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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014
Why it is right to punish Romain Grosjean
Joe Saward
September 05, 2012
First Published: 00:07 IST(5/9/2012)
Last Updated: 00:10 IST(5/9/2012)
Romain Grosjean (black car) caused a massive collision at the start of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix that took out Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Getty Images

Romain Grosjean has been banned from racing at the Italian Grand Prix, his punishment for causing the first corner accident at Spa. The Frenchman is young and is a man under pressure. His first foray into Formula 1 in 2009, at the age of 23, was a disaster. He fought back and returned this year, older and wiser, but under pressure to perform, if only from within.

He knows that he will not get a third chance. They may have had the same thing when they were younger but the top men today are a fairly relaxed bunch, there are no fewer than six of them who have won World Championships and so they have nothing to prove to anyone. Thus there is pressure on the next generation of rising stars.

By imposing such a ban the stewards are hoping that Grosjean will have time to reflect on his driving and understand that he needs to back off, just a little.

The hope is that he will calm down a little, learn from his mistake and will become a little more mature. It has been 18 years since an F1 driver received a race ban, so for a lot of fans this is something new, but some great names suffered similar punishments in the past. The last driver banned was actually Mika Hakkinen, who was not allowed to race in Hungary in 1994, after casing a first corner accident in Hockenheim.

Precedents
The last driver to SERVE a ban was not Hakkinen, but rather Michael Schumacher, who was banned after ignoring black flags at Silverstone that same year. His team fought the ban and it ended up that he did not miss races until after the Court of Appeal had heard the case, so he missed the Italian and Portuguese Grands Prix. 

I remember at the time that there was some incredulity at the ban and this is what I wrote: "I believe that F1 people no longer treat death with the respect it deserves. No-one has been killed driving in a Grand Prix since 1982 - 12 years.

This is testament to the wonderful safety of today's machinery, but it means that there is complacency." I will always remember talking to the late Denny Hulme on the subject of F1 safety.

'We didn't know any better in the old days,' Denny said. 'Now we've got the most incredibly hygienic circuits you have ever seen. Some people criticize them. They say it's terribly boring motor racing. Yes, compared to the old Nürburgring it is. But it's better than going to a funeral every Tuesday morning'.

"The younger generations of drivers - the men racing in F1 today - have grown up in relatively safe racing and their respect for the dangers is not the same as their predecessors. They have not been to any Tuesday funerals."

No getting away
It is 18 years since there was a fatality in a F1 race and there is a worry that some of the younger generations of racing drivers think that you can get away with anything in an F1 car. This is a point that was made on Sunday night at Spa by Fernando Alonso.

"I think that certain drivers should try and take fewer risks at the start," he said. "It's a bit of a tendency currently in the junior formulae, but it would be better, if right from the start of their career, they got used to respecting more strictly the rules relating to behaviour on track."

I agree with that. I don't want to be going to funerals on Tuesdays.

The writer has covered every grand prix for the last 25 years


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