Last week saw the Young Driver’s Tests at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. This event gives the teams a chance to test new developments on their cars, while also providing the young drivers themselves a chance to showcase their talents in their quest for a future Formula One drive. Three young drivers featured for Lotus in the test: Nicolas Prost, Edoardo Mortara and Davide Valsecchi, the latter of which showing the most promise, topping the timesheet on the final day. The plethora of talent in the Lotus camp must be making Romain Grosjean feel uneasy about the safety of his seat for the 2013 season, as he is yet to sign a contract with the team.
With his team mate, Kimi Raikkonen, taking the teams first victory in twenty five years, the pressure must be on Grosjean to perform in order to protect his place in the team. The Frenchman’s first season with Lotus has brought mixed fortunes. He has been involved in eight opening lap incidents, sometimes resulting in the end of the race for other drivers. In Australia, he clipped Maldonado while being overtaken. A race later in Malaysia, he had contact with Michael Schumacher, then Sergio Perez bore the brunt of a tussle with him in the form of a punctured tyre in Spain. Moving across the track to avoid contact with Fernando Alonso, he crashed into Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi in Monaco, resulting in his own retirement from the race, and that of Kobayashi. At Silverstone, Paul Di Resta‘s race was terminated on the opening lap following contact with Grosjean and Felipe Massa was affected by this continuing pattern in Germany. The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa saw him cause the worst opening lap accident at the track since 1998, for which he earned himself a one race ban. This crash caused the retirement of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and himself. It also seriously impeded the race of Kamui Kobayashi. Mark Webber hailed him a “First lap nutcase,” after he ran into the Australian under braking at Suzuka.
The reputation he has earned himself has largely been down to lack of experience, but an inexperienced driver should learn from his mistakes. This learning has not been evident in Grosjean. When interviewed about missing the Italian GP at Monza, Romain Grosjean said it was quite positive to miss a race because he got to see the race from an outsider’s perspective. When asked whether he would be more calm in the first few laps from now on, his reply was that he hadn’t made the same mistake every time so it is more complex than that. Regardless of whether the opening lap smash at Spa was his fault or just a misjudgment, he showed a remarkable immaturity in that he didn’t appear to have learned from his ban, or show the ability to reflect on himself as a driver. His over positive slant on the whole incident seemed rather misplaced. Events at Suzuka bore testament to this.
Grosjean has showed some promise, achieving podium places at Bahrain, Canada and Hungary, but has failed to impress since, and now stands 108 points behind his team mate in the Driver’s Championship. With such a vast difference between the drivers using the same machinery and a multitude of mistakes along the way, questions have to be asked and consequences dealt. Romain Grosjean seems incapable of learning from his mistakes. Maybe having his seat at Lotus taken by a prospective talent such as Davide Valsecchi would give him the education he needs.