Why Romain Grosjean Won't Mature into a Title Contender

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Why Romain Grosjean Won't Mature into a Title Contender
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Although it was Kimi Raikkonen who stole the Lotus headlines for his stunning drive from 13th on the grid to finish third while nursing a painful back, Lotus is certain Romain Grosjean would have bagged that podium slot but for his retirement.

Grosjean looked well-placed for a top-three spot until a pneumatic system issue forced his late retirement, with Lotus trackside operations manager Alan Permane bemoaning his bad luck on Autosport.

We've never been so annoyed to get a podium. Romain had a perfect day yesterday pretty much. He didn't have a great first lap, but I defy anyone to keep Fernando [Alonso] behind them on the first lap. He was just doing his first lap and would have been third without a doubt.

After a string of high-profile mistakes and opening-lap incidents in 2012, Grosjean’s position within the team appeared under threat. Mark Webber branded him a “first-lap nutcase” and called his driving “embarrassing” at last season’s Japanese Grand Prix after being hit by the Lotus man. The incident came after Grosjean received a one-race ban after causing a similar accident in Belgium.

The rest of us are trying to fight for some decent results each weekend but he is trying to get to the third corner as fast as he can at every race. It makes it frustrating because a few big guys probably suffered from that and maybe he needs another holiday. He needs to have a look at himself, it was completely his fault. How many mistakes can you make, how many times can you make the same error? First-lap incidents... yeah... it's quite embarrassing at this level for him.

And although he has again been dominated by teammate Raikkonen, the Finn’s move to Ferrari means he’s likely to stay on and possibly even as team leader, as Permane is quoted as saying on ESPNF1.

I don't see why not, honestly. It obviously depends who we get as his team-mate; if it's a strong character or who it is, but I don't see why not. Now is his chance and he looks to be taking it, which is really good to see. I think Romain himself has made - I wouldn't call it a breakthrough - but since the Nurburgring, Hungary, he's just been getting better and better and better.

Yes, Grosjean could possibly have challenged for victory in Hungary, but he didn’t, and the fact remains he is still yet to win a Grand Prix. And if you look deeper into Permane’s words, which seemed encouraging on the surface, “obviously depends who we get as his teammate” and “I wouldn't call it a breakthrough” don’t really appear to be gleaming endorsements.

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Nico Hulkenberg seems Grosjean’s most likely teammate, and that may pose the young Frenchman more than a stern challenge. The German has proven the far more consistent driver, stays out of trouble and is also lightning quick, as his 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix pole for Williams and stellar drive this year in Italy, where he finished fifth from third on the grid in a car that had no right to be that high, proved.

Grosjean’s results have been better this year and by and large he has steered clear of incident. But have his performances improved markedly enough to suggest that one day he can be a title contender? Not in my book.

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