If the phrase “what a difference a year makes” was appropriate for anything in modern F1, it would be the turnaround of form of Frenchman Romain Grosjean and his experiences at Suzuka in that time period.
In 2012, an early collision with Mark Webber ruined the race for both men and got the Aussie to label Romain a “first lap nutcase”, which only added to the pressure on Lotus for keeping him on the grid.
But now, after this season’s Japanese Grand Prix, all the talk is not about how Grosjean is under-performing, but how he is over-performing, especially with the transition that Lotus will go through now Ferrari have pinched Kimi Raikkonen for 2014.
Not that 2013 has been an easy ride for Grosjean. Monaco was probably the lowest point, and one where the critics were loudest. The possibility of a great result was there for all to see and the car was fast, but Romain put it into the wall far too many times and falied to extract the maximum.
But, since Germany, he’s sat down with his engineers and taken stock of his situation. That race heralded a podium, and since then he’s been on a streak of points and strong qualifying that has only been punctuated by hydraulics problems eliminating him from Singapore.
A seat at Lotus for next year should be a certainty, thanks to the money he delivers due to backing from French oil company Total. In fact, Romain is the spearhead of the French re-revolution happening in Formula One right now – there was no better advert for the country than having him lead at Suzuka in a French run team, using a French engine.
Considering the changes in his personal life too – getting married and becoming a father since July last year – the maturity is now coming out on the race track and in the car. No longer is breaking into Turn 1 a concern for him (and the rest of the field). His weekends start on Friday and peak on a Sunday, with performance being built on.
Lotus are now looking for a new team leader, a driver that can bring speed, consistency and regular points scoring places. Can Romain Grosjean be that man?