Since hearing of his teammate’s switch to Ferrari for 2014, Romain Grosjean has been on a bit of a roll. Yes, this roll is only two races long, but it marks one of the few times we have seen the Frenchman comprehensively outperform his teammate over an entire race weekend.
It does seem like Grosjean is taking up the gauntlet in light of his teammate’s imminent departure, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, when serious doubts over Grosjean’s longevity at Lotus was worth pursuing.
After dominating Kimi Raikkonen throughout practice and qualifying, Grosjean continued the trend in the race where he was the only serious threat to Sebastian Vettel, after Lewis Hamilton‘s tires couldn’t last and Fernando was simply too slow. While lacking in ultimate pace, Grosjean did have tire management on his side, where Vettel had to nurse his rubber with greater scrutiny.
Grosjean approached the race immaculately as well. After passing Hamilton on the first lap, the Frenchman quickly set about maintaining the gap to Vettel. It was too soon to really start attacking, and his tire advantage still had a few more laps until it began to come into play.
It was Hamilton, though, who spoiled Grosjean’s run. Suffering with extreme tire wear early on, the Mercedes driver pitted a few laps earlier than expected, causing Grosjean to react out of fear of being jumped once the pit cycle was over. This meant that those crucial few laps at the end of the stint where Grosjean had a distinct advantage over Vettel were not utilized. He would have to try again later.
When Sergio Perez‘s tire exploded on lap 31, Grosjean’s plan was thwarted once more. The last few laps in the stint where Grosjean can eke out his tires longer were left unused. Instead, both Vettel and Grosjean pitted under the safety car while maintaining their lead.
It was at this point as well that the two leaders’ massive advantage over third place was evaporated. Hamilton surrendered more than 18 seconds to the leaders through his severe tire wear. His mediums were only good for about half of his expected stint, and it showed. Because of this, Raikkonen had jumped him and several others for the final step on the podium. But now, this 25-second cushion was gone.
When the safety car was pulled in, Grosjean made his only mistake of the weekend. He slid slightly wide going into the final corner, allowing Raikkonen to pass him on the pit straight. With things in this order, Grosjean’s advantage over his teammate was immediately apparent. The Frenchman was all over Raikkonen’s gearbox, but after several complaints to the pits, he was ordered to stay behind.
Grosjean was philosophical after the race when speaking to the media. “Before the safety car we certainly had a strategy to push Sebastian,” said the Frenchman, “however we don’t know how much he had in reserve. Maybe the potential for that first win was quite close today, but you never know when the win might come …” At this rate, it certainly won’t be too long before a win comes.