When it comes to talking about Romain Grosjean, it can be difficult to know where to start. When his own race is quiet and drama free, sometimes he disappears into the background however when it goes wrong, it is spectacular and gives writers like myself an opportunity to assess the impact of that event.
Romain Grosjean will, this weekend, return to Spa, a place he will remember for all the wrong reasons. The crash in 2012 was the cause of my first rambling here on ‘stoodonthepodium’ (apologies in advance if you do decide to read it!) Furthermore, many have attributed Fernando Alonso’s close defeat to Sebastian Vettel as the main consequence of the first lap error.
That weekend the Frenchman appeared to suffer from a simple case of nerves – in other words, he tried that bit too hard to prove his worth. Excitement and danger are not always exclusive to one another, particularly not in this manner.
The sport recovered quickly from the brief spell of bad publicity and a one-race ban for Grosjean, to return to a sense of normality in Monza. Romain Grosjean, who made his return to Lotus that year, must put his previous mistakes behind him if any chance of redemption is possible – he will certainly not want Spa-Francochamps to become a place of further controversy for him.
As the fight for 2014 seats officially begins and the share holders begin to formulate their driver line ups, Romain Grosjean will need to fight if he is to keep his strong connections to Lotus and Eric Boullier alive. Talks continue to swirl linking Kimi Räikkönen to Ferrari and, despite my initial doubts over these reports, they seem to be building strength every day.
Nico Hülkenberg is a likely contender to replace the Finn at the Enstone outfit. Were this to happen, it would be telling times for Grosjean. To be out paced by a world champion is not really something to worry about; especially when they have the consistency and reputation of Kimi Raikkönen. However, losing out to Hülkenberg could be damaging.
The German is one of those drivers all other drivers talk about. His confidence in his own ability is admirable and certainly caused Paul Di Resta to appear under confident and nervous during their partnership last year. If their proposed pairing is to work, Grosjean will need consistency and confidence.
If Lotus lose faith in their man and replace him, little spaces are available for him. Thus, we enter crucial times. But would and will Lotus decide against a third consecutive year in the Frenchman?
I honestly doubt it. His 2012 campaign was riddled with criticism which overlooked his podium finishes and caused many to question his driving style. A win at the Race of Champions late last year, in which he beat out Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher to the honour, solidified his contract for 2013. This season has been better. Quieter. Surely there is no excuse to change driver now?
He has been criticised and come back fighting; an important attribute in a racer. A third year at Lotus would not be disastrous, in fact, it may well be the opposite. Another season will provide continuity regardless of Raikkönen’s 2014 decision. He differs enormously to his enigmatic team-mate and does provide bundles of enthusiasm – a sometimes rare quality.
Spa is one circuit which drivers love for its classic history and exciting race potential. Indeed, Grosjean’s GP2 performances were a far cry from that race in 2012 which suggests that any dismissal of his potential around this circuit would be misplaced.
In Formula 1, there are very few factors which can be controlled. All Romain Grosjean can do is focus on his own race, the handling of his car, and, for the sake of his own career, a drama free start.
Regardless of his qualifying position on Saturday, all eyes will be on Romain Grosjean. Perhaps the “first lap nutcase”, to quote Mark Webber, can put the past behind him.
He expects a strong performance and, frankly, so do I!