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Romain Grosjean woes

Once again the Frenchman has all eyes on him after his accident in Monaco, which two straight unfinished races.
Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30th, 2013 (F1plus/G. Keilloh).- During the Monaco weekend Perez had ample opportunity to witness some grim vision of his (possible) future self. This was in the form of Romain Grosjean. Given his well-documented problems in his accident prone 2012 season (mentioned above) there was some doubt as to whether Lotus would retain him in a race seat for this year. It did in the end, but it came with a strong whiff of him being on a final warning.

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In 2013 however, aside from a good third place in Bahrain, he hardly can be said to be making good on his last chance. For one thing, perhaps in a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in trying to mend his ways, or else as a result of lost confidence, the pace of before seems diminished: he's rarely got near Kimi Raikkonen there. And in Monaco he was back to being his old self in terms of failing to stay out of trouble - having three prangs in practice (which oh-so nearly meant that he had to sit out qualifying) before driving into the back of Daniel Ricciardo in the race, which for all of Grosjean's protestations looked like a major error of judgement.

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I've always sought to defend Romain Grosjean, partly because I think in F1 the timespan offered (both by those within the sport and among those judging from outside) for drivers to get it right is way too narrow. But in Grosjean's case it is also the case that his transition into a very good F1 driver has seemed tantalisingly close at various points; indeed we briefly saw it in Monaco qualifying wherein his immediate pace after joining Q1 with minutes to spare was impressive. The speed is there - indeed there have been times he's even left Kimi Raikkonen behind. If only he could iron out the propensity for accidents, and do so while retaining his laptimes, we'd have something very worthy.

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But the problem is that in F1 patience is a limited commodity, no one will wait forever for him to get it right, and even now Grosjean's had more chances than most drivers get. And a further problem for him is that there has been little sign of improvement over time. On the contrary, it appears if anything that the more mistakes he makes - and by extension that more criticism he gets - the greater his edginess and subsequent tendency to err while behind the wheel. Many of the flaws, such as his apparent problems with peripheral vision, appear by now to be fundamental. And given all of this it's reaching the point that you begin to doubt if he'll ever mend his ways.

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By now you'd think that surely Grosjean is hanging to his F1 career by his fingernails. But while some, including Sky commentators, were talking openly about his being replaced imminently, I would not necessarily count those chickens. Mainly because in this age of the testing ban it is so difficult for drivers coming in mid season to get up to speed, something we've seen demonstrated repeatedly. Some, such as Kamui Kobayashi, immediately got on the pace, but they are very much the exception.

Further, the Lotus team has shown no great enthusiasm to give its reserve drivers much track time, seen in it hauling Grosjean back halfway across Europe when Kimi got ill in pre-season testing rather than run Davide Valsecchi. Therefore I expect Grosjean to see out the season. But without a quick transformation he won't be in F1 next year.

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