2. The second-place starting position was due, in part, to Lando Norris having both of his lap times deleted in the final round.

Russell

Russell started the race on Sunday next to Max Verstappen and one place ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The outlook for Mercedes appeared to be a strong haul of points considering their championship rival, Ferrari, was only starting one driver after the Italian team discovered a fuel system problem within Carlos Sainz’ car.

The haul of points, however, did not come to fruition in any form or fashion after a disastrous first-turn incident with his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton. Russell was squeezed in the first turn between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Having nowhere to go, Russell made contact with Hamilton and both the Mercedes drivers went spinning. Hamilton’s race was done, and Russell ended up at the tail end of the field.

The recovery drive that ensued is what earned Russell the honors this week. He recovered all the way up to Fourth Place and almost had a chance for a podium had the late pit stop (to put on the soft tires) worked out as Mercedes had hoped.

Unfortunately for Russell, the pace of the two McLarens was too fast and he finished behind both Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, just as he had done the day before in the Sprint Shootout and the Sprint Race.

Still, Russell managed to get every bit of pace out of his car and gained a hard-earned 12 points.


Constructor of the Week – McLaren

Another Grand Prix weekend, another double-podium for McLaren.

The Papaya team has continued to prove that they have the second-fastest cars behind Red Bull, and even looked to have enough pace to challenge Verstappen had track limits not been such a dominating issue.

During the Sprint Race, Piastri proved that McLaren had enough pure pace to maintain a gap to the incredible RB19 (the 2023 Red Bull car). Piastri managed to win the Sprint Race on Saturday with Norris finishing Third.

While qualifying for the Grand Prix may not have gone to plan, McLaren ended the weekend with a head-turning finish of Second and Third. But, perhaps more notably, the margin to Verstappen was less than four seconds.

If McLaren had better qualifying, there is an argument to be made that both of the Papaya Orange cars could have challenged Verstappen for the win.

The FIA mandated an 18-lap limit on tires, too, forcing the teams to pit three times and further hampering McLaren’s chances.

Even with the curb issues creating tire problems for Pirelli, the historic British team still managed to find a place to shine by setting the fastest pit stop in Formula 1 history at 1.8 seconds.

The results this weekend for McLaren took another major chunk of points out of Aston Martin’s advantage, pulling them within 11 points of the Canadian-owned team. 

With their current form, there is the possibility that McLaren could even get close to Ferrari. At just 79 points behind the Prancing Horses, another weekend or two of misfortune for Ferrari could see McLaren eclipse them in the standings.


Rookie of the Week – Oscar Piastri, McLaren

Oscar Piastri once again impressed beyond all expectations. Not only did he out-qualify his teammate in both sessions, but he managed to beat Lando Norris in both the Sprint Race and the Grand Prix.

The amount of maturity for the second youngest driver in F1 is uncanny. He drives like he has been in the series for many years. The fact that he is able to keep up with, and at times be quicker than, his teammate speaks volumes about him.

Not only is he impressing his team, which recently gave him a contract extension, but he is also impressing the world at large.

Piastri

On a weekend where several drivers spoke about the physical challenges of the track and the heat in Qatar, Piastri kept his head down and got the results his team expected of him.

Multiple drivers struggled to stay conscious during the Grand Prix with the lone American driver (Logan Sargeant) retiring due to dehydration.

Sargeant’s retirement was particularly questionable after he was quoted as saying that he does not drink water during races.

With all the physical and mental demands the drivers dealt with, it made Piastri’s first win in Formula 1 that much more astounding. Although the victory was from a Sprint Race, it does put him ahead of his teammate for number of wins.

Speaking of his teammate, Norris had previously been touted as a future world champion with the likes of George Russell and Charles Leclerc. But now, Piastri has entered that conversation and provides McLaren with arguably one of the best duos on the grid.

The fact that both drivers are young and McLaren is on such a clear upward trajectory, it is only a matter of time before drama unfolds between the two.

There’s already a sense of it displayed this weekend when Lando reacted negatively to team orders and refused to follow them on Sunday. Plus, there are already plenty of rumors about Norris jumping ship from McLaren to Red Bull at the end of next season.

There are few things better in Formula 1 than intra-team rivalries and the budding clash at McLaren is one to watch.




—More from Greg Kokot—