In the hours after the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa there was a lot of huffing and puffing down the pub. This is good healthy debate and only to be expected when us fans get a drink or two in on a Sunday evening. Thankfully I can walk to my local hostelry if I think it might be a long debate.
Looking at a list of Formula 1 World Champions there are some common denominators. Natural talent, aggression when needed, dedication, commitment, consistency and being in the right car at the right moment.
And a good brain.
In the aftermath of Spa we – that’s me, who’s supposed to be ‘in the know’, and assorted other fans – decided that it is the last-mentioned asset that is missing from Messrs Grosjean and Maldonado.
Not so much because of what they do, but how many times they repeat the same lack of clear thinking. To win lots of races, and a championship, a driver needs to have a good brain. Look at the list. It is assumed they are all fast, have good judgement and learn, on certain occasions, to think before reacting. It is also assumed they have unusually good reactions and are able to handle many tasks simultaneously.
We are not racing drivers, let alone F1 drivers, and we pontificate in the pub or, in my case, in a magazine. We mean no malice; we simply react to what we see. Now, at just past mid-season, we can see that neither Grosjean nor Maldonado have learnt from their misjudgements. As Alonso gently pointed out, the Frenchman has made rash mistakes in too many races. Now, having mercifully got away without serious injury, the Ferrari driver supports the decision to ban Grosjean for one race.
A race ban is supposed to be a lesson, an unexpected week off in which to consider what has gone wrong, what has led to the errors and how they can be eradicated. In my view Maldonado might benefit from this. Yes, he pays a lot of money to the Williams team, but he also costs it a lot of money. Sir Frank will like the financial help from Venezuela, of course, but I’m damn sure he would like his man to score more points. After all, points also mean money.
Now, of course there are what are known as ‘racing incidents’, and these will always be part of motor racing. It is still a very dangerous sport and accidents are bound to occur. What happened at Spa was not one of these.
Everyone knows that you do not win the Belgian Grand Prix between the grid and La Source. Moreover, you rarely win a Grand Prix on the first lap. We all know the old cliché, to finish first, first you etc, etc, etc.
These are F1 drivers we are debating. The best racing drivers on the planet, and paid accordingly. Therefore I think it is fair to say that Grosjean should have been aware that La Source is a famously tricky corner on lap one. What’s worse is that he probably does know. I do not race a Grand Prix car, I have not made the sprint from grid to La Source, but people like Grosjean and Maldonado are wasting their talent and, worse, their opportunity to be in a good car in Formula 1. Teams do not like big accidents, they are expensive, and what they want is Constructors’ Championship points. If their man is World Champion, OK, that is a big bonus.
Maldonado may win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and I will look like an idiot. Grosjean will not take part and that is right. Both need to calm down, take stock, and thereby fully realise their potential.