Romain Grosjean – from ‘first-lap nutcase’ to the lead man at Lotus
- Credit: Archant
Listeners to the EDP Formula One podcast will have probably been expecting this column for a while now. The one that lauds Romain Grosjean. And after his performance at the weekend – directly off the back of his efforts in Korea a week earlier – the Frenchman deserves a bit of love.
Some would call what happened at Suzuka ironic – but I'm going to opt for beautifully poetic.
Grosjean's biggest misdemeanour last year came with his opening lap crash in Spa – but his lowest ebb arguably arrived a few races later in the land of the rising sun.
As the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix kicked off, Grosjean could do little to curb his immensely frustrating tendency to end his race and that of someone else before he completed his first trip on a Sunday.
At Suzuka 12 months ago, it was Mark Webber who suffered as a result of Grosjean's errant Lotus. It led to the Aussie dishing out some of his grit – labelling Grosjean a 'first lap nutcase'.
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Flip to the same race in the following season. The race Webber had looked forward to for almost the entirety of his final Formula One season. He's on pole; he's eyeing that big, final grand prix win at one of his favourite tracks.
The lights go out – and Grosjean comes flying down his inside from the second row like a black and gold bullet. Even for Webber fans, it was a cracking sight.
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The point isn't that Grosjean's Lotus ultimately only had the pace to momentarily hold up Webber and couldn't challenge Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull for victory.
It's more Romain appears to have progressed a million miles since his troubles last year and clear lack of confidence at the start of this.
The 27-year-old Frenchman has always had the pace and talent. Now he is hooking it up. Podiums in Japan and Korea represent number six and seven in his career – but the first time he's followed one up with another.
In fact, since his Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen announced it was Ferrari for him next year, Grosjean has seemingly assumed all the responsibility to take the Hethel-backed Enstone team forward – and thrived off it.
Even Mr World Champion Times Four Elect has noticed Romain's improvement.
'I thought it was a great day for Romain; he drove a fantastic race,' Vettel told Autosport after his third in Suzuka. 'I think Romain did a great job all weekend. We know Kimi is a strong driver.
'Last year Romain did some mistakes but the most important thing is that we learn from these mistakes. Romain learned a lot of things and gradually he is improving, so big respect for that.'
If Romain carries on like this then it may be Seb needing to watch over his shoulder in 2014 – in place of his current Red Bull team-mate.