Motorsports mondial

Fresh Romain

Grosjean graduates to Grand Prix racing – again

Romain Grosjean, banker by trade during the week in Geneva and a fabulous race car driver on weekends, will enjoy a rare commodity in the top tier of motor racing next season – second chance.

The winner of 2011 GP2 Championship will be teammate at Lotus, the Danny Bahar brigade, to the second coming of Kimi Raikkonen in Formula 1.

Making room for Grosjean is Vitaly Petrov. The Russian raced for the Enstone, UK-based team for the past two seasons. He was never going to match Robert Kubica in his rookie season last year, but Petrov started the 2011 season on a historic high; becoming the first Russian to be on the podium in F1 racing in the season opener in Australia.

Like Raikkonen, Grosjean has ‘been there’ but unlike the “Ice Cream Man” has ‘not done that.’

His first foray in F1 melted away soon after the ‘Crash-gate’ fiasco of 2008 became public knowledge. Grosjean got his big break after Nelsinho was given his walking papers during the 2009 season, and it was this decision that came back to haunt the man who controlled the racing destinies of these two young men; Flavio Briatore.

Smoke & Mirror. Success in every championship brought Grosjean under the wings of Flavio Briatore and into the Renault Driver Development Program. The party was over when Briatore was pushed out of Renault F1 Team following the Singapore nightmare brought on by the driver Grosjean had replaced, Nelsinho Piquet. The rest, including Briatore and Pat Symonds, is now history.

Grosjean made his Grand Prix debut in the streets of Valencia as teammate to local hombre Fernando Alonso, qualifying 14th and finishing on the lead lap in 15th position.

Driving an uncompetitive car in a supporting role to the team’s love child did not help his cause. Nor did his performance in the remaining six races of the season.

Grosjean failed to qualify ahead of Alonso in every event and failed to score a single point. His best qualifying performance was at Monza where he qualified 12th while his teammate qualified 8th and went on to claim a top five finish.

Briatore’s exit from Renault F1 Team, along with trusted old faithful, Pat Symonds, in September ’09 sealed Grosjean’s fate in Formula 1. Like other drivers employed by the team, Grosjean was also under Briatore’s management, and his services were no longer required once the season was over.

In 2010, Grosjean grabbed any and all opportunities he could get to showcase his racing skills. He was racing and winning in different categories.

He won the Auto GP Championship and was a race winner in the FIA GT Championship. Now part of Gravity Management, Grosjean was also called upon to replace Jerome D’Ambrosio in a few races in last year’s GP2 Championship. The now ex-Virgin Belgian driver is also managed by the same Luxembourg-based company which is owned by Genii Capital.

This season, at the ripe old age of 24, Grosjean was given one last chance as lead driver with DAMS team to shine in GP2. Going against a host of talented and experienced GP2 drivers, the grid was one of the strongest ever. It included second year drivers like Ferrari reserve driver Jules Bianchi, race winners like Sam Bird, Marcus Ericsson and Fabio Leimer; to rookie and Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez.

Grosjean started the season in style by winning the opening race in Istanbul. His second win came where had made his F1 debut in 2009, Valencia.

Victory in Sunday’s sprint race at Silverstone was his next triumph.

Another Sunday sprint victory was achieved at the Nurburgring. Third successive winning weekend was experienced at the Hungaroring, where Grosjean won the feature race on Saturday over fellow French driver who has now also graduated to F1, Charles Pic.

Grosjean won the championship with 89 points, a healthy lead over Luca Filippi who was second with 54 points, just one ahead of third place Jules Bianchi.

Reunited and feels so good

Grosjean will start the 2012 season as one of two French drivers on the grid. But life in the F1 lane may not be all peaches and herbs despite his familiarity with Pirelli rubber. Having made his F1 debut with Fernando Alonso he now will find another world champion as teammate, Kimi Raikkonen. The advantage will be the lack of media attention – as Nico Rosberg found out last year – and pressure allowing time to learn the ropes and fly below the radar.

Once shot down, driver must make it happen second time around in F1.

Bernie Vision does not offer triple play.

 

— Nasir Hameed

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