Let’s recap the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. Lotus Renault driver Romain Grosjean started 8th on the grid, but caused a multi-car accident at the first corner that eliminated Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Sergio Perez (Sauber), and the crash earnt him a one race ban for the following round in Monza. In fact in his two races at Spa, Grosjean has yet to complete a full racing lap, having crashed into Brawn GP’s Jenson Button in 2009.
There was a lot of doubt about whether Lotus would keep Grosjean on for a second year after being dubbed a ‘first lap nutcase’ by Mark Webber for causing multiple first lap crashes in 2012. However his starts this year have been relatively clean, and his races likewise, Monaco aside. Two podium finishes in Bahrain and Germany have seen him reach 8th in the championship on 49 points after 10 races. However his results this season can be a bit misleading. He was heading for points in Spain before he had suspension issues, and again in Silverstone before a front wing issue, whist in Hungary he finished 6th despite two unlucky and questionable drive-through penalties.
His boss Eric Boullier and his Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane have come out recently and praised the Frenchman’s attitude and strong form. He is making a strong case for being retained by the team for a third year in 2014, despite rumours linking Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg to the drive. Maintaining his strong form is essential, not just for this year, but for his ultimate Formula 1 career. His reputation for sometimes being too aggressive on track has not left him yet, and he finds himself the butt of many a joke on social media websites.
Which leads us back to the venue of the next grand prix – Spa Francorchamps. Two competitive weekends at the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring should give him confidence, while the birth of his baby boy Sacha during the summer break should help him relax somewhat. But Romain will be hoping for a strong, but more importantly clean, Belgian Grand Prix. We do not want to see him crashing out on the first lap for a third time, especially if its him causing the problems. He will want to get last years race out of his mind, and prove that he can compete cleanly and safely on every track on the calendar.
I have known Romain Grosjean to be a very quick driver throughout his career, but Spa will show whether or not he has learnt from his mistakes of last year. I for one hope he has, I for one can see race wins happening sooner rather than later for the Frenchman. Why not at Spa? That’ll silence (most) of his critics, surely?