Wild. Reckless. Dangerous. Crazy. Undeserving of a seat in F1. All of these are words and phrases that were used to describe Romain Grosjean’s performance in Formula One last year.
And for a while things went from bad to a whole lot worse, culminating in a genuinely scary accident at Spa that very nearly did for Fernando Alonso.
But this year, looking forwards to the coming GP at Spa, there are all sorts of new ways to describe the driving of Romain Grosjean. Words like brilliant, talented, fast, skilful and audacious.
And yet… the stewards at the last race in Hungary, alongside some but not all of Sky’s TV commentators, were all over the young Frenchman like a cheap suit the moment he got feisty behind the wheel, which is surely what we, the audience, ultimately tune in to see?
Having been quick all weekend and impressively reserved but fast enough to stay in touch during the opening laps of the race, Grosjean knew he had to go for it when Jenson Button’s McLaren loomed large in his visor, which by then had become a mobile chicane on account of its tyres going off.
It was obvious that Grosjean was going to get past when he cruised up behind Button, but it was equally obvious that he was going to have to do so as soon as was humanly possible in order to not let Hamilton & Co get away. So he went for it and – as far I could see – he nailed it. Except Jenson refused to back off, of course, even though Grosjean was 4/5ths of the way past. And so they touched.
And then the stewards – and some of the TV commentators, too – cried foul instantly on Grosjean’s behalf. The madman had returned, they seemed to say, and eventually he was handed a 20sec penalty (applied after the race had finished, note), which amounted to sweet FA given that he finished 21sec ahead of the next competitor.
But that was nothing compared with the injustice suffered by Monsieur Grosjean – again courtesy of the stewards but not this time the TV commentators, note – when he pulled off one of the most breathtaking overtakes of the year, around the outside of Massa on one of the fastest corners on the entire circuit.
Even Massa himself said afterwards that Grosjean should not have been penalised for what he did. But that meant nothing to the stewards, or so it seemed, who handed him a drive-through penalty, which may or may not have ruined his race.