The one-race suspension handed to Romain Grosjean after the Belgian GP has put a renewed focus on driver discipline at the top level of the sport – and indeed in the junior formulae.
Grosjean’s ban from the Italian GP was the first imposed on an F1 driver for causing a collision since 1994, when Eddie Irvine and Mika Häkkinen were cited by the FIA Stewards.
Since then penalties have been largely related to grid penalties at future races, and there has long been a feeling that there has to be a stronger deterrent.
This year driver etiquette has been incorporated into the Sporting Regulations, with a formal requirement that the driver ahead leaves a car’s width when a passing attempt is under way.
In Grosjean’s case, he had attracted attention with his involvement in a string of first-lap incidents during the season, and while there is no formal totting-up system – other than one where three reprimands for any offence lead to a five-place grid penalty – the Lotus driver’s record clearly played a part in the decision at Spa.
His fellow GP2 graduate Pastor Maldonado has also regularly been in the wars, picking up a string of grid penalties, including one for a ‘road rage’ incident with Pérez in Monaco practice.
Spa also witnessed some questionable driving in the GP2 and GP3 events, adding weight to the argument that youngsters are not punished enough and thus learn bad habits on their way up the ladder – and that the excellent safety record of the current era means many believe they are immune to danger.
The Italian GP weekend passed without major dramas, although Sebastian Vettel was handed a drive-through penalty for pushing Fernando Alonso on to the grass, but it remains to be seen whether the Grosjean ban will have a longer-term impact on behaviour.
“I hope it helps,” said McLaren’s Jenson Button when asked by Motor Sport. “I don’t really know if it will, though. When we get to the start the adrenalin’s pumping and we’re just thinking about going into Turn One and trying to get as far up the grid as possible.
“When you look at that one incident and ask, ‘Does it deserve a ban?’ – probably not. But there have been quite a few this year. Hopefully we can concentrate on good fights through the field, but with a lot less contact.”