September 20th, 2012 (F1plus / James Parker).- I have, over the past couple of weeks or so, had a read from the plethora of opinions F1 fans have expressed recently in regards to the “bad boy” of Formula 1 – Romain Grosjean. Now I can picture you all at your PC right now shouting “Bad boy?” “Has he not heard of Pastor Maldonado?” Now it is no lie that Pastor has indeed built himself up a reputation of being hot headed and reckless when in the heat of battle. Some have suggested it is a miracle that indeed the Venezuelan has escaped without a race ban this season, his actions considered drastically more dangerous than those of the Frenchman, Grosjean.
However the fact of the matter is, the lotus driver’s actions were considered one of danger and recklessness to the point where a race ban was the appropriate course of action by the stewards, one that perhaps on the incident alone was not worthy of – having seen far worse in my time as a Formula 1 fan, but more as a collective penalty given Grosjean’s rather chequered history when it comes to first lap incidents this season. Are those incidents as a collective greater than those of Pastor? Well I think that is a completely different matter entirely, but the fact is Grosjean has gone on to receive possibly the second greatest punishment in Formula 1, bar taking his Super License away and that is a race ban; the first of which for 18 years.
That reason alone is in my opinion why many have labelled him a danger to the rest of the grid. I have seen numerous fans stating that he needs a several race ban for his actions, while others have gone one greater saying he is not of Formula 1 calibre and should step out at the end of the season. But for the sole purpose of this article, I will be expressing my views on Romain Grosjean, not on the matter of the incident as that has been covered to death, but what his future entails, whether or not that race ban punishment by the FIA will linger for the rest of his career and what effect his return will have on the Lotus team.
Amidst all this controversy surrounding his disappearance for the Monza weekend, it seems a lot of people have forgotten the talent of Romain Grosjean. He is an incredibly fast racing driver and on more than one occasion has eclipsed his much more experienced team-mate when both have finished a Grand Prix.
In China, although Raikkonen was rather ambitious with his strategy, was outpaced by the Frenchman who went on to secure a 6th place finish, and then of course was Grosjean’s most coveted drive this season in the madness of Canada, where he one stopped the field to go and finish in 2nd, while Kimi struggled down in a lowly 8th place. Now let’s not forget, when Grosjean has completed a Grand Prix this season he has not finished outside the top 6, bar one time at the German Grand Prix, which was rather out of his control.
Gorsjean during the German GP at Hockenheim (Charles Coates/LAT Photographic)
However in Formula 1 we have seen on numerous occasions that raw speed alone will not see you become successful, unless you name is Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher of course. This ingredient that appears to be missing in the Frenchman’s armoury is something that championship leader Fernando Alonso and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen have perfected the art of; that being none other than consistency.
Of course consistency has not always been a huge determining factor during an F1 season, there was a time when attrition could be your saving grace during a race when things didn’t quite go your way and indeed there have been many occasions when attrition has indeed determined a championship.
However what we are faced with in this 2012 Formula 1 season, is perhaps the most unpredictable in modern times, perhaps history, where having the fastest car doesn’t always equate to guarantee points, as McLaren have painfully found out so far. This is where consistency steps up to become the biggest determining factor of the season, and with the currently reliability records the sport has experienced since the turn of the decade, attrition cannot even step in to save you as a driver.
I think perhaps this is the biggest lesson the Frenchman will learn from his punishment, it has given him the time to reflect on his actions, and can now look forward with a clear head in regards to the grander scheme of things – that being to help his team mate challenge for the WDC, something Kimi is more than capable of doing, and will look to the support of Romain to establish that. I suppose that produces a rather interesting question in its own right, how much of an asset to Lotus will Grosjean be for the rest of the season, starting in Singapore?
Well it is clear to see that although possessing brutal speed in the first half of the season, Romain has made too many mistakes to consider himself a title challenger now, however that will not stop him from becoming a huge thorn in the side of numerous other drivers for the remaining 7 races and this perhaps will allow Lotus to really distinguish themselves as the dark horses for the run up to the end of the season.
When the car has been quick Romain has been up at the sharp end every single time, and when the season gets to the nitty gritty stage as it is now, he is possibly the best placed of all team mates when it comes to helping his team leader, not only does he possess better machinery than Felipe Massa , he is in the unique position of solely targeting himself as support to Kimi. Something both RedBull and McLaren drivers have yet to clarify, giving Lotus a great advantage when the car is on song, given that Romain has looked to build on his errors so far.
So with the end of season situation rather clarified, it only leaves us to stipulate what effect this race ban will have on the long term longevity of his career – if any?
Grosjean celebrating at Hungaroring his 3rd place finish (Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic)
To become a legend in Formula 1, a driver requires a set of ingredients that will see them reap the huge rewards of constant success. Of course the most obvious of these is somewhat of a given, you need natural talent and a desire to win at all costs, sheer determination to pull yourself through the hard times to achieve the good. However, perhaps one of the most important is also considered one of the darkest traits to have, that being ruthlessness.
Now in history there is possibly only three drivers who went on to become legends that did not possess this trait, those three famous for their racing etiquette and respect for fellow driver. These famous 3 are Jimmy Clark, Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling, who, whatever type of Formula 1 fan you ask, does not have a single bad word to say about them.
However when it comes to the other legends of the sport: Schumacher, Senna, Fangio, Prost and Lauda, there are always fans that through the ruthless nature of each will have their detractors, no matter how greatly they dominated on track, the peak of this came during the Prost/Senna rivalry during the late 80’s where there was a distinct difference of opinion between both sets of fans.
Now this is all relevant because while all these drivers are considered household names in the history of Formula 1 now, all had their own controversies which saw them on more than one occasion face the stewards when it came to actions on the track. We all as Formula 1 fans recall the events of Suzuka 1989/1990 and then Adelaide 1994 and Jerez 1997.
Of course I am no way saying that Grosjean will become a legend of the sport much like Senna or Schumacher have become, but I feel he does have a huge amount of talent to give and, while he is the first driver in 18 years to receive a race ban in Formula 1, he should not let the incident alone tarnish the rest of his career. Lotus boss Eric Boullier has already announced that the team are 100% behind the Lotus driver and plan to keep him at the team for next season alongside Kimi Raikkonen. The way he has dealt with the penalty and then decided to travel with the team to Monza shows a huge amount of respect, and
I think this stability between the team, Kimi and Grosjean is key for Romain to learn from this mistake. The actions following this penalty will define the rest of his career and if indeed he goes on to become one of the most consistent drivers in Formula 1 he should be highly praised for changing his drastically in such a short space of time. Having possibly one of the highest regarded Formula 1 drivers as your team mate in Kimi, will indeed help him in my view. Not only does the Finn possess huge amounts of experience, the relationship between the both of them looks to be very strong which is key to building up the skill set of the Frenchman – something I feel the Lotus driver will take onboard with paramount importance.
All that’s left to say is – Bring on Singapore!