Whether it is their forgiving nature or a case of gross misjudgement I don’t know, but Lotus have astonishingly handed their controversial driver Romain Grosjean another chance.
The Franco-Swiss misfit infamously involved in, and the cause of, a spate of scary race incidents last season, will be retained alongside Kimi Raikkonen in their line-up for the 2013 campaign.
And I would wager the decision will have puzzled those endangered by him when he goes to work on the track as much as it has me.
One victim was Mark Webber, whose Red Bull was carelessly rammed in the rear by Grosjean and dumped out of the race on the opening lap in Japan. “A nutcase,” was the Australian veteran’s scathing verdict. “A first-lap nutcase.”
Fernando Alonso’s reaction was kept to himself after he was fortunate to escape without injury when Grosjean’s Lotus flew over his Ferrari, narrowly missing his head, in a chaotic first-corner pile-up caused by him in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The FIA, the sport’s rule makers, imposed a ban for the first time since they penalised Michael Schumacher in 1994, hitting him with a rare one-race exclusion for his dangerous clumsiness. Did it teach him? Apparently not.
In a spectacular season of non-stop thrills and captivating action, much of the talk in the paddock team motorhomes revolved around the Lotus bad boy, the centrepiece of some nine collisions in 16 races, most of them on lap one.
It was evident the 26-year-old was incapable of striking a balance between good sense and over-zealous aggression and we may only wonder what must have been going on in the concerned minds of the Lotus backroom boys in the privacy of their get-togethers.
I am told that in the winter lay-off there have been extended discussions among the Lotus hierarchy on whether or not to give Grosjean a last chance.
His natural ability is without question — but it has been undermined by his wild and abjectly careless daredevilry.
That, yet again, was graphically illustrated by his ill-judged and unnecessary overtake and running into the back of Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT in qualifying for the last race in Brazil.
Red Bull team leader Christian Horner was moved to comment: “He needs to look at himself. Or the team needs to talk to him. How many times can you make the same error? It is embarrassing for him at this level.”
Ironically he was a marginally more adept qualifier than former champion Raikkonen (10-9), but come race day he was lunacy personified.
Lotus owner Gerard Lopez and team boss Eric Boullier, who doubles as Grosjean’s manager and takes a share of his wages, had a series of heart-to-hearts with him and opted to take a chance and keep him — with a warning to curb his waywaredness.
Only time will tell if he has heeded the message and the fervent hopes of his threatened rivals.
— The writer is a motorsport expert based in the UK.