Romain Grosjean, Haas, Albert Park, 2020

2020 F1 driver rankings #17: Romain Grosjean

2020 F1 season review

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The most positive thing about Romain Grosjean’s final season in Formula 1 was that he was able to walk away from it following the most horrifying crash in recent memory.

Regrettably, the burns he sustained in his huge Bahrain shunt prevented him participating in what should have been his last two races for the team. But when you consider how much more serious they might easily have been, this pales in significance.

Until the contact with Daniil Kvyat which triggered his appalling first-lap crash in Bahrain it had been another very trying season for the veteran racer. Grosjean has toiled away in a succession of increasingly uncompetitive Haas cars in recent seasons, and for him and team mate Kevin Magnussen, 2020 was a continuation of this.

The financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was serious for Haas. As a result the VF-20 had little development all year – it was plagued by persistently overheating rear suspension – and both Grosjean and Magnussen were shown the door in favour of drivers whose presence brings commercial benefits for the team.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Nurburgring, 2020
Grosjean scored his only points of 2020 in Germany
The car was rarely quick enough to stand a chance of finishing in the top 10. Grosjean narrowly out-scored Magnussen by two to one, but both drivers were at the mercy of where others finished when it came to collecting points. A more representative benchmark of Grosjean’s performance is that he only finished ahead of his team mate on two of the seven occasions where both saw the chequered flag.

That was in contrast to their performances in qualifying. As usual Grosjean’s one-lap pace was strong, but this advantage over Magnussen diminished as the season went on. In the races, the number 20 Haas was usually the one to bet on, if Magnussen did not encounter some kind of misfortune.

For both drivers, the season was a case of making the most of what chances came their way. Both retired with braking problems in the season-opener, and a week later Grosjean was unable to set a qualifying time with what the team blamed on a faulty water pump.

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So when Haas made an inspired gambled on a pre-race switch to slick tyres in Hungary, it was down to the drivers to make the best of the opportunity. Magnussen and Grosjean briefly ran as high as third and fourth, but while Grosjean slipped to 15th, Magnussen came in ninth, before both collected time penalties on a technicality.

Romain Grosjean

Beat team mate in qualifying 7/14
Beat team mate in race 2/7
Races finished 12/15
Laps spent ahead of team mate 270/610
Qualifying margin -0.02s
Points 2

That might have been their only points score of the season, but for a stand-out performance by Grosjean at the Nurburgring. Despite emerging last from a rough first lap (and in some pain after being hit by gravel) Grosjean successfully ran a long stint on hard tyres to bag Haas’s best finish of the season with ninth place. His next-best result was 12th place which he scored twice, including at Mugello where he persevered in a car which carried heavy damage from the first lap.

The season obviously ended on a low. Grosjean was taken out at Istanbul by Latifi, in what proved to be his penultimate start. His role in the Bahrain crash can’t be overlooked: Of course he didn’t deserve such a terrifying outcome, but it’s only fair to note that Kvyat was blameless in the incident, which was not the first such first-lap misjudgement on Grosjean’s part.

But let’s not labour this point, particularly as almost 50 days later his burns are still healing. What matters is Grosjean survived and can hopefully look forward to a post-F1 career in a more competitive car which will allow him to demonstrate more of the potential we saw earlier in his career.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “2020 F1 driver rankings #17: Romain Grosjean”

  1. Romain who? check the reference

  2. Grosjean had a surprisingly quiet season till the shocking crash he had at Bahrain. Both Haas drivers took advantage of any opportunity they had and Grosjean drove a solid race at Nurburgring.

    I think Keith summed it up quite well in the last paragraph. We all feel glad from the fact that Grosjean survived this horrific crash. Personally, this crash made me sick, during the live coverage, and i can’t recall having that experience in the years i watch the sport…

    1. The first few laps after the race restarted were the least I have ever enjoyed a Grand Prix. There was a thrilling battle involving Leclerc, Ocon and someone else, which I normally would’ve loved, but after the crash it suddenly looked really dangerous. I particularly disliked every time they went past the corner of Grosjean’s horrific crash. This only lasted around ten laps, but it was a very strange feeling.

      1. @f1frog Same, I didn’t enjoy the rest of the race and i really didn’t enjoy watching Kimi spinning at the same place in the Outer race. Thankfully he had a small spin and nothing more.

        That feeling was really really weird and i hope we don’t experience it anymore

        Ps: Today there was an F4 race at Dubai and a crash happened where the car was torn in half and caught a small fire again…

  3. Interestingly, the biggest part of this driver review is about the car.
    Maybe that’s appropriate as if the car would’ve been any better I guess that Grosjean’s year would have been rated harsher. At least Vettel and Albon showed more (if it were proper English I’d say ‘less fewer’) exciting actions than Grosjean.

    1. You highlight a good point, which is maybe next year Racefans should precede their drivers’ rankings with a ranking of the cars, e.g. 1, Mercedes; 2, McLaren; 3, Red Bull; …. 9, Haas; 10, Williams.
      Overall this ranking doesn’t really surprise me, although being ahead of Alex Albon does.

      1. I know you just made an example, but I don’t see how mclaren could be rated ahead of red bull on performance and rankings show performance, shouldn’t take into account expectations, and as you can see all others are right. In that case there’d be quite a battle between mclaren and force india again.

  4. Personally, I think that Romain Grosjean is one of the most underrated drivers of all time. He has caused a few too many crashes over the years, but I think that it is mainly the first half of 2018 that has damaged his reputation so badly. Looking back through the years (I am not including 2009, because I only started watching F1 in 2011):

    2012 – Grosjean was involved in a lot of first lap crashes, and was banned for a race after the crash in Belgium. However, apart from the ban, he was only given one other penalty that year (I think it was Japan), so many of the crashes were considered racing incidents. On pure pace, he was faster than Raikkonen in 2012, but it was the incidents that caused such a large gap in the points. Kimi was also faster in the races.
    2013 – In the first half of the year, Grosjean was strangely much slower than Raikkonen, although he seemed to have eliminated the problem with incidents until the Monaco GP, where he crashed into the back of Ricciardo and his seat seemed at risk. However, this all changed after the German GP, and in the second half of the year he was arguably the best driver on the grid, apart from Vettel. He was particularly impressive with 3rd in Japan, after leading for a long time; 3rd in India, from 17th on the grid; and 2nd in USA, holding off Webber’s far superior Red Bull. At this point, he was a better driver than Raikkonen and seemed like a future champion.
    2014 – Lotus became much slower, but Grosjean still did a good job. His 5th on the grid in Spain was outstanding, considering he was in the 8th fastest car that year. He was mostly unnoticed that year, although he did comfortably beat Maldonado.
    2015 – With a Mercedes engine, the Lotus improved, but was still in the midfield. Grosjean put in some impressive drives, none more so than a podium in Spa, and was definitely one of the top seven or eight drivers in Formula 1 at this point. There was one very silly incident with Will Stevens in Canada, but this was not typical for Grosjean at the time.
    2016 – Grosjean started his Haas career with two brilliant drives to sixth and fifth in Australia and Bahrain, but the Haas was uncompetitive after that and Grosjean didn’t have a great season. He was comfortably ahead of Gutierrez, though, and I don’t think he was involved in any crashes.
    2017 – Grosjean had another quiet season, with some very impressive drives, such as Austria, but was generally quite anonymous in the midfield. In the first season of the long-standing pairing of Grosjean and Magnussen, Grosjean was clearly the better driver, although not by much.
    2018 – I think this is the season that ruined Grosjean’s reputation. The first half of the season was extremely poor, as he had silly crashes in Spain and Azerbaijan, while Magnussen was driving extremely well. He was the better of the Haas drivers in the second half of the season, but I think his career is largely remembered for this very bad spell in 2018, and is the main reason why he has gained a reputation as a frequent crasher.
    2019 – The Haas was a terrible car this year. Grosjean and Magnussen were very evenly matched, in my opinion, although Magnussen just about had the edge. His only crash was in Singapore with Russell, although this was mainly Grosjean’s fault.
    2020 – Again, the Haas was a terrible car, and the drivers were very evenly matched. Magnussen again was slightly better than Grosjean, although Grosjean had some very good drives, such as Nurburgring. The crash that ended his career was definitely Grosjean’s fault, but it was his only one of the year, I think.
    Grosjean’s career has always had the odd silly crash, but apart from the first half of 2018, he has been a very good driver. As the Haas drivers have been teammates for so long, and the car is so uncompetitive, it is very hard to rate Grosjean this year, but generally I agree with this placing in 17th. I just think it is unfair that he is thought of as a terrible driver throughout his career by many fans.

    1. I agree, when Grosjean was given the equipment he did well and the fact he has ten podiums to his name despite never having driven for a race winning team speaks volumes. He was certainly prone to crashes and sometimes came across on the radio as a bit whiny (although FOM did also pick on him) but I think he should definitely be remembered as one of the good guys. It’s a shame he had such a poor car for the last two years.

      1. I disagree with what you said about grosjean never having a race winning team, as far as I know the lotus was a race winning team by definition, ofc it can’t be expected from a normal rookie to get a win, but still you can’t call it a non-race winning team.

    2. @f1frog I disagree with this. Grosjean’s whole reputation sits on a stretch of five races in 2013 when he was amazing. But apart from that let’s see: Contrary to what you said in 2012 he wasn’t on pure pace faster than Kimi, it was a draw in qualy and then Kimi was usually faster in races. in 2013 he was much slower than Kimi if you take the whole season into account. in 2014-16 he had weak team-mates and beat them. And against Magnussen he was usually a bit faster in qualy but a bit slower in the races.

      So what does the above tell us? IMO, it tells us that RG was fairly rated. neither underrated, nor overrated. Meaning he’s a quick driver that was on the grid on merit but lacked that special something, probably in the head department, to move up to WDC level. To conclude with my first point again, I don’t know who was thinking at the end of 2013 that he was a future WDC, but I certainly wasn’t one of them. In nearly 30 years of following F1 I’d seen many perfectly average F1 drivers hit a purple patch for a few races when everything just clicks. It usually doesn’t last, with the odd rare exception. And so it proved with RG

    3. Solid post @f1frog, though in the end I’d say Grosjean had great talent, but not enough consistency to drill out the mistakes which hampered him in getting the results he might have had (somewhat taken from what people who were at Lotus in 2013 said about him). He could have been a great, but didn’t manage to get all out of it that could have been.

  5. petebaldwin (@)
    14th January 2021, 14:15

    I feel like if he was in a faster car but put the exact same level of performance in, he’d have finished considerably higher in the rankings. I wouldn’t put Grosjean in the top 10 but I can think of several drivers who were comprehensively beaten by their teammates who I’d put below Grosjean.

    1. Yep @petebaldwin, RoGro and KMag were pretty much on a par in very poor machinery. Expected the former to be slightly better in qualifying and then the latter to gain places on the first lap to set up their finishing positions. If they were doing this in Mercedes cars then you might call them Bottas and Hamilton, and rank them whereever RaceFans is going to rank them (probably Bottas in top 10 and Hamilton 1st or 2nd).
      In terms of driver rankings based on relative performance to their teammates, I’d have both of them somewhere around the midpoint, with drivers who were totally outclassed by their teammates down the bottom, e.g.

      20 Albon (never performed better than teammate)
      19 Vettel (occasional outperformed teammate)
      18 Ocon (one or two glimmers of hope but nothing major)
      17 Latifi (hopeless in qualifying, did relatively a bit better in races)
      16 Bottas (not too bad in qualifying, but when ahead always expected teammate would get past)
      15 Kvyat (unfortunate at Monza and results got better towards the end of the year, alas too little too late)
      ——————- 14 to 7 no clear order but would probably have the following drivers edging their teammates: ———————
      14 Stroll (great start to year, results got worse but rarely driver’s fault)
      13 Grosjean (not quite as good in the races, particularly 1st lap)
      12 Giovinazzi (better in qualifying but need a replacement driver at Spa)
      11 Norris (nothing in it)
      10 Sainz
      9 Raikkonen
      8 Magnussen
      7 Perez
      6 Gasly
      5 Hamilton
      4 Russell
      3 Ricciardo
      2 Leclerc
      1 Verstappen

      Not sure that this is a true driver ranking as it favours drivers with weak teammates, however I think that just about everyone would have the same top 6 (perhaps 7) drivers in their ranking lists. But when you look at what happened when drivers such as Russell or Hulkenberg got in certain machinery you realise how much the car influences your perception of driver performance, so perhaps this is a fairer, more objective list.

      1. Yes, it’s probably fairer, at least I believe your top 4 could take the fight to hamilton into the same car, hamilton only has the advantages of experience at this point, with verstappen having less, leclerc less, russel even less; ricciardo is probably not as talented (soundly beaten by verstappen on performance after verstappen got used to the red bull car), so I’d have to bet against him beating hamilton, but certainly would get him on mercedes rather than anyone else I haven’t mentioned on the grid.

  6. Devil’s advocate: Magnussen and Grosjean were the two best drivers on the grid. The only reason we couldn’t tell is because they were evenly matched in a terrible car. Probably not true, but honestly, how would we know?

    1. Because the best outperform their car and the other driver. See Leclerc in a Sauber. Usually get this question from non petrolheads. Bit surprised to see it on here.

      1. @tonymansell I think you’ve missed the point. @aesto ‘s point was that if they were the two best drivers on the grid then they would both have got the most out of the car but we might never know because the best from that car was so poor. Also, you can’t outperform the car – F1 drivers are good but the laws of physics are better.

  7. I always thought that Coulthard and Webber on the C4 UK TV coverage were very unfair to Grosjean. Revelling in his errors

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      14th January 2021, 18:45

      I think exactly the same. And you can always tell that webber hates admitting when Grosjean is doing a decent job, like in Germany. He also didn’t seem that impressed by grosjean’s determination to drive out the gravel and have a very solid driver after that in Tuscany. That IMO was quite possibly Grosjean’s best race of the season. After the being hit by a car then hitting the barrier that hard and managing not to beach himself, he managed to join a side road and still continue. Was last by then, but then had a very solid race given his seriously damaged car.

      You may not agree with his comments regarding “the worst thing I’ve seen ever” when there was that chaotic restart, but he was one of the very limited drivers at the back of the grid that were cleared of potentially dangerous actions at the restart. Later on, he had a brilliant restart and overtook several cars that were far quicker than him and ran in the points for a bit. And although he had a tyre advantage compared to the others, I still think that without damage he could well have just about managed to hold on to a points finish. This race showed his determination to continue despite damage. But I don’t think this race was very well remembered as he finished last in the end.

    2. @alloythere c4 wouldn’t have been unfair if there were no mistakes to revel upon.

      2019 ferrari with a 2020 pu is the worst of both worlds, maybe Romain and Mag did ok.

      1. Silly I know but the thing that jumped out at me the most was that both Haas cars only reached the finish 7 times out of 15 events RG and KM raced together. I see that more of a reflection on the car rather than the drivers however, that level of unreliability is like the 90s.

        1. True, although I don’t remember if they were mostly mechanics problems, but if they really missed finishing so many races through unreliability that’s terrible for nowadays’ standards.

          1. @esploratore From memory I don’t remember a huge number of race ending incidents that were driver error on their part. Therefore I presumed mechanical issues. If they were RG/KM errors instead then that isn’t good enough.

            It was meant be be a whimsical observation rather than deep analysis anyway.

  8. Grosjean certainly deserves his share of criticism, but it is the ‘revelling’ that I take exception to. A bullying attitude. Very unhelpful to drivers whose confidence may have been knocked.

    Ultimately however, Grosjean was fast at times, but inconsistent.

  9. 2020 Grosjean v 2020 Stroll in equal machinery. Who would u put your money on to a) qualify ahead more, and b) score more points ?

    1. I think stroll improved in qualifying, used to be terrible in that sense early on his career, so I think I’d see them evenly matched in qualifying and more points for stroll, also keep in mind I consider stroll a decent midfielder, so some people may favour grosjean more.

    2. Grosjean and Grosjean. If there car is there Romain is rapid.

  10. Romain tried to let himself go in Bahrain…

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