Lotus' Grosjean banned, fined
THE CAUSE OF IT ALL: Lotus driver Romain Grosjean has been blamed for causing the spectacular crash at the start of the Belgian F1 GP. He will have to sit out the next race (at Monza) and pay a fine.
Author: Gordon Howard
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium - Frenchman Romain Grosjean has been banned from the upcoming Italian F1 GP and fined €50 000 (about a half-million rands) for causing the first corner crash that turned into a multi-car pile-up on lap one of Sunday's 2012 Belgian F1 GP.
After a thrilling race marred by the wild driving of both Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado the latter was also punished for his part in the chaos by being given a 10-place grid penalty for the September 9 2012 Italian GP at Monza.
JUMPED START, THEN CRASHED
Maldonado (Williams) jumped the start then later crashed into Marussia's Timo Glock but it was the 26-year-old Lotus driver Grosjean who triggered the chain of collisions that ended his race as well as that of World championship-leading Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Sauber's Sergio Perez.
Grosjean moved to the right at the start of the race than, after his aggressive change of direction, his and Hamilton's tyres connected as the field drove into the perilous Eau Rouge curve. Hamilton couldn't avoid collecting Alonso and the two Saubers. Perez's Sauber team mate Kamui Kobayashi had a slow start from second on the grid and his race was almost wrecked by the crash but he survived the worst of the carnage to continue and finish 13th.
It was a day when the Swiss team's best hopes after their best-yet qualifying session on Saturday turned into a nightmare.
Grosjean said he was not sure who caused the accident. Speaking during the race, he said: "I had a very good start and then boom - it was the end of the race."
A stewards' investigation blamed Grosjean and issued the race ban and heavy fine. He'll now miss the Italian GP. The stewards said: "The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race."
Lotus and Grosjean did not contest the verdict. "The stewards note the team conceded the action of the driver was an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgement," it said. "Neither the team nor the driver made any submission in mitigation of penalty."
Lotus has former Virgin driver Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio as a reserve.
Kobayashi, who started the race with hopes of a podium finish, said it was terrible to have had his race wrecked at the opening corner. "This is a terrible race result after doing so well in qualifying. There was nothing I could do when a car came flying into mine at the start.
"I had to pit once for some repairs and then again after seven laps because of a slow puncture. During the race I didn't really know how bad the damage to the car was but I could see a tyre print on the cockpit all the time."
In a separate announcement the stewards confirmed that pastor Maldonado would be demoted 10 places from his qualifying slot at the Italian GP; he already had a three-slot penalty at Spa for blocking Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying.
He made a premature start before being tagged into a spin as the crash involving Grosjean, Hamilton, Alonso and the Saubers unfolded. He rejoined, only to collide with Timo Glock's Marussia at the restart, ending his own race.
Glock was able to continue but the stewards ruled that Maldonado's driving deserved a five-place penalty. They also handed him an additional five-place drop as he was unable to take a drive-through penalty for a jump-start in the race due to his early retirement.
"The driver failed to finish the race so the usual penalty for a false start could not be imposed," an official statement said.
Maldonado said: "I made a slight mistake at the start because the clutch slipped out of my hands before the red light switched off."