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Romain Grosjean back in the hot seat for Singapore GP


By Berthold Bouman

Romain Grosjean will be back in the car after his one-race ban, which meant he had to sit out the Italian Grand Prix after he had caused the first-corner accident at Spa-Francorchamps. Grosjean’s 2012 C.V at first sight doesn’t really look very pretty, he retired from five of the 12 Grands Prix he competed in, and was involved in seven first-lap accidents this year.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus

At Spa the 26-year old Frenchman moved to the right after the start, ran into the side of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, who had nowhere to go, and then all hell broke loose, as his Lotus became an unguided missile and narrowly missed the head of Fernando Alonso, who was just about to steer into the corner but instead saw nothing but cars and debris flying around him and his Ferrari.

Formula One held its breath, but all drivers involved in the crash were uninjured, but both title contenders Alonso and Hamilton were out of the race, which gave Grosjean’s team colleague Kimi Raikkonen the opportunity to sneak into third position of the Drivers’ Championship.

It was a harsh punishment for the young Frenchman, Grosjean was the first driver to be banned from a race since Michael Schumacher in 1994 (he got a two-race ban for ignoring a black flag), but his ban was also a learning experience as Team Principal Eric Boullier put it, “This is a severe penalty, but it’s part of his learning curve.”

And the Lotus boss added, “Part of the problem is that he wants to do well. He is somebody who is a perfectionist. He needs to understand he will deliver more if he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself at the start of the race.”

But sitting in the Lotus garage has given Grosjean the opportunity to observe 2007 World Champion Raikkonen at work. “I can still learn a lot from Kimi; he has a huge amount of experience. As a team-mate he is both challenging and fantastic; challenging because he is so quick and has abilities I have yet to develop, but fantastic because he is also a great example to follow in the way he can switch his mind set so quickly during a race weekend to be entirely focused on the job,” he said.

And he added, “Being on the pit wall with the engineers and looking at the data is always useful. You get another perspective on how the cars are performing, where the differences are, what can be improved and so on.”

Despite his unfortunate encounters on track, Grosjean hasn’t really done a bad job, certainly his qualifying record is not bad at all for a semi-rookie. He qualified in the top-ten during all races except the German Grand Prix, but due to his retirements he only scored 76 points, which is still more than Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher. He also scored three podium places, again not bad for a semi-rookie.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus – a lot of crashes, but also three podium places

Asked about his mixed fortunes he replied, “I would say that since Hockenheim I haven’t really had the same connection with the car as I had previously. At the start of the season I felt very comfortable and by the time we got to Valencia the sensation I had in the car was just amazing. Whether it’s the tyres, the set-up or something in my driving style I’m not 100% sure; we need to go through everything and find out.”

And he said, “The grids are so close this year that any tiny thing can mean the difference between being at the front and sitting in the midfield.”

Raikkonen is now in third place of the championship, will Grosjean support his team mate’s title bid? “I wouldn’t say that for the rest of the season I’m here just to play a supporting role; if I have the opportunity to reach the podium, or even a win, then I will take it.

“Of course, I want the team to achieve the best results it can and if you look at the points difference between me and Kimi it would be foolish to think only of my own results. Let’s hope we can have a fantastic end to the season for me, Kimi and the team!”

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