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Grosjean: 'Nutcase' days over

2013-10-14 09:44


NO MORE NUTCASE: Lotus driver Romain Grosjean has improved his bad reputation of 2012 significantly after finishing third at the 2013 Japanese GP on Sunday, Oct 13. Image: AFP

SUZUKA, Japan - Romain Grosjean, now no longer the 'first-lap nutcase' of 2012,  was dreaming of his first Formula 1 victory at the 2013 Japanese GP on Sunday before Red Bull provided an unwelcome wake-up call.

The Frenchman made a storming start for Lotus from fourth on the grid to seize the lead and stay in front for half the race before Red Bull's strategy put 2012 champion and series leader Sebastian Vettel in the driving seat.


Even then second place might have been Grosjean's consolation had he not been held up by back-markers and then overtaken on the penultimate lap by Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber on fresher tyres. Grosjean, a GP2 champion who has a chequered past, told reporters after appearing on the Suzuka podium:

"I thought it was the day the first victory was coming. I said 'our car is beautiful today, it's going to be good...'"

The Frenchman's 2012 season was littered with first-corner crashes, including one that brought him a race ban for the 2012 Italian GP, but Sunday's start showed how much progress he has made.

Grosjean said: "When I dropped the clutch I said 'Whoah, that's a good one, come on, come on go for it'. Amazing. Then when you're leading it makes the thing easier on the first stint. We were very quick on the option (tyre).

"I think it would have been nice with Mark until the end of the race but we caught some slower cars, lapped cars, and they really blocked me a lot. I lost the position against Mark. I don't know if I could have held him until the end."

The race was a marked contrast to the 2012 race at Suzuka after which a furious Webber branded Grosjean a "first-lap nutcase" and berated him after they collided in the opening seconds. Webber was on the front row in 2012 as well, alongside Vettel, but his hopes were wrecked by the Frenchman. The crash left him fighting back to ninth.


Aussie Webber, leaving F1 at the end of the 2013  season for a new career in sports cars with Porsche, was far more complimentary on Sunday about his old sparring partner. "I think it's very clear that Romain has a very different mental approach to the job at the moment," he said.

"He's driven some quite strong races, putting together the whole weekend which is a sign of a driver starting to get a bit more relaxed and confident. A lot fewer mistakes, not just in races but in practice. You know, we're not here to blow smoke up his arse but in the end he's doing a very good job this year and it's a big step for him... I hope he doesn't improve too much more before the end of the year."

Sunday's third place was Grosjean's fourth podium finish of the 2013 season and his second in a row after being overshadowed for most of the year by team mate and 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 F1 season – fresh reports every day.

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