Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix: Romain Grosjean's Ban Is Both Right and Wrong

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2012

SPA, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 02:  Fernando Alonso (L) of Spain and Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton (R) of Great Britain and McLaren collide and crash out at the first corner at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa Francorchamps on September 2, 2012 in Spa Francorchamps, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Romain Grosjean has received a one-race ban for causing the first-corner crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The incident occurred when Grosjean moved across the track into Lewis Hamilton, sending both cars spinning out of control into the pack. Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez were hit and eliminated immediately, while the cars of Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado suffered damage.

Examining the incident after the race, the stewards decided the Lotus driver had breached Article 16.1(d) and Article 18.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations. The articles cover the causing of collisions and subsequent punishments.

Furthermore, Grosjean was found to have breached Article 2(e) of Chapter IV Appendix L of the FIA International Sporting Code, which states:

It is not permitted to drive any car unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers at any time.

The ban will apply with immediate effect, meaning Grosjean will miss the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 9. Lotus will not appeal against the decision.


Is a Ban the Right Decision?

It's not the first time this year that Grosjean has been involved in a first lap incident—incredibly, in just 12 races he's been involved in seven. Only some were his fault, and this was certainly the most serious in terms of outcome and potential to cause injury.

Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle remarked during the live race coverage that Grosjean did not seem "spatially aware of his car," and having viewed the incident several times from numerous angles, that appears to be a fair observation.

There is simply no excuse for driving like that at this level, least of all on the approach of the first corner of a race. With that many cars in such close proximity, moving about without being aware of your surroundings is just asking for trouble.

Grosjean certainly deserved a firm punishment, and that's exactly what he's received. A ban is available to the stewards for a reason, and on this occasion it's the right call.

But that doesn't mean it makes perfect sense.

The last driver to be banned for causing a collision was Eddie Irvine, who was given a one-race ban (later increased to three for appealing) for causing this incident at the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix.

That was 18 years ago, and Grosjean's Spa faux pas was not the worst piece of driving that has occurred since then. It wasn't even the worst we've seen this year.

It's a close run thing, but I'd give that award to Maldonado for driving into Perez in Monaco, or to Jean-Eric Vergne for his ridiculous swipe into the side of Heikki Kovalainen in Valencia.

It's true that those incidents did not trigger multiple car pile-ups, but bad driving is bad driving. What occurs following a piece of stupidity should matter less than what happened during it.

With that in mind, why should Grosjean be banned when they got away with grid penalties?

No one expects the punishment system to be perfect, but a little bit of consistency would be nice.