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Grosjean lands Lotus comeback drive alongside Raikkonen
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Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Dec 2011   |  8:03 am GMT  |  94 comments

Romain Grosjean is back in Formula 1. The 25 year old Frenchman will drive alongside Kimi Raikkonen in a deal which has clearly been brokered by French oil company Total, which has also extended its sponsorship of the team for a further two years.

Team owner Gerard Lopez of Genii hinted recently that the team might well change both drivers after a lacklustre 2011 season, which saw Vitaly Petrov criticise the team and Bruno Senna drafted in half way through the year to replace Nick Heidfeld.

Grosjean did a stint in F1 with the Enstone based team during its days of Renault ownership in 2009, after the sacking of Nelson Piquet, but he wasn’t ready for F1 and didn’t hold onto his drive.

Managed by Gravity, which is a Genii group business, Grosjean was the obvious fit alongside Raikkonen this time. He’s fast, has a point to prove and has more experience now, having won the GP2 series.

“I am thrilled to be one of the team’s race drivers in 2012,” said Grosjean. “There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity. To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to Formula 1 will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my level of performance too.

“I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport.

“I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible. Total, which supports me since 2006, and Gravity Sport Management, are first on this list.”

So having gone without a French driver for several years, we now have two – Grosjean and Charles Pic at Marussia.

There had been some rumours emanating from Russia that Petrov might transfer there in exchange for Timo Glock moving to Lotus, but today’s news would appear to scotch that.

Bruno Senna is without a drive again and will be looking around the teams with seats to see if his performances in 2011 have attracted any interest.

Robert Kubica is in rehabilitation from his career threatening arm injury, but it does not look like he will come back to this team, if indeed he does manage to come back to F1.

The next item on the agenda is what happens in the relationship between Genii and Group Lotus. There are two theories doing the rounds at the moment; one has it that Group Lotus is going to complete a buyout of the F1 team, the other is the reverse, with Genii buying Group Lotus from Proton.

A third possibility is that things will stay as they are. As Raikkonen is fond of saying, “We will see.”

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1

I think it should have bgeen Senna with Grosjean, Senna impressed in a very poor performing lotus in the second half of the season qualifying 7th at his first comeback race. Petrov didn’t get the seat because he criticised the team, which is a good decision by Boulier. I like Kimi, he is an old fashioned, quick driver who doesn’t care about the press, but he has been out of the sport for 2 years, that will cost the team as it did with Schumacher who was in a more competitive car. Both Bruno and Romain know what the team and cars are capable of, so should have been the ideal pairing, inswtead of paying Kimi a hefty amount to comeback at the age of 30 something.

I think Bruno should be at Williams, I’m hearing it’s between him and Rubens for the remaining seat, but I’d go for Bruno because of his youth, relationship with the team and owner, plus he has experience with the Renault engines unlike Rubens.

2

james, sky sports had on their website the other day a story about kubica having a contract with ferrari for 2013 and that they wouldnt help him get back to fitness and will disregard him for this year altogether. have you herd anything on that story?

3

Neither one of these boners will accomplish much that is noteworthy in 2012 or 2013 or 1024 or (sorry). I figure Grosjean will be gone before the end of the year. They might as well put Hulkenburg in the car, Barrichello or B. Senna (BS).

4

I’m pleased for Romain and I think this will be a good move for Lotus. Grosjean’s previous stint with the team in 2009 came to him at the wrong time. His confidence took a big knock after that big accident in Monaco and he was in no shape to be moving up to F1.

He was back to his best in GP2 last season and now looks very much like a man ready to succeed in F1. I think he’ll provide a quick and consistent benchmark for Kimi Raikkonen, and Kimi will need to be on his toes to beat him.

5

Two drivers that havent been in an F1 car for a couple of years…going to be fun to watch.

All the question marks surrounding Boullier and Renault’s decsions in general are a bit suprising. This is the same team that sacked a driver that had reached the podium, and ended up scoring half the teams points total…running only half the races.

6

I’m delighted to see this lineup actually, as it shows that they’ve gone for driver lineup rather than just Petrovs heavy backing.

There is no doubt in my mind that Romain is a very talented driver who went into a terrible situation when he was last in F1.

Yes, you can look and say the total monies would have helped, but this is about picking talent over money.

Something that I’m afraid Williams GP under mr Parr appear to have thrown out the window.

In my view Sutil has only raised his game when threatened with losing his drive. Maldonado will beat sutil, I’m pretty sure.

What I’d like to see from Williams GP is a similar statement of intent, and pick the best young driver they can. Someone like Giedo Vandergarde would be a good choice.

The F1 grid is congested now, IMHO because of the sheer number of seats either picked or influenced by the redbull driver scheme. Talented guys like Wickens cant even get a sniff over Pic etc.

7

I thought that Boullier had quietly stepped down/was removed from the Team Principle job?

I heard this about two weeks ago?

8

I think Boullier is a big problem. I wonder if there would be clashes with Kimi.

Can’t quite put it into words but there is just something about Boullier which makes me feel he is not a good team principal, would be horrible to work for and that he isn’t a very nice person. No people skills maybe?

And to me they are still Renault. There is Caterham but there is no longer any Lotus.

Senna seems like a nice fellow and I wish him well but I don’t think he’s very good. Petrov is ok, he at least improved from last year but to say his outburst (probably justified) didn’t have consequences is naive. I think Boullier was extremely incensed by it.

9

An ex F1 World Champion and a current GP2 World Champion sounds very appealing to me!?

Give them time, a good car, and ‘let’s see what happens’ 🙂

10

I think Boulier is the responsable person there, and he should go somewhere else, or take a different roll in the team, but clearly he is not the person for the job… you can change drivers left and right, and the problem is Boulier…. I mean, you at least have to improve during the year, not go backards, change drivers at mid year to hide the fact that the team is the one malfuntioning…. have some pride an quit…. next year, if renault fail again, well Kimi, just got back and the other one??, well we have to give him some time, its been two years you know…

Excuse and more excuses.

11

James,

There have been a few rumours doing the rounds in the City about Genii looking to put together a fund, and given their current ownership of this team, then yes, the road car business looks a good fit. Also from the sounds coming out of the Far East, they want to get rid of Lotus, clean up their balance sheet.

So if the race team can be respectable on the track, then it does raise the profile of the road car “division”, and of course the crossover of R&D would be useful.

The road car market is here in Europe, not the Far East, right now, nor India or China, so having two “European” drivers in the race team, is a bonus, but the big question really is there performance on the track.

I am sure you do remember the “old” Lotus cars had a fair amount of Renault kit in them, so the Race team with a Renault engine, nice fit.

12

This is completely unrelated to the post but I found it really interesting and might interest many here. I’m taking a course in Artificial Intelligence and here is some info on self-driving cars. Some of these are used to get street level views for Google Maps.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_BJUBpuvFE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqDvbguZsAA

Is research like this being done in areas of motorsport? Any info would be appreciated.

13

BTW the self-parking video is hilarious and this would be accepted as practical and useful now.

14

I seriously doubt that AI-driven cars are circulating through our cities and towns all on their own just snapping away for Google.

Someone is pulling your leg.

You’ve no doubt seen the vids of some of DARPA’s contests in this field? They have a long ways to go.

One day soon they will be *able to do this. But there will be such a huge outcry from the public about ‘safety’ issues that I really do not believe they would ever be made legal.

15

Within 10 years, it’s more likely humans will be banned from driving than robots, imagine a computer 1000 times cheaper, 1000 times more powerful, and 1000 times smaller than we have today, that’s what will be around….

16

The Google cars do go through the streets of California at least. Here’s some more info on it: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/science/10google.html

17

And if you look *verrryyy carefully, you’ll see an actual human bean sitting behind the wheel, “just in case.” And to avoid frightening the Luddites.

So while I think its a marvelous technical achievement, what they are doing is really just a PR thing for google.

It will never be accepted for these things to drive themselves around, especially when ppl start to think about their kids being hit by the 1 in a million that goes whacko.

18

Many posts from my GMail ID keep getting blocked! Why am I on the mod list?

Here’s my post again:

James a couple of questions for you:

– Kimi calls it as he sees it. Vitaly got into trouble with the team for doing that. How do you see the team handling Kimi’s comments?

– Does Kimi have clauses on the contract allowing him to compete in rally or other sports? He did that while at Ferrari but after what happened to Kubica, that seems difficult especially at Lotus.

19

1. He’s not that bad
2. I would seriously doubt it!

20

Thanks for the reply! One idea for the winter: how about having a post once a week or fortnight where you pick from your list of favorites seasons from the past and describe those in brief? Would love to read about those like Nuvolari, Varzi, Segrave and more recently Villeneuve, Lauda and Cevert.

21

James,

What does Robert Wickens have to do to factor like Grosjean obviously has? I don’t get why he’s been passed over so quickly, especially at Virgin Marussia. Should he race in another series and win again, or stay as a reserve driver, or just give up? I thought being North American might make him more appealing, with three NA races for next year. But doesn’t seem so.

22

Grosjean isn’t free of ‘sponsorship-backup’, but still I feel it to be a positive evolution that he’s getting Petrov’s seat who in my opinion is still more of a paydriver.

Rather than allowing a return of in-year-testing, I feel it would make more sense to impose a rule that drivers cannot bring any ‘direct’ money to the teams. Of course there will always be sponsor-driver links and thus drivers that ‘indirectly’ bring money with them, but rather than spending money on in-year-testing I think it would be a more effective (but as always hard to control) rule to improve the racing and to bring better drivers into F1 if it were forbidden to directly pay for a seat…

23

The pairing of these two drivers will be interesting to see, both have a lot to prove, Kimi needs to prove he still has that raw skill he showed in Mclaren and Ferrari days. Romain needs to prove that his first F1 outing wasn’t a true reflection of his skill. Who will be the faster….

I think Romain has a slight advantage i.e driven Lotus car this year and is current GP2 champ, but once Kimi is up to speed he could be the quicker, very good choices I’d say

24

Grosjean was, I think, the sensible choice. His GP2 season was excellent, suggesting genuine potential, and his connections with Total lucrative. The guy’s previous foray into F1, late in the year into a team with real problems, against the mighty Alonso and probably before he was ready, cannot be used as a reliable indicator in my opinion.

Petrov was really only recruited for sponsorship reasons anyway but it is to his credit that he performed rather better than many of us thought he would and he has, I think, won himself some fans with his efforts and likeable demeanour. He strikes me as a slightly slow learner, which leads me to believe he will only improve with another opportunity elsewhere.

It is so difficult to be objective about Senna. The name and his charm make you will him on and the lack of a true litmus test thus far only compounds the problem. On balance, I think by the end of the year he should have been closer to Petrov (or even ahead) and perhaps made fewer mistakes. A third driver role might again be his best bet, preferably with a team that will allow him some Friday driving, which I cannot see being Lotus-Renault as both its drivers will need maximum mileage next year.

25

Fair play to Renault/Lotus they have gone for performance over pay drivers – it is a refreshing change from all those stories of rookies handing over many millions for a pay drive. Mind you after the last couple of seasons for Renault perhaps it is a case of “lesson learned” as far as underwhelming pay drivers is concerned…

26

Sorry, but you seem to have missed the part about Total signing up for 2 more years if they took Grosjean?

27

Amusingly, the individual driver probably has very little bearing on the success of the team these days, what with the emphasis being on aero performance. So teams are probably right to shop around and attract sponsors to keep them in business.

Doesn’t say much for the drivers though; gone are the days when driver skill meant the difference between winning and losing. Look at Alonso – possibly one of the best drivers on the grid and he managed only a single win all season, even that was substantially aided by a temporary restriction on blown diffusers.

Hey ho. Let me know when F1 gets interesting again as I suspect with the dominance of Vettel and the Sky deal I won’t be paying much attention to the 2012 season anyway!

28

Yes, when the cars/drivers all finish the year in a two x two configuration it is hard to ignore that the cars are the dominant factor right now.

And we all complain about the dominance of “aero” but,lets face it, for *anything that goes 200 mph “aero” is going to dominate simply due to the laws of physics.

29

Interesting points.

Myself? I have been saying for some years, Alonso, IMO is the best driver since Senna.

Your last paragraph made me think, if Ferrari aren’t in the same ball park as Red Bull, I’m going to take up fishing.

30
Spinodontosaurus

Blaize, try comparing who Senna had as a benchmark this year compared to who Grosean did in 2009…

31

I’m glad Grosjean is getting another shot as I feel he has more to offer than Petrov or Senna. But considering his mileage this year and Kimi’s lack of any on the new tyres, high fuel load and DRS I wonder how long it will take this team to get up to speed. It will be interesting to see how they do in pre season for certain.

32

Gutted , truly gutted. I cannot understand why Senna hasn’t got the drive. He proved himself for me.

Grosjean isn’t someone i believe that can do anything Senna can’t do. This coupled with the fact that when Grosjean came in half way through a season and failed to impress compared to Senna this year whose done nothing but impress i feel lost as to why this decision was made.

Oh well looks like Senna has to start again.

33

Hope now it’s JEV and Bianchi turn !!!

34

I think Adrian Sutil would have been an ideal partner for Kimi Raikkonen. Sutil is a very fast driver who really has not had an ideal opportunity to show what he can do, and would have kept Kimmi honest. Grosjean in my view still has much to prove in F1, but he is young so lets wait and see how he does. A bit tough on Bruno Senna whom I liked, but Petrov really has had a disappointing year compared to his previous stint.

35

Didn’t Kimi and Sutil have a habit of colliding?

36

I think there was a period when Sutil had a spate of accidents, but I’m not sure what the reasons behind that were. Anyway he seems to have matured and put in some good performances for Force India, and is known to be fast. As to how well Kimi does will depend I think how he gets on with the Pirelli tyres. Of course Lotus need to improve the car significantly if they are to get a sniff of the front grid slots.

37

The relationship between Genii and Group Lotus is simply the SWAP of their owner stocks.

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