2013 is a make or break year for Romain Grosjean. Whilst in 2012 he showed that he could drive a Formula 1 car very fast, he also made a number of mistakes someone in a big team like Lotus Renault should not be making with his Spa startline crash the worst of them. However does Romain deserve all the criticism that comes his way?
Frenchman Romain Grosjean has plenty of talent when it comes to being a race car driver. He has shown that time and time again whilst coming through the ranks. He has won races and championships in the French Formula Renault series, Formula 3 Euro Series, GP2 Asia (twice), AutoGP, but more importantly the GP2 series itself in 2011. This title earned him a call up to the Lotus team, debuting for them in free practice for the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before signing up for the 2012 season as a main driver.
Of course 2012 wasn’t RoGro’s first venture into Formula 1. In the 2009 season when Nelson Piquet was released following Singapore gate, Romain was promoted into a race seat. He made his debut in the European Grand Prix in Valencia and finished 15th, but wasn’t to score a point in a car that Fernando Alonso struggled in. He crashed out of the Belgian Grand Prix in an incident which claimed both Jenson Button & Lewis Hamilton, while in Singapore practice he crashed in the same place Nelson Piquet had in 2008, though RoGro’s was a genuine crash.
2012 started so promising for Grosjean. A competitive third on the grid in Melbourne, he was knocked out of the race on the first lap by Pastor Maldonado, an incident that had nothing to do with Romain. In Malaysia the following week, he had another first lap incident, this time with Michael Schumacher in the rain. He spun out of the race when the rain worsened. He bounced back in China to finish 6th and claim his first Formula 1 points. In Bahrain it got even better for him, finishing on the podium.
Fourth place in Spain followed, but then Monaco arrived. He was quick all weekend, but blew his best timed lap in qualifying and only managed to start 4th. However he didn’t make it past the first corner, crashing into Michael Schumacher (again!) and spinning out in front of the pack. This one was definately Grosjean’s fault. However, the next two races were completely mistake free.
A good race in Canada where he looked after his tyres perfectly lead to a second place finish, a result he was heading to either match or potentially beat the next time out in Valencia. For a long time, he was running in second place behind leader Sebastian Vettel, but was passed by Fernando Alonso superbly after a safety car period. However he was right on Alonso’s tail, and was back in P2 when Vettel retired. Unfortunately Grosjeans race finished in the same way as Vettels, with an alternator failure. But Valencia showed he could race, firmly and safely, especially when going around the outside of Lewis Hamilton. Maldonado attempted the same move later in the race on Lewis, but the end result was so much different!
A good fightback from another first lap incident in Silverstone lead him to 6th place and more points. Germany however was a nightmare. Qualifying badly in wet conditions, he never recovered from a poor start and another first lap incident. Hungary on the other hand was another one of his good drives, finishing P3 after challenging Lewis Hamilton for a lot of the race for the lead, before losing out to teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the pit stops. This was to be his last podium of the season however.
Spa. Oh dear. What did you do Romain? As the saying goes, you can’t win a race on the first lap, but you can lose it. And Romain lost it. He basically squeezed Lewis Hamilton out on the pit straight, and caused the mother of all accidents, which wiped out Alonso, Sergio Perez, Lewis & himself. Because of all of the carnage and all the other incidents that had happened before with him on the first lap, the stewards gave him a one-race ban. I thought it was harsh, maybe a grid drop would have sufficed. However I can see why the stewards did it, they needed to show him that he needed to be safer when racing, especially at the start when all the cars are bunched up. So he was forced to sit out the Italian Grand Prix.
He returned and put in a decent drive to 7th in Singapore, before another first lap incident in Suzuka, where he spun out Mark Webber while trying to hold off one of the Sauber’s alongside him. It earned him a stop-go penalty, and Webber famously called him a ‘first lap nutcase’, implying he should sit another race out at the same time. However the stewards decided a stop-go was enough. A couple of steady drives in Korea & India earned more points before another crash in Abu Dhabi. However this one wasn’t his fault, Sergio Perez taking the blame for this one despite him feeling it was Grosjeans fault. 7th in the USA and a retirement from a spin into the barriers in a damp Brazil finished his season.
There was a long time between the end of the season and him being reannounced as a Lotus driver for 2013, but I feel Lotus came to the correct decision. We all saw in 2012 the two sides of Romain Grosjean. Yes he can be bloody quick, but at times he was a liability. If he can cut out his errors and show more of what we saw especially in Valencia, then there is no doubt Romain Grosjean deserves to be in Formula 1 for the long term. However, keep making those silly, potentially dangerous errors, like in Spa, then he’ll be out of Formula 1 for good.
Its time to show the world what you are really made of Romain, don’t let the fans you have down.
I’m one of them.