Spa, the aftermath. Discuss the weekend’s events here..

Today we want to talk about Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado and Sebastian Vettel. To be direct, the Sunday Afternoon Club doesn’t quite tally with the sentiment behind the penalties handed out to RoGros and the Monster from Maracay, but we’ll come to that.

Largely not part of the conversation yesterday — understandably — was the fact that Vettel has moved to within one win of Fernando Alonso. Eight races to go and what are you going to put your money on for the title? Alonso’s sublime talent, or Red Bull’s track record? Consider also that Red Bull have two cars in this, Ferrari only one.

Only last week, we were applauding Alonso and Ferrari’s ability to develop the car from a terrible starting point, but has that development now gone as far as it can? You can only polish something so much and, at the start of the second part of the season, the F2012 is slower than the McLaren, the Sauber, the Lotus and quite possibly the Williams. In the race, Red Bull is faster than you, Fernando.

Ferrari can no longer lean on Alonso alone to win another title, not with Vettel and Red Bull reeling them in. The Sunday Afternoon Club is wondering whether right now, avocati in Maranello are looking at driver’s contracts, both of its own Felipe Massa and those of other drivers currently employed elsewhere in F1. Stand by your phone Heikki, Paul, Sergio.

So, to those penalties. Though the Sunday Afternoon Club is, once again, impressed by the charm and grace with which Romain Grosjean has accepted his one-race ban, have the stewards got this one right?  It is Pastor Maldonado who needs a race away from track to think about his driving, not Grosjean?

Yes the Frenchman/Swiss (we’re still not sure) absolutely needs a good talking to, and the risks he’s taking explained. He did after all endanger the lives of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. But is Maldonado making the more reckless mistakes?

After the first of this weekend’s penalties — his three grid place demotion for blocking Nico Hulkenberg – was that lost third place on the grid front of Maldonado’s mind when he jumped the start? Maldonado’s arrival at Le Source, totally out of position, didn’t help the chaos at the first corner. Typically, he then went on to collide with Timo Glock, hence the double penalty; five for the jump, another five for the shunt.

Is Maldonado thinking he’s now wearing the same spurs as Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Raikkonen, Vettel and Schumacher (“I’ve won a race, so get out of my way. I’m coming through whether you like it or not”)? He’s fast alright, but this is only his second season. It is by comparison Grosjean’s first full season. Or maybe it’s just the sense of genuine wide-eyed wonder of the face of RoGros that’s got us charmed…

Thoughts below as usual. Still, what a race, and there’s no doubt the second half of the season could easily live up to the first. Onto Monza…

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I would like to see mclaren win, would be good for britan, but they need to improve.

Grosjean deserved a ban, has same problem as maldonaldo, both are far too aggressive.

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Grosjean doesn’t deserve a ban. A grid penalty will do. Look at Hamilton’s onboard view. There was a little bit of room to his right where Grosjean was trying to push him. Grosjean made a misjudgment-he moved over too far too soon. And Maldonado may not have jumped the start. It may have just been a really good start.

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@anonymous: look closer at the replays and you can see that grosjean ran hamilton out of room, clipped his tyre, and then got collected by the out of control hamiltons car, and then grosjeans flying car nearly hit alonso in the head. And if hamilton had driven onto the grass to avoid grosjean, he would have spun and taken out most of the field. As for maldonado, he did clearly jump the start, and he deserved a grid penalty. They both should stop before they kill someone.

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I’ll admit Lotus is my team of choice so I’m a little biased, but RoGro didn’t deserve that harsh of a penalty. The crash in turn one was absolutely his fault, but the ban was a knee-jerk reaction to the result of the accident. The FIA’s safety record doesn’t look too solid when you have airborne cars missing the championship leader’s head by a matter of feet.

Also, people act as if the fact that he’s been in a number of crashes this season is completely his fault. He was run over at turn one in Monaco. Some of his other crashes are escaping my memory, but they are not all his fault. Maldonado has been a much bigger problem. Just look at his crash on the penultimate lap at Valencia. In that case the stewards penalized the wrong guy. Maldonado ruined a solid points finish for both he and Hamilton by driving in too hard.

As for aggression, I think RoGro is held to a much tougher standard than the proven winners. I thought the move Kimi put on RoGro exiting the pits in Budapest was overly aggressive but he wasn’t penalized because it was his teammate. RoGro is easily the most talented driver of any of the first full-season rookies. Hell, he’s more talented than some of the guys that have been around a while like Rosberg. He’s been one of the most consistent qualifiers all season, he just hasn’t seen the results because of a series of unlucky crashes and mechanical failures.

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The penalty is too harsh for a racing incident. From what I could see from Grosjean onboard camera he was heading towards a gap on the inside of the corner. Like he said he thought he gotten past Hamilton. Hamiltons was charging for the same gap probably thinking that Grosjean was going to find a gap on the outside. Hamilton could have braked to let Grosjean through. And I am sure he would have if he realised they were both fighting for the same gap.

The problem with the penalty is that it is not uncommon for drivers to take each other out going into the first corner. It is not uncommon for drivers to force each other to either yield or go on to the grass. It is not uncommon for 3 or more cars to park in bits on the first corner. So the penalty can not be justified unless it was a deliberate act and I do not think that Grosjean sat down with his engineers working out how to cause a big accident that could seriously injured a fellow driver.

Interestingly, Red Bulls poor qualifying saved them from being taken out in the accident allowing them to finish well.

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@slappy: if you saw the replays, before the incident, grosjean was ahead of hamilton, and then he swerved to the right and clipped hamiltons tyre. Hamilton lost control, took out grosjean, eventually resulting in grosjean nearly hitting alonso in the head with his car. Would you like it if grosjeans car had hit alonso in the head, potentially injuring or killing him?

And lotus were previously renault, who have a history of causing deliberate accidents, but it wasn’t deliberate because grosjean was happy that no-one was hurt.

So he should’ve deserved a grid penalty, but the fia made their decision, and we respect that.

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@anonymous 2

Losing a driver to death or injury is never good. Grosjean does indeed move to the right after the gap on the inside opens up. Renault did indeed cause a deliberate crash to help Alonso win a race. Grosjean still has an outside chance at the championship and is eager to win a race before Kimi which he can not do if he deliberately crashes.

But you are missing the point. Giving a penalty to a racing incident is harsh because it is common for cars to come together at the start. The door is now open to start giving penalties for all incidents at the start. They will not have to be as bad as this one. Teams can now point at drivers that hit their drivers at the start and tell the stewards that they were trying to cause an accident. Drivers will start to worry about contact and we may end up seeing granny racing to the first corner. There will be more pressure to hand out penalties whenever there is a racing incident. Drivers will be less willing to overtake if there is a strong chance of incidental contact which may lead to a penalty. Where will it end. Are we going to see penalties for those that hit a wall, what about leaving debris on the track that may cause a puncture. Maybe a penalty for bringing out a safety car.

As consumers of the sport we want to see drivers aggressively going wheel to wheel. We want to see skilled drivers pushing the limits and the wreckage of the cars of those who pushed too far. To keep penalising drivers for driving how they are suppose to be driving kills the spirit of the sport.

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@slappy: yes, there have been first corner incidents, but not as dangerous as this.
And, to quote the fia on this accident, the incident had the potential to cause death or serious injury, something along those lines. But motorsport is about being safe and pushing man and machine to the limit. Last year, 2 drivers/riders died from serious injury due to crashes. Grosjean has been involved in seven first corner crashes. He should start thinking about others. And no, a penalty would not be given out for a safety car period, and many more of your ideas. And this crash took out two championship contenders, so their confidence would be shattered.

And we would not see the equivalent racing standard of 80 year olds to the first corner.

So, this ban is fair.

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First of all, I think that the Ferrari’s pace was possibly the second or third best this weekend and probably better than RBR’s as if Alonso hadn’t been taken out he could of got an easy second. Secondly, I do think that Grosjeans ban was fair.

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Finally, one person has commonsense.

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Well, maldonado’s jump was an accident, he said. Will Buxton on SPEED reported that maldonado claimed that his hand slipped off the clutch and he took off. Steve Manchett and David Hobbs came to the conclusion however, that he was actually not jumping the start, because the lights went out just before he shot out of his grid spot. Maldo has been driving wrecklessly, just look at how he was all up in Lewis’ grille in valencia and made him spin out right at the end. he pushes too hard too fast and too quickly. hes the one that should be suspended. RroGro I think doesnt deserve a full race suspension, but he does deserve a sizeable grid penalty. He simply misjudged the room he was leaving Lewis, and mabye it was partly even Lewis’ fault for pushing for space that wasnt there. yes, if Grosjean’s car was a meter closer to Fernando, he might have done some serious bodily harm, but i think the sad inescapable part is the fact that Kobayashi was taken out of contention for a podium with that pile up. Sad :(

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Maybe my english is not that good, let us try again.

Motorsport is not about safety. Engineers do not add bits to the car to make them safer. They add bits to make them faster. The FIA set minimum standards reguarding safety. Two drivers did die last year due to the nature of the sport which confirms that motorsports are dangerous.

Now lets look at the broken rule.

“The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations, which had the potential to cause injury to others.”

What does that mean. It means every incident is breaking the rule. The piece of car that came off Rubens car which Massa drove into causing Massa to lose lots of his talent. Webber crashing into the back of Hekki a few years back who was defending his position causing Webbers car to flip into the sign almost landing on his head. Anytime a driver loses a front wing could cause the car to flip at speed and kill or injure that driver or others. Any debris on the track could cause a pucture resulting in a car spinning off the track potentially seriously injuring a driver or killing him. Every accident has the potential to kill or injure a driver. You can not say that a five car pile up is more serious that a seven car pile up even if no cars leave the ground on the seven car pile up. Even a lone driver who loses control and hits a wall has the potential to injure or kill himself and spectators as we have seen many years ago in Melbourne when an official was killed by a tire that came off a car. Do we give that driver a penalty?

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Lastly just like to add

Grosjean was involved with 7 accidents but he did not cause 7 accidents. If he did he would not be driving. Lotus would have replaced him long ago for constantly destroying their cars.

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Grosjean deserved the ban more because of an accumilation of stupidity than that one incident. I think Ferrari have a point when they say drivers in the lower formula’s need to be taught to respect the rules and other drivers more. That said I think what has caused any aspect of ‘should they have’ about this is the inconsistancy between being firm (at long last) with young Grosjean but seemingly letting Maldonado get away with the most outragious breaches of driver dehaviour upto and including using his car as a weapon on the track. The FIA need to get their house in order and sort this. If you raise a puppy kicking it one day and patting it the next you wind up with one very confused hound and it looks the same can be said for F1 drivers.

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