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What a difference a year makes: “First-lap nutcase” Grosjean praised by Webber
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Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Nov 2013   |  3:31 pm GMT  |  103 comments

There couldn’t be a more graphic transformation of a driver’s fortunes than those of Romain Grosjean who was praised by Mark Webber after Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, a year after Webber called the Frenchman a “first-lap nutcase” for a series of first and second lap incidents.

At the time, Webber described Grosjean’s driving as “embarrassing” after the Lotus driver T-boned the Red Bull in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. However, Lotus kept faith in Grosjean and despite a difficult start to this season, the Frenchman has come good.

Second place in Austin, Texas, having held off a determined Webber for much of the race, was his fourth podium in five races and sixth in total in the season.

Grosjean’s confidence is building all the time, especially since it emerged that he would be the number one driver at the team next season following Kimi Raikkonen’s departure to Ferrari. That has been reflected on the track, where he is arguably Vettel’s closest challenger at the moment.

Speaking about Grosjean, Webber told BBC Radio 5 live: “As a competitor and fellow colleague, it’s nice to earn each other’s respect. Obviously last year, he didn’t have much because of the way he was driving. He was making a lot of mistakes in practice and a lot of contact in the races. Now it’s a different ball game.

“He’s putting a weekend together which starts on Friday and not just a few good times on Friday followed by a crash, a good qualifying lap then out on the first corner in the race. So hopefully for him, those days are over and he can have a good career as he’s had a tough start but he’s come out the other side.”

Grosjean said: “Last year wasn’t a nice time. I was the first one who wasn’t happy with myself and it doesn’t help when you’re reading in the press or other drivers are blaming you for things you don’t like to do. But then I worked hard, it’s no secret I have a psychologist. I really like the work we do and I think I’m a better man and a better driver.

“It’s nice to hear (good things) from them (the other drivers) but mainly I’m proud of what I have done. In tough circumstances, if I had lost confidence, I would have given up, but I didn’t. Even the start of this year was tough, but I managed to turn the situation around. I’m sure the race win will come.”

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier says Grosjean is maturing as a driver and should be considered as one of the front-runners.

“We’ve always known Romain is super fast, actually maybe too fast, and sometimes too fast for his car,” said Boullier. “Having some completeness with his family [he became a dad for the first time earlier this year] has helped him reach another level of confidence, and then you see the results on track.

“He is starting to be a damned good driver. I think you can rate him in the top three or four today. He started to perform well from Germany onwards. There was still a bit finetuning needed on his side, but he has had a very fine second half of the season.

“Now he will start next year in a different mood, and we will have a different perspective from him. [The change] is a combination between him [Raikkonen] leaving and his personal life being settled, which brought him a lot of confidence. That was maybe the kick he needed to take off.”

The JA on F1 2013 year book is now available to pre-order. It is a large format paperback, with a Foreword by David Coulthard and featuring stunning photography from Darren Heath. It retails at £10-99.

Every copy ordered through this site will be personally signed by me. Copies will be despatched on December 7th in plenty of time for Christmas. To order yours and to be sure of getting a copy click on this link: JA on F1 2013 Book

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1

I guess I’m the only one who rates Maldonado higher than Romain. He certainly improved from last season (and is more likeable), but I have a feeling that Alonso would be winning races in that Lotus.

2

He should be thankful Kimi was hauling points while himself kept crashing left/right/centre! Without a point scorer like Kimi he’d be sacked long ago!

Now I believe Romain will be a megafast F1 driver!! Very likeable chapter too! Good for F1!

3

Sure Grosjean has been impressive recently. And that´s good for him and Lotus.

I´d like to know what Lotus have done to improve the car. Lotus is out there upfront with the Red Bull cars. What have Lotus done that neither Ferrari nor Mercedes could do? I mean Lotus has a small budget and they always struggle with money. But the car is competitive.

4

They’ve had a strong car all season. They won the first race of the season. Mid-point of the year they were the fastest car in Germany (yet Vettel still hung on to win despite Lotus splitting their strategies).

I think both drivers have under-performed in qualifying and there has been a lot of poor strategy at times from the Lotus pit wall.

5

Regardless of the drivers I am a fan of and vice versa.

What is the point of scrutinizing driver comparisions so closely if they aren’t in equal equipment?

If you were to give them all identical cars I’d expect Ham, Alo, Rai, Web, But to be at the top. This is too experience and ability to actually race. Bets prob on Ham as I don’t think he has lost his pre and early F1 ability to overtake you upside down, sideways or backwards.

Mas, Ros, Vet. Are toss ups in that they have shown top drive at some point in the last 5 years and have experience above the rest. Obviously Vet is a fav for this group.

Then frankly Per, Sut, Mal, Pic, VDG, and Chi are worthless in comparision. They either never shined or seem to be uncapable to ever shine in any form.

Everyone unlisted will get there in time or maybe are and just haven’t gotten reliability luck or the car. Hul, DiR, Gro, Ric, Bot, Bia come to mind.

6

I admit I slated this guy last year but am pleased he seems to have turned things around. He reminds me of Mika Hakkinen, who was a nutter early on (was it at Hockenheim that Irvine described his moves as another typical Hakkinen chop), but was able to translate raw speed into smooth driving.

It’s a bit early to say if Romain is as good as Mika but the pattern is similar at this stage of his career. He also seems personable and genuine in the ilk of Button. I wish him well, he could teach Maldonado a thing or two. On that point, I reckon Williams should have kept Rubens another year, he would have been more consistent over a season.

7

I think it’s very interesting that he has come out and said that he has a psychologist. My understanding is that very few drivers have psychologist (or at least admit it) compared to other top sports but it is a sport where people probably need it more. F1 is a very macho sport and I think most drivers see it as a sign of weakness. I believe Hamilton is in desperate need of a sports psychologist and would help him a lot but it appears (from his fb posts) that he is looking to god instead.

Does anyone know who else (admits) to having a psychologist? Do any of the teams have one to solve any disputes between drivers? Should Red Bull have got one to ease the relationship between Mark and Seb?

8

Grosjean is a Ferrari driver. A natural fit of man and machine – a bit like a modern day Gilles. Two years max before the Scuderia snaffles him.

9

If Webber didn’t crash in Valencia and Korea in 2010 (both times his fault), he would be a world champion.

When he made those mistakes in 2010 it was his 9th season in F1. It was Vettel’s 3rd third full season in F1, yet people will constantly bring up his crash with Button at Spa from that year (despite Alonso also crashing out of the same race through no fault but his own).

10

Yeah I’m guessing being a dad and sensing opportunity as a number 1 driver is really helping Romain settle as is a boss who’s your manager also!.

You have to admire someone that turns their talents around and that just what Romain has done. But anyone thinking he is quicker than Raikkonen is getting a wee bit carried away. Kimi was faster at Abu Dhabi even when he had every reason not to even be there. Kimi has struggled with an under steering car which everyone knows he doesn’t like. Despite this and back problems ( things he never even mentioned)he has finished on the podium more often than not. We can only guess where he would be now with getting on top of the tyres over one lap &a car set up that actually works for him. So for those thinking Grosjean is faster than everyone bar Seb– why is it Kimi out qualied him.. Or do the same people forget he was also beaten 8/3 before summer brake in quali.

Romains done a good job in a great car. He’s not a great driver yet and some of the drivers many pundits are comparing him to now were winning races regularly at the same age with similarly competitive cars.Grosjean has not won one yet- He may soon be too if Lotus build a fast car next year. But he has yet to show me he is an intelligent opportunist on track and that does not resonate as a great champion. I would much prefer talking about Bianci or Bottas as the next big things and I honestly think these are the guys that may yet foil Romains chances of greatness

11

In addition, no one knows what influence the car development has had. Perhaps he hasn’t necessarily gotten better at driving, but that the car suits him better. That would flatter his performances. Look at Perez for example – in the Sauber he drove well, but at McLaren (arguably a better team, despite the perception of this year’s car) he has struggled. Webber could also be in this category.

Therefore I find any discussion of a driver useless without also looking at the characteristics of the car he’s in.

12

Spot in. Did you notice what happened when Kimi switched back to the short wheel base for Abu Dhabi, he was faster all weekend and quali. Pity he didn’t race Austin/ Abu Dahbi because he worked out the best set up for him on those tyres at last!

13

I meant Brazil not Abu Dhabi – although it was a pity he was moved back from 4th because he was a certain chance from there !

14

+1 well said.

15

People are exaggerating, Grosjean is decent, nothing more.

He hasn’t shown anything that would mark him as special. Defending against cars that have lower top speeds than his on tracks that you can’t overtake on is nothing special.

I think Maldonado would drive circles around Grosjean. [mod]

16

Hi James, a bit unrelated..but with Webber retiring this week was hoping we could see an article from yourself on some of his best drives? I’m sure the Monaco 2010 race would be up there but from an insider like yourself, you might be aware of some other special races where he excelled, even if he didn’t win?

Silverstone 2010 was my personal favourite. And I still think he takes title for best F1 pass ever on Alonso at Spa (2011?)

Cheers

17

James – I was listening to the BBC podcast and your analysis last night. Could you or Professor Gillan shed some insight as to which teams are actively developing this year’s car?

I have a theory that this year has flattered Vettel due to the quirk that is 2013 (ie impending change of regulations). That is, a lot of the teams shut off development early or due to budget issues, preferred to spend their money on next year’s car (as it will be the base for the next 5 odd years) rather than on this year (being the last of the current era). On top of that, we have other usual top teams fumbling (McLaren) or building for 2014 (Mercedes) or out of money (Lotus). Therefore could it be said that Red Bull has been more dominant that would otherwise be the case in a “normal” year? That doesn’t explain Webber’s form in comparison to Seb’s, but it could explain why Red Bull have been so far in front this year.

18

Grosjean, the new superstar! ~ Boullier/Lotus

19

Mark is getting soft as he ends his F1 career. Praising his nemesis Seb, and now Romain! What gives? If he weren’t putting in great drives over the past 5 races or so, I say he was getting old! 😉

20

What the heck did I post in the race report?

I want royalties, James Allen!

Well done, Romain, and good for all of the

pilotes. TY for entertaining us.

Please, my Presbyterian Deity, please get

shot of Maldonado and Chilton. Oh. And that

Caterham guy. And, since I am praying: what

about a Rubhino ‘One-Shot’ in Brazil for

Williams, as was suggested earlier?

That is all.

21

Vettel was called the crash KID earlier and look how he is now. Romain Grosjean can become a major contender in the future. Lets see how he goes. But, without doubt, I think he has to be rated up there to the likes of Hamilton even better than him for that matter..

22

The contrast of his worse performances indeed make his normal day at work look like a miracle.

23

To put my feelings in a nutshell from what I’ve seen (which I do know is filtered by the media!) Grosjean seems like a pleasant, good humoured and talented driver whose made some early mistakes.

Maldonado frankly doesn’t tick any of those boxes! If he didn’t have the sponorship I can’t imagine any of the teams considering him.

24

It’s nice to see the improvement in Grosjean. He might be nearing the top of the mid-pack of drivers these days but let’s not overrate him too much based on one recent result.

The sidebar of this site provides a great reference. Even with Kimi out for two races, and even if Grosjean wins the Brazilian GP with all the other top 10 drivers crashing out in a Spa ’98 style pile-up he’d still be stuck in 7th in the standings with Kimi in 4th or 5th. (I’m predicting that Rosberg won’t win the next race, mark it down lol)

25

No doubting hes got the talent and going to lead the team next year , thats why lotus would be daft to take the hulk . I hate pastor as much as anybody but they have got to pick him , brings alot of money and he is a race winner . Its sad that hulk will get overlooked just because of money but its a business and if i were in charge id take pastor money and give roman a fighting chance .

26

I wonder if there would be a condition in there about not favouring Romain though. Can Lotus take his money and relegate Maldonado to number 2 after clearly stating that Kimi and Romain were equals all year long?

27

Hmmm good point . Pastor would as you say spit his dummy out if he was number 2 and to be fair to the lad when hes not bumping in to someone or opening his trap he is a talent . Be very interesting what hes like in a car that can fight for wins , he could well show romain up !

28

Grosjean has really turned himself around when it could have been so easy to have given up.

And kudos to Lotus to sticking by him, giving him a bit of tough love for sure, but recognising his talent AND underlying character.

(And every finger crossed that Maldonado doesn’t get a seat as he represents all the bad traits of an driver)

29

I don’t know how it’s any good for Lotus. If Lotus had someone capable of scoring as many points as Kimi they would have been 2nd in WCC no questions asked.

30

“We’ve always known Romain is super fast, actually maybe too fast”

Hmmmm…..

31

I rated Grosjean last year to be honest.

Showed superb speed, just lacked racecraft which you’d expect in someone’s first season.

The important thing is raw pace, you can learn the rest.

32

Genuinely pleased for him. His mistakes last year were probably exhuberence so it’s good to see him getting results now having turned it all around. It must have taken a lot of guts to put the negetive comments behind him and move on. If anything this will make next season even more exciting, the quality of the drivers on offer is pretty vast, if the new regulations set any tech advantages back to zero the title could be wide open rather than another Red Bull walkover. I sincerely hope so.

33

I definetily hope so, because this season is one of the most boring seasons in many years. This is quite a pity considering the calibre of the world champions in the F1-grid. I have not been following the last three or four Gp because there is no exitment. To have one driver dominating like Vettel is doing is boring and in my eyes it doesn´t make him look better. What I mean is that his domination just consolidate the fact that it´s the car making the diffenrence. Because there is no way that he is so much better the Alo, Rai, or Ham…I have nothing against him winning, if only he could have a competition. But one driver winning eight gps in row is not very interesting when there is no opposition. Imagine him winning all those gps with stiff competetion or at least whith some racing involved, than there would be no questions about him being the best…..

34

The key operating word IF as Murray says is F1 written backwards.

I doubt they would as most people from the Martin Brundle school of thought thinks all you need is drop any driver in the redbull and they would dominate listening to fans one would think Redbull has only 1 driver.

” But if you are an experience F1-viewer you ought to see the difference of what its deciding the races. To the less exeprience viewer Vettel is the best but thats just a mirage and not core reality”

I quote Murray again the less intelligent viewers don’t understand what they are watching that’s why the can’t believe what they are seeing Vettel is the real deal son wake up and smell the coffee, not even Alonso is close to Max from qualifying to race every race weekend but Vettel is he’s always there or thereabout.

Food for thought !

35

Of course you can’t just put in any driver in the red bull, but as i allready wrote you can put in alo, ham, or Rai and get the same results. But it is very easy to keep doing what vettel is doing when you have a car that’s allmost a second faster….that’s a huge gap that sort of masks your errors. That’s somthing that the others driver don’t have.

Vettel is a champion, but only one of the four super drivers in F1….The superiority of the car makes him look so much better…..

36

Isn’t it funny after Hamilton won in Hungary you were one of those that thought he could win the next nine races at the time, but you didn’t think that would be boring then?

37

Hamilton is not my favourite driver and if he or anyone else was dominating like RedBull is doing my opinion would be the same. F1 is all about machinery and unfortunately sometimes this variable is the strongest factor making the difference, and this year more than ever before. If Alonso, Ham, or Rai were driving the redbull than we would have seen the same kind of domination. So, to be prosperous in F1 you need to be in the right place at the right time, and thats exactly what has happened to Vettel. When he wins with a margin of 30 sec and when he managed to even lap Alonso, may reaction is not him being a superdriver, it just consolidate the fact that RedBull has produced the best F1 car for yet another year. This of course doesnt mean that Vettel isn´t a good driver or that he is not doing a perfect job. But if you are an experience F1-viewer you ought to see the difference of what its deciding the races. To the less exeprience viewer Vettel is the best but thats just a mirage and not core reality…

38

Nice work Grosjean, can you make us a favor and give your psychologist’s card to Maldonado ?

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