There’s no doubt that Romain Grosjean’s driving record isn’t exactly clean.
In just 12 races this year, the Formula One driver has been involved in incidents in seven, although not all have been his fault. Nevertheless, he’s running at a 58 per cent rate, which is not good.
Two accidents in particular stick out. The first was at the start of the Monaco Grand Prix, where the Lotus driver touched wheels with Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes in the run to the first corner and spun. The accident brought out the safety car and resulted in four cars being knocked out of the race.
The second occurred last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in the Belgian Grand Prix, Grosjean moved across the track at the start and into the path of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton as the field left the grid and raced for the first turn. The pair touched wheels and Grosjean’s out-of-control car slammed into the leaders as they tried to negotiate the slow hairpin corner at the end of the start-finish straight. His Lotus climbed up the back of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, narrowly missing his head. In the end, the cars of championship leader Alonso, Hamilton, Grosjean and Sauber driver Sergio Pérez were turned into carbon fibre shards.
After a review, the sport’s governing Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile handed Grosjean a one-race suspension that he will serve this weekend as F1 holds the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
With Grosjean sitting out, Lotus announced earlier this week that its third driver, Jérôme D’Ambrosio, would replace him for the race at the historic Monza Circuit. The Belgian raced for the backmarker Marussia Virgin team last season, with a best finish of 14th.
If he can manage to finish in the top-10 at Monza, it will not only be his maiden F1 points finish but he will also become the first Belgian to score world championship markers since Thierry Boutsen was fifth in the 1992 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide.
While many feel the ban is a good way to help Grosjean reflect on his aggressive style, some also might question why Williams driver Pastor Maldonado hasn’t already been singled out for similar treatment.
When it comes to F1, Maldonado is the poster child for over-aggressive driving. His on-track behaviour has delivered six penalties, two reprimands and €12,600 in fines this year. In all, he has lost 23 grid positions for his aggressive driving as well as two places at the finish of the European Grand Prix after a 20-second penalty was added to his time for punting Hamilton into a concrete barrier.
While aggressive racing can sometimes be chalked up to over-exuberance, it is more troubling to see incidents such as the one that happened in final practice in Monaco in May.
In that session, Maldonado purposely drove into Pérez’s car in retaliation for a perceived slight earlier in the session by the Sauber driver. Maldonado was given a 10-place grid penalty for the incident. Alarmingly, the Monaco action was not the first time Maldonado has used his car as a weapon. In Belgium a year earlier, he cut across the path of Hamilton and made contact with his car at the end of the second qualifying session to show his displeasure with the McLaren driver.
Perhaps the stewards didn’t consider a one-race ban at the time because the Williams driver was coming off a surprise win at the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks earlier.
But that was not the case in July’s British Grand Prix, where Maldonado used Pérez as a brake and spun the Sauber driver, ultimately causing his retirement. Pérez called for the stewards to come down hard on Maldonado, but he was given only a fine and a reprimand.
Maldonado had just come off another penalty for putting Hamilton into a wall in Valencia and would go on to receive a sanction at the three following races in Germany, Hungary and last weekend in Belgium.
Had the stewards listened to Pérez and slapped Maldonado with a one-race ban after the British Grand Prix, perhaps he would have cleaned up his act.
In addition, maybe other aggressive drivers, such as Grosjean, would have also gotten the message, which could have helped the sport avert the scary incident at the start in Spa last week.
Michael out, Lewis in?
If the F1 rumour mill is to be believed, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has decided to re-retire after the 2012 season, which will make room at Mercedes for Lewis Hamilton.
The speculation about the move increased this week when BBC commentator and former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan said he’d been told by a source that Hamilton was Mercedes-bound. The 2008 world champion’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of the season and he has been the subject of much conjecture.
He also has not helped his cause by doing some silly things, like tweeting telemetry data sheet of the qualifying laps of both McLaren drivers for the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend to show that he was disadvantaged by his teammate using a new specification wing. The data sheet also contained some sensitive information, such as ride heights, although much of it was of no real use to rivals.
But, it would seem that going from front-runner McLaren to a Mercedes team is not making as much headway as many thought. The consensus is that it would be a step backward for the 27-year-old Briton.
Schumacher retired after the 2006 season but made a comeback two years ago. He has not won since his return.
Massa’s last stand
The Italian Grand Prix may be Ferrari driver Felipe Massa’s last chance to show his bosses that he deserves another year at the Scuderia. The Brazilian veteran has struggled through a year that can only be described as horrible and has been dogged by rumours of his dismissal for most of the season.
It likely hasn’t helped much that teammate Fernando Alonso leads the world championship and continues to work miracles in a car that is easily not the best in the field.
While many think the decision has already been made, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali said his outfit will not be making any driver announcements in Monza. So Massa can race for another day, but how long he’ll stay in the Ferrari is anyone’s guess.
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