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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 13) - Replacement racer - Grosjean takes a one-race ban after causing a pile-up at the Belgian GP

Published by Christine

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Hello and welcome along, you’re listening to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012 and this is the thirteenth episode of our extended mini series. We’re picking out the key moments of the season just gone to find out what made it good, bad and everything in between. This episode is Day Thirteen - Replacement racer.

The first lap crash at the Belgian Grand Prix was blamed squarely on Romain Grosjean. The Lotus driver cut in front of Lewis Hamilton, causing a chain reaction that knocked four drivers out in the first corner.

Grosjean moved across track, bumping his rear right wheel into Hamilton’s front left. Lewis speared off track and ended up behind Romain, the two drivers crushing forward into a fast-starting Sergio Pérez. Grosjean’s car was forced up into the air, spinning round and bouncing over the front of Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. All four drivers were forced to retire on Lap 1.

It was a terrifying accident, carbon fibre shredding all across the track, and more importantly, a near miss as the Lotus flew past Fernando Alonso’s head. The Ferrari driver spoke after the race saying: “I’m disappointed because of the points lost. But I’m also lucky that I can be in the car in five days at Monza, because looking at the image, we were turning in so you could have a problem with your hands or even your head because the Lotus was so close.”

He also added that he had a bit of back pain, so he had remained in the car for a few moments - although making a rapid exit once the marshals were forced to start extinguishing a small fire.

It wasn’t a shock to see Romain Grosjean given a penalty for causing the crash, although it was a surprise that it was a one-race ban, to be served at the next event in Italy. The stewards said they regarded the accident as a serious breach because it: “had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.”

The team did not dispute the penalty, and after initially saying he wasn’t sure who to blame, Romain Grosjean accepted responsibility and the subsequent ban. He said: “I did make a mistake and misjudged the gap with Lewis. I was sure I was in front of him. So, a small mistake made a big incident... I’m very, very sorry and I’m glad that nobody was hurt.”

It may be one of the hardest penalties for a driver to have to deal with, sitting on the sidelines while another driver takes your car and participates in the race in your place. Lotus soon announced that their reserve driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio would be sitting in, the Belgian driver having previously raced for the Marussia team back when they were Virgin Racing, and taken part in some testing with the Lotus team.

D’Ambrosio had a clean, if uninspiring race at Monza, with Grosjean watching on from the pit wall. Jérôme handed the car back at the next race in Singapore where it was up to Romain to prove his worth. The team had backed him all the way, saying he would learn from the ban and clean up his act. Part of the penalty had been the sheer number of early race accidents that Romain had been involved with, but as team boss Éric Boullier explained:

“He was not responsible for seven incidents. He was involved in seven incidents, which is different. But obviously being in the wrong place is not good, and that means we have to keep working and talking... He will learn even more if he does not put too much pressure on himself at the start of the race.”

Thankfully, at the Singapore Grand Prix Grosjean was not involved in a first lap accident and got to the end of the race without major incident. That wouldn’t be the case for the rest of the season, but it was a relief for the entire Lotus team when the first lap at the Marina Bay circuit went by without an accident.

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, thank you for listening as we worked our way through the worst of Grosjean’s troubles. There may be more coming up, you never know, the only way to find out is to tune in next time for another adventure!

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