Romain Grosjean is under a little pressure at the moment. The French F1 driver has not had a stellar start to the 2018 season, although he looked a hero in Melbourne when he went around his mechanics commiserating with them after a pair of botched pit stops cost the team a potentially huge points haul.
Three retirements a 13th and a 17th place are all he has to show from a quick car, in which his team mate Kevin Magnussen has now racked up 19 points.
Today he was held responsible by the FIA stewards for a huge accident in Turn 3 on the opening lap which took out Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg. It was a big accident with Grosjean experiencing over 20g.
The stewards found that, having lost it on the outside of the corner he “made the decision to apply power in an attempt to cross to the right side of the track and get out of the way of the cars behind.”
The stewards’ statement went on: “It is certain that while crossing the track in front of the following pack of cars, which he chose to do, that a collision occurred. Further, in reviewing the video, the Stewards found that the car was following the line on the left side of the track and was almost fully off the track, when he made the decision to cross it.”
Grosjean was given a three place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco and two points on his licence. “He spun and it’s very unusual to see a car light up its rear wheels like that on the first lap of a race, when there’s another 10 cars to come,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said in a media briefing after the race.
“He (Grosjean) didn’t look great in that scenario, generally he likes spinning, but on the first lap is not a good time to do it with everyone there,” said a frustrated Hulkenberg. “I don’t know how many times he spins on a race weekend. If he does it on his own, it’s okay. But if he kicks others out of the race, it’s not okay.
“He has to look at it and do some work on himself.”
The Ferrari powered Haas F1 car is vying at most tracks with the Renault to be the fourth fastest car in the field and is therefore fighting theoretically for that position in the constructors’ championship. In fact Haas is sixth with Renault and McLaren both ahead.
“Kevin (Magnussen) had a bit of a wobble, I lifted off the throttle, and then the car just went. I’m sorry for the others that were involved — there wasn’t much I could do once the car went, I tried to stay on throttle to spin it and at least not face a lot of people. It didn’t work,” Grosjean said after the race. “I don’t think there was anything different than that for me to do. I guess it’s quite a normal human reflex if you look at Rosberg in Malaysia in 2016 and Schumacher in Abu Dhabi in 2010.”
Grosjean is in the final year of his three year Haas contract. Whereas he took a gamble in 2016 to go there rather than stay with the Enstone team that transitioned from Lotus to Renault, now the Haas is a coveted seat in the F1 pit lane and he will need to raise his game to retain the seat.
Grosjean was running in sixth place in Baku when he lost control of his car under the safety car period, just prior to the final sprint to the finish.
Magnussen has had several strong runs this season and, although he is not every other driver’s cup of tea, he is certainly driving with confidence and getting results. Ferrari are keen for their junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi to get a race seat soon. Charles Leclerc has started performing well at Sauber and is being developed for a future Ferrari role.
What do you think of the first lap incident? What about Grosjean’s chances of keeping his Haas F1 seat next season? Leave your comments in the section below