At the end of his debut season in 2012 with the Lotus team many within the F1 paddock would have been perfectly happy to see the back of Romain Grosjean. Despite showing prodigious speed his race craft and spatial awareness, especially at starts, was found to be seriously lacking.
The result of this was many clumsy collisions with season low points being the first corner collision he cause at the Belgian GP which almost caused Fernando Alonso serious injury. After this the F1 stewards stepped in and gave Grosjean a one-race ban for the Italian GP as a punishment for his indiscretions during the season. The fact that Grosjean was the first driver to be banned since 1994 is an indication of the significance of the FIA punishment and the serious worries they had about Grosjean’s driving.
After professing to have learnt his lesson and be more cautious after returning from his ban, Grosjean’s race craft was again seriously questioned after he simply ran into the back of Mark Webber going into Turn 2 on the opening lap of the Japanese GP. This incident could be described at best as brain fade and at worst dangerous driving from Grosjean .
The Lotus team kept Grosjean for the 2013 season despite also publicly stating that his spatial awareness in battles and at the starts would have to improve for him to keep his drive past 2013. Initially he significantly improved his race craft and appeared to be getting into far fewer scrapes and accidents, although his blinding speed from 2012 appeared to be missing as he had only scored 26 points after Round 8 , compared to team mate’s Kimi Raikkonen’s haul of 98 points.
After a slight upturn in form over the next few races it appeared that Grosjean was beginning to make improvement’s with his driving. Then in the aftermath of the Italian GP it was announced that team leader Kimi Raikkonen would be moving to Ferrari for the 2014 season. This announcement would retrospectively appear to have had a major impact on Grosjean , as since this event Grosjean has stepped up significantly to outshine Raikkonen comfortably and become the undisputed team leader after 5 successive top 4 finishes including 4 podiums.
It isn’t just his speed which has impressed in the last few races as his race craft has also significantly improved . A good example of this is from the recent US GP where he managed to withstand immense pressure from Mark Webber in a much faster Red Bull late on to match his best ever result in F 1 of 2nd. This race single handedly showed that the Lotus team can be very happy that Grosjean will be leading the team in 2014 and that Grosjean is shaping up to be a front runner in F1 for the next few years at least.
Mark Webber also provides a good example of the 180 degree turn Romain Grosjean has made in F1 during his two years so far as he was highly critical of his driving after he had ruined his race in Japan last year, yet after the last few GP’s he has been speaking highly of his driving and leadership.