Japan GP review: Grosjean bashing unjustified (inc video footage)

I’m a little perturbed about the F1 fraternity’s reaction to Romain Grosjean today. Grosjean bashing appears to be many of F1’s figures favourite sport this year and at times its prejudicial and poor form. It reminds me a lot of the way senior MotoGP personnel were treating an exciting young gun called Simoncelli last year before his tragic death.

Let’s remember he is not being accused of deliberately driving into anyone and will not be removed from the season’s records as has happened in the past when a certain individual was accused of doing just that.

Romain is clearly very quick and unlike some of the petulant F1 drivers a very likeable young man who always own’s up to his mistakes (again unlike some) and was clearly distraught when interviewed at the end of the race.

To be fair, Nico Rosberg’s response when questioned what kind of penalty Romain should receive made it clear it was not for him to comment. It’s a shame some of the other driver’s do not behave with a little more circumspection over these matters.

Of course 7 first lap incidents involving Romain is statistically relevant, but each incident should be examined individually and treated accordingly.

Compare today’s incident with Kimi and Alonso with the one between Lewis and Grosjean in Belgium. Kimi realising he had no where to go moves wide onto the grass and slows slightly to move in behind Alonso. Lewis did not do this in Spa and the resulting interlocking of the wheels of the McLaren and the Lotus caused the first corner carnage we all remember well.

I’ve watched the Spa footage several times, and yes there is a wall to Lewis’ right (which Kimi didn’t have to deal with today), but there was more than enough room for him to move right and do exactly what Raikkonen did today. Lewis didn’t even move far enough to touch the white line near the edge of the track. Grosjean was slated by many and of course banned for 1 race. (video footage)

In Monaco Romain’s start incident with Schumacher is different. There is no where for Michael to go but into the wall, yet interestingly Coultard a multiple winner in Monaco and driver for a top team for many years calls it a racing incident without as he watches the replay. (video footage)

It’s great Mark Webber is so anti political correctness, and his comment after winning the British Grand Prix when Red Bull had taken front wing and giving it to Vettel is iconic. “Not bad for a number 2 driver”.

So maybe we need to take Mark’s reaction today with a pinch of salt, he called Grosjean that “first lap nutcase” having battled from last back to finish 9th after their collision at the second corner after the start.

The Monaco and Spa incidents were due to lateral collisions, but today’s was caused by closing speed. Webber needs to remember how tough it is to judge closing speed at times.

In Valencia 2010 he was catching a Lotus on a fairly long and enormously wide straight piece of track, yet trying to be clever he stayed in line to presumably get the tow and misjudged the closing speed – flying into the back of Kovalainen and launching his car into the air like some fighter jet taking off from an air craft carrier.

The commentator on the TV channel I where I saw the replays was dismissive of Webber, calling the lack of judgement “utter stupidity” and suggesting a driver of his experience should know much better. (video link)

One of the reasons for today’s incidents was because as happens all too often Webber had a pretty poor start being overtaken by Kobayashi. Turn 1 is flat out and you can see Webber is wider as he begins to turn into the second corner than both Vettel and Kobayashi had been.

Also worthy of note; as the front 3 approach turn 1, they are roughly and equal distance apart, but by the time Grosjean hits Webber there is a significant gap between the Red Bull and Kobayashi in front of him. This means Webber as lifted to regain position on the track and slowed and he actually gets closer to the apex than Kobayashi had managed – more evidence of Webber lifting on the throttle.

Grosjean has taken the corner much better than Webber and is carrying more speed in his battle with Perez. The resulting impact for me is a combination of a sudden change in closing speed between Grosjean and Webber and a disappearing gap.

Now of course as all good students of driving codes will know, in a collision, the driver in the rear is blamed as they should allow enough distance to avoid the car in front. But for goodness sake, this is F1. That’s how the stewards called it and that is how the record of fault has been made.

One respected commentator suggested Romain needs to have a more reflective attitude at the start of the race, a suggestion I find clearly ridiculous. These are drivers of highly powerful prototype projectiles being hurled into a bottleneck where they know often track position at the end of the first lap will define their ultimate potential for the rest of the race.

At least the team were thinking smart and kept Grosjean going and only retiring the car late in the race. This means his punishment has now been awarded to the maximum during the race with a 10 second stop and go penalty. Calls for further bans have no precedence as the matter has been tried and judged with the sentence already handed out.

For UK viewers, here’s footage from the BBC of Grosjean’s first lap incidents before today. Make you’re own minds up. (Please someone with the technical skill put it on YouTube). (Link)

Please leave a comment with your observations.

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25 responses to “Japan GP review: Grosjean bashing unjustified (inc video footage)

  1. I do not disagree with the premise of this article but I feel you’re guilty of overcompensating here. The “respected commentator” you refer to probably knows more about starting grid driver psychology than you ever will and I think Romain would indeed do well to adopt a more reflective or conservative approach in the first few corners of grand prix. Lauching off the grid with the bigger picture in mind (i.e trying to collect as many points as possible) is hardly a ridiculous proposition. For example, Lewis Hamilton’s improved form and championship challenge this year has largely been attributed to his adopting a more conservative approach during close combat racing both at the starts and during grand prix. Call it whatever you want (reflective, conservative, careful), it is what Romain needs to do in order to convert his raw speed into points finishes.

    Having said all that, I agree with you that the bashing is unnecessary and each incident does indeed need to be judged according to its unique circumstances. Regardless though, few would deny that Romain needs to do a better job of keeping his nose clean and staying out of trouble.

    • Fair comment – we are a blog though and not the conservative middle of the road official media – the problem is if enough people ‘with clout’ say something it becomes urban legend. We will then challenge that.

      Its funny because I was at dinner with James Allen (BBC commentator) at a recent race weekend and I told him I’d like to see more of his opinion rather than – one the one hand…on the other..)

      So off course today, his site started an article, “Mark Webber has led calls for Romain Grosjean to face another driving ban after he was taken out by the Frenchman at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, the seventh such incident Grosjean has been involved in this season.”

      This is unfair as this is not the 7th such incident at all – its the first of this particular type, and for example in the 7 incidents referred to – there is at least 1 where Grosjean was the only one to suffer following contact – Australia.

      But thank you again for taking time to comment and I agree with you we at times stretch the point to make the point.

  2. Totally echo your thoughts! Feel bad for Romain and how much he gets slagged off! at least Will Buxton on twitter shares our view! read his tweets from earlier!

    • Will is a really good guy. I was in Monza following the call (from I think Luca or Stefano – Ferrari) for GP2 to train it drivers better. I heard Will arguing that these guys actually do have the ultimate respect for each other – weekly pulling overtakes that require complete trust in each other without incident – even more so than in F1 in its frequency.

  3. I think the criticism is fair, for he has tried some ridiculous moves, and it appears somestimes he’s not spatially aware. However, I couldn’t blame him for 7 crashes, not at all, maybe 4. But 4 is still much too much, and some of them could have led to a death, I think at Spa, the sport got very lucky.

    One thing I do believe, though, is that he’s not dangerous, per se: I don’t think he deliberately crashes, unlike another newcomer who has seemed to develop a red mist (and caused one of Grosjeans crashes at Melbourne). So there is a chance he can tone it down a bit. He seems a fantastic starter, but then kind of loses his focus in the pursuit of another place.

    I think Maldonado is far more dangerous, and feel he has no respect for the drivers around him. But I am sure that’s a different story.

    • He’s a very exciting racer and in an era when pay-to-drive is becoming more prevolent, we need not to kill exceptional talent and deprive us all of someone capable of delivering breathtaking specatacular drives in the future.

    • I agree – he is not faultless – I object to the bandwagon effect – on the basis it may dpreive us from seeing a very exciting driver. Lewis was hauled in front of the stewards 6 out of 7 races I think last year? (a lot anyway) and my point was that Alonso did something similar to Kimi that Grosjean got slated for in SPA. Same old story, stewards not being even handed.

  4. Just reading this whole post, I have to disagree about Spa, he could have killed someone and that was squarely on his shoulders. He comes across Hamilton, then at the last moment, moves evers o slightly right and collides with Hamiltons wheels. Hamilton didn’t move once, not even when Grosjean came over, but right at the last moment, he turns slightly into Hamilton, causing the carnage. That is 100% on his shoulders.

      • I think Kimi is one of the fairest drivers on the grid, to be honest. I also think Kimi had no where to go. Also, like Grosjean, he seems to move, right at the last minute, but to the left. I think Alonso was at fault

      • Quoting from below:

        I actually hold Alonso at fault, and I guess the stewards must have thought the DNF adequate punishment.

        However, different stewards, would have seen a different result. I think F1 has long needed professional stewards, the same ones, running race to race, so there is absolute clarity in their decision making; if it is going to be a subjective application of the rules, make it a consistent subjective application of the rules. If that makes sense.

    • Thanks Hairy – I saw both of these when researching the piece. I just decided the onboard official footage showed enough to make the point. So I ask again, Alonso on Kimi yesterday? 🙂

      • I did answer, but they are slightly different, as Kimi is behind Alonso, whereas Grosjean and Hamilton were wheel in wheel as such. Hamilton couldn’t go onto the grass as there was a wall, and kimi couldn’t brake, for obvious reasons; shut off there and you’re in a world of pain. I actually hold Alonso at fault, and I guess the stewards must have thought the DNF adequate punishment.

        However, different stewards, would have seen a different result. I think F1 has long needed professional stewards, the same ones, running race to race, so there is absolute clarity in their decision making; if it is going to be a subjective application of the rules, make it a consistent subjective application of the rules. If that makes sense.

        We need a panel of Stewards that go from race to race. The organising motoring association would never allow it, so we’re always going to get these differing decisions, and punishments.

      • Alonso/Kimi – racing accident, I think.
        I too deprecate the rather novel view that there must be someone to blame in every accident – and that punishments should always follow.

        Rewatching the Grosjean accident, my impression is that he was paying a little too much attention to Perez coming up fast on his left, and was (unconsciously) assuming Webber would take the corner at a higher speed than was the case. By the time he looked forward, it was too late.
        It seems to be 100% Grosjean’s mistake, but it’s not a hanging offense, IMO. I really don’t have a good answer as to how much weight should be given to previous offenses in judging this one. Statistically, there is such a thing as a ‘run of bad luck’.

        Let’s hope he can avoid anything similar next weekend.

  5. thejudge13, I don’t think I could agree more with almost everything you said.

    Grosjean is fast, out qualifying world champ Kimi 9-5. He is a polite and respectable young man who (until recently) was always seen smiling. He accepts any wrong doing without pointing the blame, even when the blame is shared. Other drivers never accept any wrong doing and blame everyone else.

    So I too am fed up of beating up Romain.

    I am not saying he is faultless, I am saying that most times the blame is equally shared.

    For Japan, I too noticed how Webber lifted slightly into the 2nd corner. Enough to catch Grosjean out as he fights to keep his position against Perez while keeping space. As a reference, Grosjean would have made the corner easily with space for the Mexican to be on the outside. Or even may not have hit Webber or at least avoided him if he hadn’t have slowed so much.

    Is it possible all the Grosjean bashing meant he was so worried about touching Perez he didn’t see Webber lift till it was too late?
    I think a more relaxed Romain may have noticed TBH.

    Bar today, virtually all his accidents have been side-by-side accidents. Romain would have studied all the previous accidents and have had that at the fore-front of his mind. Hence his attention completely on Perez to his side, trying to make sure he is out of trouble. Hence not realising a slow Webber. And hence he was gutted to be yet again in another accident.

    And just to add, in my opinion, two accidents were not his fault.
    Australia, Grosjean left racing room for Maldonado as the Valenzuela forced him off quite forcefully (not for the first time)
    And Monaco, Romain moved into Scuhmy to avoid Alonso turning into him.

    But most importantly, How is Malfunctionado getting away with murder in this sport. Every accident he has been in has been mostly if not completely down to him.

    In practise he has cut up a driver and taken their wing off. In practise forgoodness sake! Twice !! He forces people off during races multiple times and will happily crash into them if they don’t move out his way. He is aggressive, see’s nothing wrong with what he does and blames others. AND gets away with it. The guy is a joke, he should have been given a race ban by now.

    lateboy

    • I agree with you – Romain has never been accused of deliverately driving into another driver, and the more I see Monaco again, the more Alonso for me is to blame.

      • Monaco was Alonso’s fault but it makes a better story to just say the amount of Grosjean’s first lap incidents rather than actually say how many he was actually at fault for.

        Unfortunately the mainstream press is always more interested in a good story than a factual one. Look at the way they cover the Schumacher comeback as if he didn’t win because he couldn’t keep up with the younger generation.

        When if they looked a bit closer they would see if minus the double diffuser Brawn year, that same team has only won once in 10 years despite having world champion Jasque Villenue then future world champion Jenson Button driving for them over that period.

        • Very true. Often lazy preparation for commentary, and simple band wagon jumping.

          Honda were reputed to have spent $1bn the year before the team became Brawn – Ok Mercedes have spent more than Brawn GP, but no where near as much as Honda – and as yet with little in the way of results.

      • Dunno if it’s true but heard the Brawn for that year had more money put into the making of it than any F1 car in history so with 1billion reported it probably is true.

        It just seems something is wrong with the team. Willi Webber has said they couldn’t guarantee Schumacher a better car next year so no wonder he was stalling signing up. I am glad Hamilton is going to be there instead but just wish Schumacher took the drive at Sauber.

        • Well If Brawn can’t make them produce, who can. But then he’s been paid out $100m by Aabar and Benz so is he still hungry. Then there’s the Lauda factor. I’m just not sure…

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