Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2018

How criticism from rivals led F1’s “first lap nutcase” to reform

2018 F1 season

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Romain Grosjean has described how criticism from other drivers early in his career motivated him to tone down his aggressive moves.

The Haas driver was banned from a race in 2012 after triggering a multi-car crash at the Belgian Grand Prix that year. However it is his subsequent crash later that year, when he hit Mark Webber at the start in Japan, which he considers his worst error.

“In Spa you could always argue that Lewis [Hamilton] had another 50 centimetres to move to the right,” said Grosjean in Baku this year. “My biggest mistake was not Spa Francorchamps, it was Japan where I hit Mark in turn one.”

Grosjean’s ill-judged move at turn two knocked Webber out of third place. “I was very angry with myself,” Grosjean admitted. Not quite as angry as Webber, who memorably branded the Lotus driver a “first-lap nutcase.”

“He would have punched me that day and I would have said nothing, he was in the right to do it. I was well aware I had fucked up, I made a massive mistake. He came and [all I could do was] tell him I’m sorry. You know, I felt terrible.”

This encounter proved to be a turning point for Grosjean, who moderated his aggressiveness at the next race in Korea. That, of course, allowed his rivals to take advantage.

“At the start I lost like three positions because everyone knew I was in that dangerous position and I was trying to stay out of trouble.” Grosjean said it took him until the start of 2013 to be able to “attack again and become more normal.”

Grosjean admitted he was driving in the knowledge that the other drivers around him had publicly criticised his performance.

“The worst [thing] is having criticism from the other drivers you’re racing against.

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“The media, the fans always are going to find something – they are going to like you or dislike you whatever you do. It is what it is. When it comes from other drivers it’s harder because you compete against them and we do a dangerous game. It’s quite hard to come on the grid knowing they are going to criticise me.”

Start, Suzuka, 2012
Suzuka 2012: Grosjean’s “biggest mistake”
Grosjean’s error in Spain, where he lost control of his car at the start and spun into the path of his rivals, was a worrying sign of a potential ‘relapse’. But he’s not the driver who has attracted the most attention for his moves this year.

Max Verstappen has received similar criticism for a series of incidents, some of which involved other drivers including Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull driver has brushed off calls for him to change his approach.

Grosjean says warnings from other drivers should not necessarily be taken as political moves or mind games. “I don’t think that’s the primary thinking. I think sometimes we just express what we’re feeling rather than thinking politically.”

However he admitted that a refusal to publicly admit mistakes or reveal weaknesses is a trait some of F1’s most successful drivers have shared. Drivers likes Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna “would probably say [they did nothing wrong] in the first place,” said Grosjean, “but they would probably try to learn as well.”

“My philosophy is to improve something, first you need to accept you’ve done something wrong and acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong to be able to move on and try and find solutions.”

“We are all different and I’m not afraid to say I made a mistake. It happens, we are not robots so we all do mistakes at different levels.

“In some work you can do some mistake and no one will ever see it. But obviously [for us] it’s on TV so a lot of people see it.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Chris Turner
Being pelted by rain on his first visit to an F1 race at the 1998 British Grand Prix wasn't enough to dim Chris's passion...

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  • 34 comments on “How criticism from rivals led F1’s “first lap nutcase” to reform”

    1. aggressive moves.

      I always dislike the use of that word. Many drivers are aggressive, Hamilton for example is quite aggressive at times too, but he has the absolute talent to make those moves work. It seems that was lacking a bit with Grosjean. I prefer to use hopeless moves, or as Montoya said it so eloquently, ‘ran out of talent’.

      Nobody is worried about an aggressive driver that makes mistakes if he also manages to pull the move more often than crashing. If the only thing you do is crashing, yes, then you must tone down (e.g. Maldonado).

      Verstappen has also been branded as ‘aggressive’, and for him that is correct. He has the talent to be aggressive and went perhaps a step too far. But I support him in saying he shouldn’t change all too much, for he has the talent to drive that way, he just has to refrain from hopeless moves.

      That being said, Grosjean to me seems like the driver the most out of place at this moment in time, that’s besides the obvious pay drivers at the far back of course.

      1. Well said “hopeless moves”. I would add unnecessary moves. Best example was Verstappen’s attack on Lewis in China, on the outside of turn 7, when Max didn’t have the patience to wait for the long straight and finish the pass there. Instead, he lost out places to his teammate, which only made him more impatient. But i guess that will change when he gets more experience under his belt.

        1. I hope VER won’t change. Your example is exactly the wrong one in my opinion. Make it stick and we see a second Blanchimont (Spa 2015) move. This is exactly what we need after years and years and years of either the pole sitter disappearing into the distance or processional DRS moves. Yes, what you get are also the mistakes now and then, but I strongly recommend enjoying his breath of fresh air. The VET and HAM generation have been the dullest since decades.

    2. pastaman (@)
      20th June 2018, 12:21

      Are journalists still asking him about this? Will he ever live it down?

      1. Hmm. I’d love to know the circumstance and date of this interview as well. Was this immediately after Spain, perhaps?
        I’m also slightly concerned about the editorial versus comment standards we are seeing here. In the fifth paragraph there is a grossly offensive word, reportedly spoken by Grosjean. If anyone was to repeat this word in a comment, it would be referred to the moderators and not published.

      2. @pastaman …and Grosjean still trying to pin it on Lewis!

        You can always argue, if everyone else had moved out of the way the crash wouldn’t have happened. Grosjean would obviously have won the race…

        1. @pastaman Well, it seems like he’s reverting to his old self. So the questions come back too. And with Verstappen stubbornly stating he won’t change his ways (when in fact he clearly does though) als makes sense to draw comparisons.

          @psynrg Yeah seriously, he basically slammed into the side of Hamilton and then ran over his front wheel. It’s like people blaming Verstappen for that Singapore incident last year. It’s bizarre how some drivers think that since they are in the lead on a straight they can do whatever the want with a car next to them. They just should disappear.

          Still I guess for Grossjean it feels more his fault when he hit Webber since he ran into the back of Webber.

      3. @pastaman if he hadn’t divebombed into a pack of oncoming cars recently or stuffed his car into a wall at cruising speed then yes, he might have done eventually.

    3. Great. Now go tell Verstappen.

      1. So he can get on Grosjeans level of performance?

        1. @mayrton He’s far more talented than Grosjean ever was.

    4. In that Suzuka race I thought Ericcson crashed into Grosjean which pushed Grosjean into Weber.

      1. Ericsson was underperforming in GP2 back then. There was no way for him to interfere with Grosjean.

        1. nase have you ever heard of sarcasm?

          1. Not when it comes to trashtalking Ericsson

          2. Ah, so it was that stupid Baku story he was referring to. Missed the sarcasm, assumed stupidity at the wrong level. My bad.

    5. I think both Spa and Japan were equally as bad, and Spa infinitely more dangerous as they were approaching La Source which meant T-boning was a possibility.

      In Spa you could always argue that Lewis [Hamilton] had another 50 centimetres to move to the right

      They were approaching a hairpin, you can’t be fully on the right hand side of the track into La Source. I would have thought he would have more regrets about Spa as he basically nearly took Alonso’s head off, but there you go I have no idea what goes through Grosjean’s mind!

      1. @john-h
        It’s the same old story of cause vs. effect. On that basis, I completely agree with his assessment of both incidents: His mistake in Spa was a relatively small one, we’ve seen hundreds like that. And Hamilton did indeed contribute to the accident, if not in a way that would warrant a penalty. It’s the chain reaction that ensued that had everyone freaking out and calling for Grosjean to be publicly executed. But I never subscribed to the sentiment that a driver has to be held responsible for all the consequences of his mistake, no matter how unpredictable they are.
        The incident at Suzuka, however, was 100% Grosjean’s fault and 100% avoidable. The ensuing accident was 100% the consequence of his mistake and not the freakish consequence of uncontrollable circumstances that might have been entirely different on a different day.

        1. Good point well made. A part of me still believes that heading to La Source one should be a little more careful than most places with regards making large changes of direction (you can pretty much predict the dire consequences of doing that), but I do understand your point.

        2. How on earth did Hamilton “contribute to” the accident? He was just driving straight ahead (moved to the right as far as he reasonably could be expected even), but Grossjean suddenly veered to the right and ran over Hamilton’s front wheel.

          You might as well blame Webber for not going too fast through that corner so that Grossjean rear-ended him.

          Perhaps in the same vain you are implying that Hamilton should have had a better start so Grossjean wasn’t able to run over his front wheel?

    6. Somehow Grosjean always seems to make things worse after speaking. He actually seems like a nice bloke, but there is something chronically annoying about him. Am it the only one that feels that way? It’s a bit of the playing innocent, while denying mistakes, while seemingly learning nothing from them. I can’t believe he again, after all these years, suggested that the Spa accident was not entirely his fault. He seriously suggested that Lewis could have moved 50 cm to the right.

      I am not sure if there is a correlation between being an arrogant prick and success. It’s true that some of the greatest drivers had some of that, but I tend to disagree that the arrogance was a strength. I’d argue that such arrogance is one of the reasons why Lewis, Alonso, Senna, and Schumacher don’t all have at least one more WDC to their name. I think we all know why.

    7. That was my first overseas race in Suzuka 2012 when Romain took out Webber, whom I was a big fan. We sat next to a young Japanese guy who had a portable TV and I thought it was Webber taken out so I was asking him, maybe a little animated and loud “WHAT JUST HAPPENED !! WHO WAS THAT??” Poor young bloke, maybe early 20’s, looked at me as if I was going to beat him, until my wife pointed out he didn’t understand English – oops!! “yes -Webber out”. I bought him a beer or three and we enjoyed the rest of the race talking VERY broken language (F1 does that- brings people together).

      Pretty open dialogue from Romain there, pretty hard for top sportspeople to do really as its shows weakness (well back in the old days). I though Steiner was ready to sack him for next year but he is showing some more support now. I never say a driver ‘deserves’ and win or a Drivers Title, so I will say I hope Groesjan does ‘sneak’ a win before he finishes.

    8. I can’t find a video of the GRO/WEB crash anywhere.

      1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaQjRB5ZUos

        Go to 1:53 or just watch the whole damn pathetic display in full.

        1. (copied from my misplaced comment below)

          It has to be said that this video is pretty rubbish (it’s the same I found as well): I’d say between half and a third of the crashes didn’t even involve Grosjean, as the editor of the video liberally included footage of Maldonado’s or Räikkönen’s various misadventures.

          However, this doesn’t make the Suzuka accident any less bad.

    9. Strange timing for this as sofar this season he is being a nutcase again. Costing his team points and not at all on par with his team mate. Wouldn’t be surprised if he has no seat next year.

    10. It has to be said that this video is pretty rubbish (it’s the same I found as well): I’d say between half and a third of the crashes didn’t even involve Grosjean, as the editor of the video liberally included footage of Maldonado’s or Räikkönen’s various misadventures.

      However, this doesn’t make the Suzuka accident any less bad.

      1. damn it, wrong button …

    11. When I read the headline at first I thought Grosjean was explaining why he has become a first lap nutcase again

      1. @strontium Yes I also read the headline as “How criticism from rivals lead F1’s ‘first lap nutcase’ to relapse

    12. Talking about it as if it’s over. The guy is still a mess. And to make it worse, he is one of the biggest complainers about other drivers on the radio.

      I would fire him over twitter.

    13. Funny to see him change when his teammate (MAG) is getting stronger – he just can’t stand the pressure any longer… its allmost a copy of the GUT and GRO relation 2 years ago.. then GUT was the big looser..

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