Tag Archives: Grosjean

Penalty Fair?

2 Sep

The annual Grand Prix at Spa rarely disappoints when it comes to providing drama. Despite an amazing pole to flag drive from Jenson Button, this year’s race will be remembered for the dramatic first race crash and other controversies which resulted in penalties being handed out.

Cars fly at Turn 1 in Spa.

 

Penalties are always a massive talking point throughout an F1 season, particularly when one driver is making regular visits to the FIA stewards, or when a series of similar incidents occur and the punishments handed out are inconsistent.

Cause and Effect

Today’s incident at the start of the race which caused a terrifying crash resulted in Romain Grosjean being handed a 1 race ban by the FIA and a 50,000 Euro fine. This was not Grosjean’s first incident at the start of a race (for example, he was involved in a dramatic start to this year’s Monaco Grand Prix) and it resulted in the scariest incident we’ve seen in a while.

The replay of the start showed Grosjean making a quick start and then moving over to the right, which squeezed Hamilton who did not veer outside of the white line to avoid contact. If you take this part of the incident in isolation then it is quite similar to other incidents we have seen this year, but the impact was so much greater because the whole of the pack were bunched together so closely at the start, while also braking to go round turn 1. If the two had come together like this later in the race and nobody else had been affected, chances are it would’ve just resulted in a grid-drop for Grosjean.  It can be difficult to differentiate between the two scenarios, but ultimately drivers need to take extra care at the start of the race.  Grosjean described the incident as a “small mistake with big consequences” and has apologised to the other drivers involved (and their fans). I’ve seen some emotional comments on twitter attacking Grosjean’s words, but I suspect he would have learned from this incident with or without the ban for the next race. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t receive it, but I’d be gob-smacked if the gravity of the situation and good fortune that nobody was seriously hurt  doesn’t have a deeper impact on him than a race ban. We saw in October 2011 the devastating consequences that a small coming together between two cars can have on a race track when there is traffic ahead. Wade Cunningham and JR Hildebrand came together at the Las Vegas Speedway which sent cars in front airborne, resulting in the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon.

The role of the FIA

The inconsistency of penalties from the FIA is one of the most controversial issues in motor racing. The inconsistency applies not only within Formula 1, but also across the feeder series of GP2, GP3 and World Series Renault where young drivers (like Grosjean) usually graduate from prior to their F1 careers. Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari’s team boss called for a higher standard of driving to be required in these lower series: “In my view, the most important thing is looking at the behaviour of drivers. It has to start in the championships before Formula 1. You see it too often in the other series that drivers are very aggressive and try to do something almost over what it is possible to do, so it is important to be very strict since they start racing and then they will arrive in F1 in a better condition for that”. Others, including GP2 and GP3 world commentator Will Buxton have supported this view. We shall have to see if Jean Todt pays attention to this call for action from his former team.

The most irritating thing from the FIA today was one of the reasons given on their official notice confirming Grosjean’s penalty: “It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race”.

The FIA official notice confirming Grosjean’s penalty

This sentence is simply infuriating. It shouldn’t matter who is affected by the incident or their position in the championship standings. All drivers must have an equal standing in such incidents whether they drive a Ferrari or an HRT.

What next?

F1 moves to Monza in just a few days, and it is not yet known who will drive the second Lotus car. In theory it should be Jerome D’Ambrosio, the team’s official reserve driver, but there is already speculation that Jaime Alguersuari could be called upon given his experience this year as Pirelli’s test driver. I would be delighted to see either driver race next weekend. This is likely to be the main talking point for the next few days until Lotus confirm the driver line-up.

Will the FIA act on Domenicali’s call for new standards? The organisation has a reputation for changing regulations on a whim to hush the cries of teams crying foul about technical details, or to stall the progress of an exceptional team/driver. They are not so smart at responding to lucky escapes. I hope the F1 paddock will not let them ignore the issues which emerged today, and that we will see a sensible, FAIR, crack down on dangerous driving throughout all the racing formula which they control.

 

 

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Oh what a circus, oh what a show…

17 Mar

After months of deprivation of our beloved sport, F1 fans have been given a cracker of a season opener so far, with the F1 circus rolling in to town in Melbourne. I am incredibly tired after watching the FP sessions and Quali live, but it is worth every yawn and bid to keep my eyes open.

Here’s my take on qualifying today.

Given the drivers and teams I’m supporting this year, it was a mixed blessing for me. I’d have liked to have seen Mercedes further forward, though obviously 4th on the grid is still very good for Michael Schumacher, particularly given his ability to make stonkingly good starts. I was really pleased that he managed to out-qualify Nico Rosberg too. Caterham were disappointed not to have done better, but I think that their race pace will be good, and both drivers will be pushing hard tomorrow. So what about Red Bull?

After rooting solely for Seb in 2011, it felt a little odd to not be disappointed by today’s outcome for Red Bull. I think both he and Mark could have done better (given SV’s mistake and MW’s KERS failure), but I really want Seb to be tested after such a dominant year so he can prove himself at fighting through the pack rather than leading at the front. I expect he’ll make a strong start tomorrow, and should be able to move up one or two positions, and then rest will come down to DRS and strategy. I don’t think anyone should write off the 2011 champions based on today, and I have been disappointed to see so many snarky/gloating comments from some McLaren fans on twitter. McLaren undoubtedly have a very strong car and impressed everyone today, but it is early days.

There were some real surprises today. The obvious one was Ferrari being in fairly dire straits, not helped of course by Alonso beaching himself in the gravel. I have no doubt he will be fighting hard tomorrow, but his car may not give him the ability to push forward as easily as he is used to. Besides Ferrari, the evenness of the mid-field was fairly surprising. and I was particularly pleased to see Williams making a strong start. It was a real shame Senna wasn’t able to get further forward, but for Maldonado to qualify 8th must’ve brought immense relief to the team after their annus horribilis.

The 2012 rookies also fared well in their first season. Grosjean took the media (though not the drivers) by surprise with his impressive 3rd place, while both Vergne and Pic impressed me too. I hope they all fare well tomorrow and finish their first race.

Off the track, the other ‘rookie’ is, of course, Sky Sports F1. Today saw the first real comparison of Sky v BBC, with Sky showing full live coverage, and the BBC showing edited highlights. I think Sky are doing a really great job for their first race weekend, and it is inevitable that the team will take some time to settle in to their new roles. The two most at ease seemed to be the commentating duo of Martin Brundle and David Croft – this pairing really is superb. I’d like to see more driver interviews than Sky Pad time, but it is difficult to capture all of those and show them live, so the BBC did have an advantage in being able to include more in their highlights package which was created after the event. I’m still not sure if Georgie Thompson has any purpose there other than being eye candy. I’d prefer to see more of Natalie Pinkham who knows the in’s and out’s of the sport a lot better.

The BBC edited highlights show was a mixed affair for me. I really hated seeing such an action-packed qualifying session being edited down so much, as it really didn’t do it justice, and the editing was quite poor. I appreciate that editing quality aside there is little they can do when they have a time-cap on how much footage then can show. On the other hand, the presentation was good, and I liked all the new graphics. I’m not sure about the new title sequence – it moves around too quickly, and by showing some historic footage in the clips it is not dissimilar to the Sky opening sequence (especially since they are using some of the same footage). I will be watching both Sky and BBC coverage, and will just look to enjoy the best of both. Again, the twitter banter between fans of each camp was disappointing – fans should be focussing on rivalry between drivers and teams, not on which broadcaster they watch.

Tomorrow’s race should be fascinating, and if today’s action is anything to go by, we are in for one heck of a Formula 1 season.