Grosjean on cusp of GP2 title – and F1 comeback?

GP2

Romain Grosjean, GP2, Nurburgring, 2011

Grosjean has won five times in GP2 this year

Romain Grosjean can claim the GP2 championship in next weekend’s two races supporting the Belgian Grand Prix.

Grosjean heads into the weekend knowing he only needs to maintain the gap over his pursuers to claim the title.

And it could pave the way to a return to F1 – in a more long-term capacity than his brief stint with Renault at the end of 2009.

Grosjean began the season with an emphatic win from pole position in Turkey. But it’s not been plain sailing for him since then.

He was stripped of fourth place in Spain after failing a ride height test, and battled from last on the grid to ninth in the sprint race.

After a chaotic qualifying session at Monaco he started last again, before impressively hauling his car from 26th to fourth via an inspired strategy.

He was back on the top step of the podium in Valencia but in the sprint race he collided with Sam Bird and Davide Valsecchi on the first lap and crashed out. But since that setback he’s finished every race in the top four.

Winning the championship would give him a strong claim to a place at F1 in 2012. Only once in the six-year history of GP2 has its champion failed to find a seat in F1 the next year.

Grosjean’s close ties with Renault team principal Eric Boullier could help him avoid the fate of Giorgio Pantano.

On paper both of the team’s seats for next year are occupied by Vitaly Petrov and the injured Robert Kubica.

But the situation regarding Kubica’s seat is far less clear. Doubts remain over when and if he will be able to return. He is due to undergo a further operation later this month, which may shed light on the situation.

Last month Boullier sang Grosjean’s praises, saying he “has the potential to be one of the big boys” and is “much more mature than two years ago” when he made his first seven starts in F1.

In Hungary, Renault gave Bruno Senna a run in the first practice session in place of Nick Heidfeld to assess his pace.

If they’re seriously considering Grosjean for a place in the team next year they may do the same for him after the GP2 season finishes at Monza – as happened with fellow Gravity Sports Management member Jerome d’Ambrosio at Virgin last year.

What about Bianchi?

Jules Bianchi, Christian Vietoris, GP2, Silverstone, 2011

Bianchi held Vietoris back in a gripping battle at Silverstone

The anticipated battle between Grosjean and Ferrari development driver Jules Bianchi has largely failed to materialise.

There were signs of it in Turkey where the pair clashed on-track. At the Nurburgring Grosjean pressured Bianchi into a crucial mistake on the penultimate lap and stole victory off him.

But other than that Bianchi has often failed to figure in the battle at the front, and usually through his own doing.

He lost his pole position in Spain after being found to have ignored yellow flags during his lap. He collided with Giedo van der Garde on the run to turn one in the sprint race, putting him out.

Astonishingly he hit the same driver again in the next race at Monaco, though Bianchi’s defence his car had developed an hydraulic problem at the time.

Another first-corner crash, this time with Marcus Ericsson, ruined his weekend in Valencia, though he recovered from 24th to seventh in the sprint race.

At Silverstone we finally saw a race and result worthy of his obvious talent. Bianchi took victory after a thrilling scrap with Christian Vietoris which ranks as one of the most exciting races I’ve seen all year.

But it didn’t proved the turning point in his season it should have. After a lacklustre weekend in Hungary Bianchi lies fourth in the drivers’ standings with less than half Grosjean’s points tally.

He retains a mathematical, though wholly unrealistic, chance of winning the championship.

Second place is conceivably within his reach and it’s worth bearing in mind that every GP2 runner-up has gone on to compete in Formula 1. But it’s not the performance or result that was expected from him at the start of the season.

Do you think Grosjean or Bianchi deserve a place in F1 next year? What about the likes of Giedo van der Gade, Sam Bird or Davide Valsecchi? Have your say in the comments.

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65 comments on Grosjean on cusp of GP2 title – and F1 comeback?

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  1. Grosjean is a very good driver who definitely deserves another chance to show what he can do in F1.

    • UKfanatic (@) said on 20th August 2011, 15:19

      I started really noticing Grosjean last year on FIA GT1 wsc, really out drove his Ford then he made some single seater races and now in gp2, I think he is worth it.

  2. I think Grosjean should have a place in F1 next season, but with the driver situation at Renault, I don’t think he’ll be racing with them. Renault are keen to get Kubica racing again soon, if he can’t race then I think they will either stick with Heidfeld or race Senna.

    Renault should consider possibly paying a smaller team to race Grosjean. It wouldn’t make his return easy, but he will gain valuable racing experience. Doing that will also show Renault whether Grosjean really is Formula One material.

    • James said on 19th August 2011, 17:09

      I’m sure this is an option that Renault would love to implore, but they really dont have a lot of cash and I doubt they would be able to afford to do this.

      • Besides, is there any space left at the back of the grid?

        Sauber are keeping their 2 drivers.

        Williams are pretty much sorted.

        Toro Rosso are pretty much sorted.

        Lotus are pretty much solid for 2012, plus I doubt LRGP would let them be the ones to test their new driver :p

        Virgin might ditch d’Ambrosio, Glock is confirmed to stay.

        HRT might be the only option. I expect Liuzzi to stay and Ricciardo to have moved on (probably back to being a Toro Rosso reserve driver). Narain’s spot is pretty much available.

        • BasCB said on 19th August 2011, 20:55

          Did you hear the few snippets about Bianchi possibly getting a chance at Williams?

          I am pretty sure Renault / GenII could try to get Grosjean into the equation at Lotus or possibly Williams as well, with an option of him getting into their own team if Kubica does not recover enough. And as you said HRT will surely be able to find a space for any driver bringing their budget along.

    • snowman said on 20th August 2011, 0:18

      With Renault saying in public they are disappointed with Heidfield I think there is zero chance he will be there next year.

      Rumours say they are one of the most stuck for cash teams on the grid if not the most stuck so if that is true paying any other team would be extremely unlikely.

      • James said on 20th August 2011, 23:27

        A shame, as Heidfield has been thrust into a team he knows little about, in a car that has been built to suit another driver.

        I really feel for Nick. In another life, I’m sure he could have been a world champion, perhaps more than that, but he just hasnt had the path laid out for him as other champions have. He’s quick, his previous outings have shown that, he’s just been expected to hit the ground running given his previous GP experience. Many drivers have done that in the past, but few have managed a win or perhaps a podium at a new team.

        Experience only gets a person so far. It’s translatable to road cars. Driving a Peugoet 206 is nothing like a Ford Fiesta! I had spent six months learning to drive a 206 only for it to break down two days before my driving test. Thankfully my Mum let me use her car for my actual test. I failed the test with three minors and a major. The major being the fault of another. But the car itself felt completely different. The examiner said that he was impressed at the little experience I had in the Fiesta. Anyhow. I’m not sure if that proves my point or not… So yeah.. =D

  3. Hairs (@hairs) said on 19th August 2011, 16:44

    Heidfeld is more at risk than Petrov but it’s true that Kubica is better than anyone else renault can get. Roman didn’t adapt to F1 last time and I don’t see anything changing that. There’s none of the spark of potential improvement that you see with the hulk or petrov.

    • it’s true that Kubica is better than anyone else renault can get

      Sadly, that might not be the case any more. We have to wait and see until he comes back.

      • Mike said on 20th August 2011, 3:38

        It’s an unfortunate reality, his injuries were severe. I hope too much pressure isn’t put onto him.

    • snowman said on 20th August 2011, 0:25

      If Barrichelo kept the hulk honest what would Alonso have done to him?

      As for Roman I think he deserves the chance but agree to some extent. Any driver who is going to be something special usually shines from the start.

  4. Alfie (@alfie) said on 19th August 2011, 16:47

    Vitaly Petrov and the Vitaly atrov …

    Typo?

  5. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 19th August 2011, 16:47

    I think Grosjean does deserve a chance, though I’m cautious about how good he is. He could turn out to be another driver who just can’t make that final step, or it could be that it really was the situation he was thrust into that made him look poor.

    I don’t think Bianchi has a place in F1 yet, he needs to become more consistent. Bird and van der Garde should also take another year, or perhaps switch to WSR to learn a bit more about the technical side of things.

  6. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 19th August 2011, 16:52

    Grosjean definitely deserves another shot. His handful of appearances for Renault didn’t show him to his best potential – he’s been quick whatever he’s jumped in over the last few years (GP2, FIA GT1, Auto GP) and even Alonso said that Romain did a decent job in 2009 considering the tough circumstances.

    As for Bianchi, I’m not sure. I like the guy and really want him to do well, but coming to the end of his second season in GP2 I expected him to figure at the front more often. He’s clearly a very talented guy – enough so for Ferrari to throw their weight behind him – but he doesn’t seem to be able to bring everything together consistently enough.

    Then again, Kobayashi hardly set GP2 alight and he’s doing alright for himself…

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 19th August 2011, 19:45

      Grosjean definitely deserves another shot. His handful of appearances for Renault didn’t show him to his best potential – he’s been quick whatever he’s jumped in over the last few years (GP2, FIA GT1, Auto GP) and even Alonso said that Romain did a decent job in 2009 considering the tough circumstances.

      Couldn’t agree anymore. With the exception of Hamilton, every teammate of Alonso has been convincingly crushed, but that doesn’t make them poor drivers who don’t belong in the sport.

      We cannot judge Grosjean by his mid season entrance in a rubbish R29. Hopefully, he should get a fair shot soon, and I’m really hoping he replaces Petrov at Renault.

      • Mike said on 20th August 2011, 3:40

        I’m not a Petrov fan… But kick him out just as he is starting to get things together?

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 20th August 2011, 7:09

          I think Petrov’s performances are hard to gauge. Nick hasn’t looked too impressive this season, and I could go as far as saying it is his poorest season in F1 so far. Yet he leads Petrov by a couple of points.

          I think Vitaly is driving significantly better than last season, but to be honest, that isn’t saying much. As this season has progressed, Vitaly hasn’t been improving steadily either. Rookies such as Kobayashi and Hulkenberg looked far more impressive last year, and Perez and DiResta have shown their potential straight away. Vitaly just hasn’t shown enough in one and half seasons in the sport.

  7. TED BELL said on 19th August 2011, 16:53

    Sure he didn’t make it last long enough to make his mark. I believe he IS ready this time. He is the only GP2 driver who has won on a regular basis and if there is an opening with any team he must now assume the role of the best of the next generation to step up to the plate. Petrov became much better in his second year and it appears that RG is ready to do the same. Position at Renault seems unlikely if Kubica returns. Those two will really help the team rise if the car is good beneath them.
    So why not take a chance on RG?? Might be a smart move.

    • BasCB said on 20th August 2011, 11:05

      You just get this sense of purpose with Grosjean in GP2 this year. As if he knows he what he is doing and just exectues it.

  8. TheVillainF1 (@thevillainf1) said on 19th August 2011, 16:53

    Grosjean has way more experience than most, if not all, his GP2 competitors, anything else but winning GP2 would have been an embarrassment for him. That said, he has done what was expected from him, nothing more, but also nothing less and therefore probably deserves another shot. Being paired against Petrov is also quite more enticing than having to face Alonso as a teammate.
    Bianchi has raw pace but suffers from Lewis Hamiltonitis: too many crashes, too many over-optimistic moves. His fight with Vietoris was fun to watch but he was lucky Vietoris raced so fairly, had Vietoris had the same attitude as Bianchi it would have ended in tears, I found Bianchi’s moves there very borderline. He needs to step up next year in GP2, hasn’t shown he’s ready for F1 yet.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 19th August 2011, 17:20

      In order of their current position in GP2, the number of starts of each driver:

      1st- 54 (Grosjean)
      2nd- 54
      3rd- 33
      4th- 33
      5th- 33
      6th- 68
      7th- 103
      8th- 53
      9th- 34
      10th- 17

      And he has only actually completed 1 full season. To be fair to Grosjean, a lot of people have dismissed him quite recently as he’s ‘only beating a bunch of rookies.’ Only one driver inside the top 10 is a rookie. Some of his competitors have had the benefit of been on their 3rd complete season in succession- it must be a bit more difficult have jumped in and out of cars for the previous 2 years.

      Yes he is facing drivers who lack approximately 1 less years worth of experience, but that shouldn’t take anything away from his performance, and if he wins the series he fully deserves another go at F1.

      • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 20th August 2011, 13:59

        Sadly the quality of the opposition is poor, demonstrated by the fact that Giedo van der Garde is second in GP2 this year. I’d be tempted to suggest that none of the non-rookies in GP2 should be considered for a F1 drive. The only person I’d consider for such a promotion out of this year’s lot is Stefano Coletti, who’s 10th in his rookie season and easily beating his much more experienced team-mate.

        It’s one of those misfortunes that maybe WSR is providing a higher quality of competition this year, and certainly the PĂ©rez-Maldonado-d’Ambrosio trio that had helped strengthen GP2 last year have since graduated to F1.

  9. matt90 (@matt90) said on 19th August 2011, 17:02

    Everybody- probably including myself- was overly harsh on Grosjean in 09. In the Renault team it appeared that the second driver in the team really was treated as a second driver, and comparing them to Alonso seems unfair (if Piquet’s summary of the situation is to be believed, and I reckon it is- the Singapore crash may not prove him to be reliable, but it does prove that his results were seen as completely negligible compared to Alonso).

    Since 09 he has proved himself once again. It is not that often that a driver apparently fails and then is capable of showing themselves worthy once again to finally earn back their place, and I hope Grosjean becomes one of these few.

  10. TimG (@timg) said on 19th August 2011, 17:05

    Romain Grosjean deserves another crack at F1 in 2012, whether at Renault or elsewhere.

    The speed has always been there but, until recently, the track manners and the focus has been lacking. Grosjean may have done himself few favours in his first stint in F1, but seven races up against Fernando Alonso, with zero testing and driving what was effectively a shed on wheels does not a fair chance make.

    The likes of Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov hardly distinguished themselves in their first seven starts either.

    • Well some drivers have adapted to Formula One much quicker in similar circumstances including Alguersuari and Kobayashi. If Grosjean gets another chance, he has to show that he has improved dramatically since last time.

      • Kobayashi had testing and Jaime wasn’t that great until he’d had about a year in F1 and it’s still not clear whether he’s good enough to hang onto his seat. Although both were thrown into F1 in a very similar fashion to Romain the situation at Renault was hoorendous as they had the whole Crashgate mess and Bob Bell taking over.

  11. Grosjean didn’t make his mark the first time round in F1 in 2009 when he entered mid-season with no testing and couldn’t show what he could do. Why would he consider doing exactly the same thing with Renault this season, unless he had a 2012 contract already in place?

  12. I definitely hope Grosjean comes back to F1 and gets another crack. I think when he was in F1 I wasn’t that impressed, he didn’t show enough talent to stay and he was dropped into the Renault seat mid season and completely unprepared and I stand by all of that. He was always good in GP2 but since he’s left F1 he’s just had this momentum and he’s gone on from strength to strength. Whether his F1 stint gave him vital experience, made him more determined or he’s the same and I’m just noticing him more now I don’t know but he looks very promising.

    I love Bianchi but he’s driving me mental. He’s clearly quick when he wants to be and I adore watching him as I feel he’s a real racer but he has been completely-and there’s no other word for it- thick a lot of the time this year. If he started in the pits and out of the way of all the other cars he’d probably finish in a good position just because it would mean he’d be out of trouble’s way at the start which is just bonkers. I hope he gets a good GP2 season next year and eventually a crack at F1 but more than anything I hope he settles down just a bit.

    • BasCB said on 20th August 2011, 11:44

      I think Grosjean learnt a lot from that episode next to Alonso and then being out in the bush for 1.5 years. Now he looks much more purposefull and determined, so I think that shows he is ready.

      And that is exactly what I feel is still missing with Bianchi. He is a great talent, but …

      Actually for me it feels right, that GP2 is only won after a few seasons. Maybe it was a bit of an anomaly with Nico 2x, Lewis, and Glock all winning first time out, as there had been a lack of new F1 entrants a while before them, so it got them in immediately (and they had testing).

      The same is true for F1 now, almost everyone needs 6-9 races just to get what it is about and the first year is about learning how to approach the whole weekend for results.

  13. Fixy (@fixy) said on 19th August 2011, 18:07

    Davide Valsecchi had a great start to his season, winning in Monaco and beating consistently fellow Lotus-tester and team mate Luiz Razia, in qualifying and races, but since then he’s fallen in the midfield and Razia has had the upper hand. Going on like this, if Lotus was to choose one of the two for a seat in 2012, it would be Razia.

    • PortuGoose said on 19th August 2011, 22:11

      Plus, Razia seems to have more money than Valsecchi. I just hope Razia gets the seat over Chandhok or any other “rising Asian star”.

      • BasCB said on 20th August 2011, 11:49

        I think they might stick with Trulli another year, but maybe get Chandhok a few more drives and give either Razia or Valsecchi some outings during the year for 2013.
        This will be because they still have to do mechanical development to get their package working reliably. I would expect them to target getting points in a few races by being just about fast enough and not dropping out for 2012

        I cannot imagine them running Chandhok for more than the odd publicity thing. Possibly getting him on board for a long term role either at building up a caterham India racing series or just PR work for the team. Really like the guy, and he did quite a job at HRT to even go out and drive, but he is no future race winner or even podium contestant.

  14. George (@george) said on 19th August 2011, 18:10

    I didn’t think Grosjean did too badly in his first run, my presiding memory is of him overtaking someone at Interlagos.

    Last time I watched GP2 (back in ’08) Grosjean did strike me as having a bit of a wild streak, very fast but killed his tyres and went wide a lot. Then again I was more of a di Grassi fan so I enjoyed watching him mess up :).

    This wildness seemed to have been cut out when he was in GT1, it was like watching a different person driving, very mature. Then he went back to GP2 and I saw that Monaco qualifying and it was like he’d gone right back to square one.

    So now I have no idea if he should be in F1 next year or not, he is always good for a chuckle with that giraffe neck though, so that’s one plus point…

    • Gwenouille said on 19th August 2011, 22:49

      lol, very true !
      Do they have to adapt the HANS device for him ?

      Serioulsy, I’d be glad to see him in F1. At Renault.

  15. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 19th August 2011, 22:00

    As Kobayashi, Maldonado and Petrov can attest to, success (or lack thereof) in GP2 means NOTHING in the big time. Having said that, I think that Grosjean deserves another shot. He’s the only GP2 driver who looks ready to step into F1, and he wasn’t exactly driving the best car on the grid in 09. Anyone who is rated by Alonso is worth looking at.

    If he gets the chance at Renault, he will have to perform instantly before Kubica returns. A pressure-free place lower on the grid would maybe be better for him.

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