The Formula One stewards are up to their old tricks again, displaying baffling inconsistency in their application of penalties for wrongdoing. They have handed out a one-race suspension to Romain Grosjean for his part in the carnage that followed the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix.
The F1 Times reports Grosjean as saying:
"We know that La Source is a very tough corner. It was a bit of a crazy start as well with [Pastor] Maldonado leaving [early] and the Sauber [Kamui Kobayashi] smoking a lot.
"I did a mistake and I misjudged the gap with Lewis [Hamilton]. I was sure I was in front of him. So a small mistake made a big incident."
And that’s the crux of the matter. There was an awful lot going on at the start—much more than is usually the case.
Pastor Maldonado decided that waiting for the lights is beneath him and took off early—more on that later—and Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber was sending smoke signals from overcooked brakes. Kobayashi then compounded this by getting away very slowly forcing other cars to detour around him.
With all that going on and the first corner only a couple of hundred metres away, a collision was inevitable.
Is Grosjean's suspension justified?
The stewards, however, saw things much differently according to ESPNF1.com;
"The Stewards regard this as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race. The Stewards note the team conceded the action of the driver was an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgement. Neither the team nor the driver made any submission in mitigation of penalty."
The inclusion of the line, “It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race” is interesting. Does this mean that the seriousness of an issue is determined by the championship position of the drivers involved?
Would the incident have been less serious if Grosjean had taken out Marussia and HRT cars?
Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado gets barely a slap on the wrist for his part in two incidents following his penalty for blocking Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying.
While he wasn’t directly responsible for what followed, the distraction of seeing a Sauber depart well before anyone else had to have played a part.
While both Grosjean and Maldonado have significant form on the incident front this year, Maldonado seems to skate through without ever having being held fully responsible for his actions.
Grosjean at least accepted responsibility for what happened at the start of the race. Maldonado, on the other hand, claimed that the clutch slipped out of his hand, rather than admit that he got over excited and tried to guess the light sequence.
He hasn’t commented on hitting Timo Glock, but no doubt it was all Glock’s fault in Maldonado’s eyes.
Pastor Maldonado doesn’t belong in Formula One. He’s reckless, dangerous and sometimes just a little bit nasty. He’s fast and he’s capable of putting together an almost perfect race, as he did in Spain, but too often emotion seems to get the better of him and things inevitably end up in tears or shattered carbon fibre bodywork.
In an online poll that I ran with my last piece on Maldonado, a staggering 88% of respondents (671 in total) indicated that they thought Maldonado was either malicious or incompetent. While that’s hardly scientific, it paints a picture of a guy who shouldn’t be there.
If you're interested, the article also examines the litany of transgressions that Maldonado has been party to.
Between Maldonado and Grosjean, the former has been involved in more controversial and potentially dangerous incidents and yet Grosjean is the one serving the suspension.
Yes, the Spa incident was spectacular and could potentially influence the outcome of the championship race, but it was an incident the likes of which we have seen many, many times.
This time, the stewards got it wrong. Again.