The 2013 running of the Monaco Grand Prix was an especially eventful one, even for a Formula 1 race that is known for being challenging. There were several on track incidents that forced drivers to retire and one of note occurred when Lotus F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean ran into Toro Rosso wheel man Daniel Ricciardo thus causing both drivers to have to retire.
Grosjean has a reputation on the grid for being a guy who causes accidents. He was suspended for a race in 2012 after causing a massive wreck off the start in the Belgian Grand Prix and had a total of seven DNFs on the year. Currently the Frenchman has retired from both of his last two Grands Prix and will receive a 10 grid-spot penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix for causing the accident with Ricciardo.
This latest incident will impact more than Grosjean himself, however. Both he and team mate Kimi Raikkonen are in the final year of their contracts with Lotus, and if Romain keeps driving poorly he could not only lose his seat but cost Lotus both of their drivers.
At the beginning of preseason testing Lotus officials assured Grosjean that he had a long term home with the Enstone, UK based team. If that remains true and Lotus stays committed to Grosjean it could scare Raikkonen away.
Kimi has always been a bit of a solo act in F1, but that shouldn’t suggest that he doesn’t appreciate the value of a solid team mate, and while the Iceman seems content with Lotus that could change if Grosjean keeps being a hindrance to the team. Last season Raikkonen accounted for 207 of Lotus’ 303 points on the year. That means Grosjean’s 96 points in 2012 made up a scant 31.6% of the team’s point total.
Rumors swirled that Raikkonen would jump ship and join Red Bull Racing for the 2014 season after the incident between RBR drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in Malaysia this year. Those were fueled by thought that Webber would ditch Red Bull and Kimi would slide into a seat with the team that sponsored him when he drove in the World Rally Championship.
Raikkonen never commented on the rumors and the fit doesn’t make sense to me, because if RBR can’t control Vettel and Webber on the same team then they have no hope of getting Vettel and Kimi to work together, but it reinforces the fact that Raikkonen would be welcome with any team on the grid.
Raikkonen can be credited with reviving Lotus in Formula One seeing that he stepped into a seat after two years away from the sport and finished second in the driver’s points for a team that hasn’t won a championship since the 1970s. That being said one would think that Lotus would do everything within their power to hold onto Kimi for the long term, which could mean cutting Grosjean loose and bringing in a more consistent driver.
Grosjean has had flashes of success amongst his struggles this season and last, but the negatives have far outweighed the positives. He needs to reverse that trend if he wants to stay at Lotus and help the team keep Kimi around.
Coming from a P11 start to finish P3 in Bahrain this year and converting P7 starts to podiums twice in 2012 prove that Grosjean is worth investing in for Lotus, but not if it costs them a World Champion in Raikkonen. Grosjean needs to get out of his rut and get in a groove for the rest of 2013, and he can’t afford to let this latest accident and penalty prevent him from doing so.
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