For all the talk of tyres and drivers being forced to compete below their maximum potential it was refreshing that the Hungarian Grand Prix was a proper race in the classical sense; strategy and speed went hand in hand to produce a tense and exciting spectacle. But something came from the race, away from the headline of Lewis Hamilton winning for Mercedes, that didn’t go wholly unnoticed but was perhaps looked upon incorrectly:
Romain Grosjean has been chastised by fans, drivers, team owners and journalists alike for his notorious record of incidents and accidents, mostly on the opening lap of a Grand Prix. Following this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Grosjean has received yet more criticism but in the same race Romain demonstrated his ability to lap as quick, if not quicker, than any driver out there and proved to be one of the most exciting drivers to watch.
Grosjean’s apparent lack of spatial awareness saw him squeeze Jenson Button unfairly off the track and an appropriate penalty was awarded to Grosjean post-race. By attacking Button however, Romain demonstrated a trait that could one day see him reach the very pinnacle of the sport. It took reigning World Champion Sebastien Vettel 12-laps to clear the slower McLaren of Button and Grosjean knew that if he was to have a shot at his maiden Grand Prix victory he too had to clear the slower car…it took the Frenchman just two corners and if it wasn’t for the knock on the way, Grosjean’s end result could have been something special.
Grosjean is a fighter, not afraid to have a go at a risky overtake in the pursuit of glory – just look at the extraordinary move around the outside of Felipe Massa in Hungary – but his fighting ability needs a touch more finesse to avoid incident; this rough diamond needs polishing.
Or does it? Lets not forget that Ayrton Senna used to crash a fair bit too. The Brazilian ‘Demi-God’ used it to his advantage by relying on his reputation proceeding him and adopting an ‘I’m going to overtake, its up to you if we crash or not’ attitude. With the sight of the distinctive yellow helmet in their mirrors, competitors would jump out of the way through fear of a race-ending incident.
To compare Grosjean, the winless ‘first-lap nutcase’ – a nickname bestowed upon him by Mark Webber last year – to the triple world champion Senna is to perhaps commit motor racing blasphemy. Similarities do exist however and like Senna’s rivals, perhaps the likes of Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Sebastien Vettel will soon think twice before defending too vigorously against Grosjean; what is currently more of a hindrance, his recklessness could soon become his most reliable weapon. As Ayrton Senna famously said, “if you no longer go for a gap, you’re no longer a racing driver”. That’s just what Grosjean is doing; he’s racing.
After a rather dubious debut season in 2009 – zero points from seven race starts – as replacement for the ousted Nelson Piquet Junior, Grosjean’s return to Formula One has been far more promising. Putting the controversies to one side, the Franco-Swiss driver has undoubted talent and Lotus have a choice to make: either polish their rough diamond of a driver and risk a loss of natural speed, or allow Romain to be Romain, one of the fastest and most fearless drivers on the grid and trust that he will mature naturally while losing none of that impressive pace.
It’s the clashes and crashes that have put Romain’s 2014 seat with Lotus in jeopardy while his speed and raw talent may just be his saving grace. Whether Lotus choose to polish off the rough edges or whether his reputation as a ‘nutcase’ aids his cause, that first win is surely just around the corner.