How many first-lap crashes has Grosjean caused?

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Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012Stewart wonders if there’s been a loss of perspective in the debate over Romain Grosjean’s first-lap blunders:

Any chance of doing one of your reviews on all of Romain Grosjean’s first lap incidents and determining how many we’re his fault/racing incidents/not his fault?

There’s some mass hysteria flying around and I was wondering if perception has overtaken reality?

Grosjean leapt to notoriety after sparking a collision on the first lap of the Belgian Grand Prix which succeeding in wiping out himself along with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez, as well as spoiling Kamui Kobayashi’s race.

In the aftermath Alonso was the first person to put a figure on the damage Grosjean has caused. “It’s true that in twelve races Romain had seven crashes at the start,” said the Ferrari driver.

Last Sunday Grosjean added another to his first lap wreck count, clumsily bumping into Mark Webber on the first lap at Suzuka. This gave the impression that the necessary lessons hadn’t been learned and there were fresh calls for further bans. After all, he’s now been responsible for eight first-lap crashes.

Or has he? As Stewart suggests, let’s take a look at what happened in those eight races:

Race Rival/s Incident Consequences Penalty Notes
Australia Pastor Maldonado Grosjean clips Maldonado’s car while being overtaken on inside Grosjean retires Occurred on lap two
Malaysia Michael Schumacher Schumacher and Grosjean make contact as Schumacher attempts to pass on outside Schumacher and Grosjean delayed
Spain Sergio Perez Contact punctures Perez’s tyre Perez delayed
Monaco Michael Schumacher, Kamui Kobayashi Grosjean and Schumacher made contact, spinning Grosjean in front of oncoming cars Grosjean and Kobayashi retire Grosjean moved left to avoid Alonso on his right, who moved left
Britain Paul di Resta Contact punctures di Resta’s tyre Di Resta retires
Germany Felipe Massa Grosjean and Massa make contact Grosjean delayed Massa had slowed with front wing damage from an early collision
Belgium Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi Grosjean collides with Hamilton, the pair lose control and hit others Hamilton, Alonso, Perez and Grosjean retire, Kobayashi delayed and damaged One-race ban for Grosjean Grosjean and Lotus did not appeal against the ban
Japan Mark Webber Grosjean runs into Webber under braking Grosjean and Webber delayed Ten-second stop-go for Grosjean

How many of these collisions were Grosjean’s fault? The stewards did not punish him for any of these incidents until the crash at Spa. He was also penalised for the crash in Japan.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that he should only be blamed for those two collisions. It is clear from past precedent that stewards generally do not issue penalties for incidents where the instigator bears the brunt of the consequences.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Korea International Circuit, 2012However few of Grosjean’s incidents prior to Spa really compare with the seriousness of the mistake he made there. Most of them can be put down to the sort of contact which generally happens at the start of races, particularly in the midfield where Grosjean often finds himself.

The Monaco crash had most in common with the Spa collision, as it began when Grosjean moved into the path of another rival. But in mitigation, Grosjean was moving left to avoid Alonso.

As Alonso himself discovered in Suzuka, if you are between two cars and the one on the right moves towards you, it leaves you the choice of waiting to be hit or moving left and hoping the other driver gets out of the way.

Of the half-dozen incidents that occurred before Spa, it’s hard to make a case for Grosjean as the sole instigator of any of them. ‘Racing incident’ is the phrase I’d use to describe a lot of them. It’s a view which I think is supported by the absence of any punishments for the first six.

Grosjean said his Suzuka crash came about in part because he was trying to avoid tangling with Perez, who was on his left at the time. While this in no way excuses his mistake, it does show that Grosjean has taken the lesson from Spa onboard.

We should also question why the stewards, having declined to punish Grosjean for any of his previous incidents, went for the ‘nuclear’ option in response to the Spa crash. I find it troubling that the stewards’ decision specifically referred to the effect the crash had on the championship (emphasis added):

The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.

Clearly, all drivers should be considered equal in the stewards’ eyes. Incidents should not be punished a more severe way merely if they involve championship contenders. By imposing such a swingeing penalty on Grosjean the stewards appeared to be too concerned with the consequences of the collision rather than the nature of Grosjean’s misdemeanour.

After Suzuka, Grosjean knows his every twitch of the steering wheel will be scrutinised for wrongdoing. His rivals are aware of his record and how urgently he needs to avoid future incidents. He can expect rough treatment at the start on Sunday and for several more races to come.

In my view, there was little in Grosjean’s driving before Spa to suggest that such a major accident was around the corner. Some may find that a generous views. But either way, it is imperative he avoids further collisions with his rivals.

Particularly, it would seem, those in contention for the championship.

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69 comments on How many first-lap crashes has Grosjean caused?

  1. Dion (@infinitygc) said on 13th October 2012, 19:13

    I have an additional Question to all users: If Grosjean doesn’t cause incidents in the next 5 races, would you let him keep his seat, and if not, with whom would replace him?

    • Mads (@mads) said on 13th October 2012, 21:21

      @infinitygc
      Interesting thought.
      Personally I would definitely keep him in that case. He has, surprisingly often, shown speed which has left a world champion trailing in his wake. That said, qualifying was never really Kimi’s speciality and he has after all been away for some time. So I don’t think that he is the next big thing. I don’t think he is ‘that’ fast. Nor does he seem to learn and develop as a driver very well. Which is very important for a top driver.
      But compared to the midfield drivers, then I am quite sure that he is one of the quickest and if he can gain some consistency, then I am pretty sure that he could be a very strong card to have.
      If he on the other hand does have more accidents, then I think Kobayashi would be a good bet. He is good, and considering that McLaren think that Perez is suitable for what could be a championship contending car, then I think that Kobayashi would be able to bear the burden of a pretty fast Lotus.

  2. rudi (@rudi) said on 13th October 2012, 20:37

    Kimi, please have a word with RoGro and tell him how to avoid accidents. I want to see him in F1 next year too, and he, like many other drivers, could learn so much from you.

  3. I predicted Grosjean wiping out the front runners @ Suzuka, fortunately he only took out Webber. To be frank, I think this article is a bit soft on Grosjean. I agree they weren’t all his fault. However I’m not sure how you can defend Monaco, he moved *way* too much. Way more than just avoiding Alonso. You can’t do that on a small street circuit.

    I would say most of the accidents have involved him being too over eager at the start. Last weeks was the opposite, but he should have been aware of Webber infront of him.

  4. ogogogg said on 13th October 2012, 23:58

    You might call it a discussion raised by others but I call it a head hunt for those who spend to much time on the interweb and really should spend more time in the fresh air. Get a life…

  5. umar (@umarbaloch) said on 14th October 2012, 6:55

    Well forget about this and lets focus on the race

  6. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 14th October 2012, 12:14

    Great article @keithcollantine and it shares many of my views. At Spa he did deserve to be punished for that, it was just plain silly however I felt he got a rough deal in Japan. It was at most a racing incident and it has to be expected when 24 cars try to travel around one corner within 5s of each other. It was certainly no worse than the Alonso/Raikkonen incident.

    My fear is that this guy will not be allowed to make any mistakes from now on, which is impossible. He should perhaps cool his driving off a little fore the rest of the season, if only appease to the average fan and the media but next year I want to see him on a level playing field.

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