Grosjean vaults into barrier in huge Monaco GP2 crash

GP2

The GP2 cars took to the track after qualifying for today’s Monaco Grand Prix and once again provided a talking point for the rest of the paddock.

This time it was after a frightening accident which saw Renault F1 team test driver Romain Grosjean hurtling high into the barriers at Tabac.

The massive crash, triggered when series leader Grosjean made contact with Andreas Zuber’s car, brought the race to an early halt.

Zuber had made a mistake at the harbour front chicane, allowing Grosjean to make a passing attempt at Tabac. Zuber covered the inside of the corner, then moved back towards the racing line. Grosjean, who was also moving towards the racing line, clipped the rear of Zuber’s car, sending his car into the air.

The Addax car landed in the barriers, narrowly missing the camera man who filmed the dramatic footage above.

Grosjean mercifully escaped without injury. He was very lucky.

But questions must be asked of the lengths drivers are allowed to go to defend their positions. As has been discussed many times on this blog in the past, the present arrangements allows the leading driver a great many advantages in defending their lead – even allowing them to run other drivers clean off the track without punishment.

Zuber moved off-line once to defend his position, and was moving back towards the racing line when contact was made. Again, this has been allowed many times in the past in GP2, F1 and similar series, despite the enormous potential for dangerous accidents such as this.

As long as such driving is permitted, crashes like this are inevitable. And in the close confines of circuits like Monaco, it invites accidents like this which could have much worse consequences. This was a lucky escape.

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36 comments on Grosjean vaults into barrier in huge Monaco GP2 crash

  1. ceedas said on 23rd May 2009, 17:47

    It looks like Zuber either braked a little earlier or more than Grosjean was expecting, or that Grosjean missed his braking point, given the speed difference which launched the car.

    Admittedly, I’ve only seen the video linked here, which hardly gives the best picture of events, but I don’t think the driving was that suspect. Looks like a blameless racing accident to me. Do you expect a car to give away the position when a car gets close behind?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd May 2009, 17:59

      Not at all but, as I wrote, defending drivers are allowed to go to dangerous extremes to defend their positions. I don’t think a driver should be allowed to weave from one side of the track to the other to block a driver, which is what the rule makers allow.

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 23rd May 2009, 18:08

      I thought that the rule is that the defending driver can make one move to defend the position then one move back to the racing line as long as the other car isn’t alongside.
      The second move across the track is where the potential for accidents lies. It makes sense to let the defending driver move back onto the racing line if he’s successfully defended his position with the first move, but not if the chasing driver has gone onto the line to attempt the overtake again.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd May 2009, 18:25

      It’s like Rubens Barrichello did to Ralf Schumacher at Australia in 2002 – I’m amazed drivers are allowed to change their line a second time, into the path of another driver and then brake.

    • ceedas said on 23rd May 2009, 20:43

      If you don’t brake you go off!

      Even with the better video I still don’t think you can say Zuber was at fault, in terms of doing anything illegal or deliberately trying to take Grosjean off. He moved, Grosjean followed, he jinked further over and then moved to the middle of the track to take the line into the corner. To be honest, the more I watch it, the more I think Grosjean made a mistake and braked too late.

    • Patrickl said on 23rd May 2009, 22:29

      It’s like Rubens Barrichello did to Ralf Schumacher at Australia in 2002

      YouTube Australia02 Start Crash Onboard

      “Ralf a bit ambitious it has to be said”

      Barrichello was weaving a bit too much though.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th May 2009, 10:12

      Here’s how I see it:

      Grosjean has a run on Zuber. Zuber moves to cover the inside of the corner. Grosjean now knows that Zuber’s entry into the corner is compromised – he’s going to have to brake earlier because he’s made the angle of the corner tighter and he’s on a dirtier part of the track.

      So Grosjean moves back towards the conventional line to get a better run through the corner in the hope of passing Zuber further down the track, or forcing him into a mistake.

      Now we come to the point where I believe the rules are at fault.

      Knowing that Grosjean is giving up on passing him down the inside of the corner, Zuber now moves back to the original line.

      The problem is that by allowing Zuber to do this creates a situation where one driver is turning across the front of (or into the side of) another driver in a braking zone.

      This is extremely dangerous. Again, given the massive lengths F1 has gone to improve safety, at enormous cost to some circuits, it is amazing that drivers are allowed to do it.

      In other championships (like the IRL) drivers are not allowed to make any kind of defensive moves precisely because of the danger of this kind of contact. I think that rule is too prescriptive.

      A few people have mentioned that they thought the rule was that drivers could make one move off the racing line to defend their position. I think that would give us the best balance between rules that are safe and rules that allow drivers to race each other properly. The present situation invites serious accidents.

    • Patrickl said on 24th May 2009, 10:50

      Keith,

      Your suggestion is simply impossible. They have to be able to go back to the racing line. How else is he going to make it through the corner?

      How can you insist that defending a position should mean that the driver needs to take the corner on the marbles? Even then he will cross the racing line at some point.

      Besides, there is just one line through that corner. There is no overtaking possibility there anyway.

      Also, I wonder if Zuber actually moved in the braking zone. Wasn’t he back on line before he hit the brakes?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th May 2009, 11:39

      Your suggestion is simply impossible. They have to be able to go back to the racing line. How else is he going to make it through the corner?

      Perhaps you’re misunderstanding me – I’m not saying the driver should never return to the racing line – that is patently impossible.

      But in this example, where Zuber has turned left off the racing line and then turned right back towards it – that second part what I’m concerned about.

      If a driver moves off-line to defend a position they’ll have to brake early to make the corner. That’s inevitable and that’s where a lot of good racing comes from. But the present arrangement allows the defending driver to have their cake and eat it – make the defending move and then resume their original line.

    • Tim Bayliss said on 31st August 2009, 5:07

      After outbraking himself at the chicane Zuber blatently blocked Grosjean and caused the accident.

      I’d say say its 100% his fault TBH.

  2. Mark Hitchcock said on 23rd May 2009, 18:09

    That was a very scary accident. But it’s reassuring to know that the crash fence did it’s job and no-one was hurt (at least I assume no-one was hurt).

    That camera man probably needed a new pair of pants though!

  3. Mark Hitchcock said on 23rd May 2009, 18:25

    here’s a better video of the crash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RTmAvmKqpU

  4. Brawn said on 23rd May 2009, 18:27

    Along with Mark I also believed a driver can only make one defencive move.

  5. Chaz said on 23rd May 2009, 18:32

    Zuber was over exhuberant in defending his position. I thought he might even receive a penalty. It was a big crash but it must be said the marshalls at Monaco were excellent…

  6. Prateek said on 23rd May 2009, 18:38

    Reminds me of this incident from F3000 Japan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvyPzGMn-tU

    Honestly I can’t understand why an attempt to overtake was being made at this corner, considering there’s just one narrow line through it.

  7. Patrickl said on 23rd May 2009, 19:11

    I don’t really see the problem with the rules here. Grosjean simply should have braked harder. There is no way two cars could go side by side through that corner anyway.

    You are allowed to defend and then go back to the racing line. He did this in front of Grosjean, so there was nothing really inherently dangerous about it.

    If you want to talk dangerous then look at the stunt Piquet pulled on Hamilton at Barcelona. He pushed Hamilton off the track onto the grass.

    I think they should not allow drivers to make moves back to the racing line when another driver is NEXT to them.

    I see no problem in them taking back the line when the chasing driver is actually completely behind them and there is no possibility for two cars going through the corner anyway.

    BTW Didn’t think the crash was that “huge” either.

    • Apart from the safety concern, putting more restrictions on allowed defensive moves by the driver in front will also lead to more overtaking, as a faster driver stuck behind will have to worry less about being taken out.

  8. Tim said on 23rd May 2009, 19:25

    Tricky one. Romain Grosjean is very fast, but can be a bit of a thug. From the single angle on the video, it looks like he’s trying to bully Andi Zuber into making another mistake. Grosjean gets caught out when Zuber brakes earlier for the corner – unsurprising, given that Zuber is on a tighter line on turn in.

    The one move ok, two moves not rule is a good one and drivers shouldn’t be moving in the braking area. Had Zuber gone into the side of Grosjean then I’d say it was his (Zuber’s) fault. But Grosjean was behind Zuber and they appear to collide under braking. A mix of Zuber being a little cheeky in defending (he really didn’t need to make the second move to hold his place) and Grosjean pushing his luck in attacking (he should have better anticipated Zuber’s braking point). A racing incident.

  9. Paul Sainsbury said on 23rd May 2009, 20:28

    Zuber should be banned for life. Unbelievable.

  10. I read about the crash and had expected something major. This is a relatively simple crash, IMHO. I have to say, though, that the fences are rather low considering something similar happening at greater speed somewhere on the track. It looks like a car could clear the fences.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th May 2009, 9:56

      It looks like a car could clear the fences.

      I’ve just watched the Porsche Supercup race and a similar thought occurred to me – particularly at Casino where there’s no retaining fence in front of an exposed lamp post.

  11. Lee said on 23rd May 2009, 21:22

    I think looking at that it was just a racing incident. Zuber probably defended a little too hard, but he was obviously coming back to the outside so he could get a better line for the corner. Grosjean would’ve misjudged that Zuber was going to brake earlier, or maybe he missed his own brake point, difficult to tell with the video. In my view it’s just a racing incident.

  12. Damon said on 23rd May 2009, 22:23

    But questions must be asked of the lengths drivers are allowed to go to defend their positions.

    NO.
    Stop, please, just stop right there.

    It was a normal race accident (!).
    And Zuber couldn’t keep totaly to the inside when entering the corner because he was way too fast and would crash in that corner otherwise.

  13. theRoswellite said on 23rd May 2009, 22:48

    The problem with this accident is the regulations which govern a leading cars permissible maneuvers.

    Keith is exactly right to point out a serious problem in the present “rules of the road”, as it were.

    The present situation is really more than a bit baffy, and shows how the rules can be incrementally altered to fit the changing “reality” of current practice, and eventually end up legitimizing the worst kind of driving.

    This issue really makes my blood boil, and has for years; let me see if I can keep this as cognitive as possible.

    Three points:

    1) “Defending your line”, in the present context, is nothing more than blocking. Which is fine if the driver chooses a given line going into the corner…AND HOLDS IT. Allowing cars to swerve around in the braking zone, or anywhere else, with the sole intention of forcing the following car to stay out of the “danger zone”…that being any area alongside the leading car, turns F1 into bumper cars writ large. (Oh, and don’t suggest that you can’t enforce a rule as simple as…”any maneuvering purposely designed to prevent a car from being passed, AND which puts the following car at risk, will be defined as ‘unsafe driving’, and will be penalized accordingly.”)

    2) The sport is going to extremes to promote passing while allowing this kind of blocking. Does anyone think that this rule interpretation does anything but restrict close racing? If you feel drivers “must have the right to defend their position”, my question would be…by what means? Let them defend their position by going faster, or if passed, by re-passing, but in a reasonably safe manner.

    3) And safety is the real problem here. If Grosjean’s car inverts and slides along the barrier, he stands a good chance of serious injury or death. If the car goes end-over-end and clears a barrier separating the track from officials or spectators, you have the worst outcome possible. No one expects F1 to completely eliminate risk, for the drivers or even the spectators; what we all have a right to expect is that the rules don’t CONTRIBUTE to, or bring about, an unsafe situation.

    (I’ll turn the soapbox over to someone else!)

  14. Patrickl said on 24th May 2009, 0:05

    Seriously, the problem is not when drivers rear end each other. That’s just a matter of the guy in the back breaking too late.

    The problem is when they push each other off when they are side by side through a corner.

    Just look at last season for a few incidents: Raikkonen pushing Hamilton off at Spa, Kubica pushing Raikkonen off at Fuji, Massa running into several people where the others get the blame.

    Drivers don’t have decency anymore to let each other live when they are being overtaken. They simply take the line because they know it won’t get punished even if there is a car on that line right next to them already.

  15. Greg Beckett said on 24th May 2009, 0:24

    I don’t think, apart from the cameraman, this was that large a crash. I do think it raises questions though… if we place this in the harbour tunnel, at the speeds they do there, it could have been catastrophic.

    It’d take a lot for someone to be seriously injured in an F1 crash that didn’t involve any other cars – the main danger now is going airborne off another (Viso, Kubica) or being hit by another (Zinardi). So its right to review whether a driver should be able to defend his move or not.

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