Today, Lotus announced that Romain Grosjean has secured a drive for 2012 with the Enstone based team once more.
I think everyone who was watching Formula One at the time remembers his awful rookie ‘season’ in 2009 - drafted in to replace Nelson Piquet with little time to prepare and little experience behind the wheel, it was somewhat of a total disaster. For me, I vivdly remember his mishap at Belgium where he single-handedly caused my three favorite drivers - Jaime Alguersuari, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button - to retire. It’s safe to say, after that incident, I didn’t like him much. Anyway, at the end of the season, he was dropped, Alonso move on to Ferrari and all was seemingly forgotten.
Kudos to Romain, he returned to a junior series and fought on, and eventually emerged victorious in the 2011 GP2 World Championship, and after getting the chance to drive R31 in free practice in Abu Dhabi, it appears the young frenchman has matured as a racing driver as well as a fine French wine. So much so infact, that after only two practice sessions in the R31 this year, Eric Boullier has deemed him talented enough to take and secure Vitaly Petrov’s already-contracted race seat.
Having seen him do show runs at Silverstone at the World Series by Renault event, it’s clear that he’s matured as a driver - his technique is so much more refined; the way he drives, even just the way he move the steering wheel, the way he brakes and controls the car, it’s totally different to how he raced in 2009, and I can tell you now, he’s made one hell of an improvement. This is most definitely going to signal a change in the winds for Lotus Renault.
They have had, without a doubt, the most underwhelming season in the teams history - in the beginning, everyone was excited when they achieved two podiums in two races, but since then, it’s been a slippery slope down hill. I think ditching Nick Heidfeld was a bad decision, because Bruno Senna, lets be honest, hasn’t done any better. It can’t help that Bruno was thrown into the car in the middle of the season, but he had done show runs in the R31 car at Spa with the World Series by Renault troupe, so he wasn’t completely blind in terms of knowing the car, and Renault just upset any pattern Nick could have been getting himself in to, loosing what could have been some more promising results later on in the season.
I do like Vitaly and Bruno, they are great characters in Formula One, and both good drivers too, but for 2012, I’ve never had any hope that they will have seats. It’s brilliant to see the Senna name back in Formula One, but at the end of his day, Renault is a business and they need the best they can get, and even though Bruno might carry the Senna name, he isn’t Ayrton - if he isn’t doing as well as he could, and another driver is, especially if that other driver is bringing in as much money as Bruno, the team only have one option and it’s to take the other driver. Don’t forget also: Bruno has only ever been on temporary contract, he was never intended to stay past the season and as far as Renault have been concerned, he always has been just Robert Kubica’s replacement. Vitaly on the other hand, did have the potential to keep his seat for 2012, but dismissing the 2012 car a few weeks ago broke the contract, and Renault had a means of getting rid of him before his contract ended without having to pay him off. Before he said that, I was certain he would get a drive, but as soon as it happened, I made quite clear that I thought his seat for 2012 was gone, because Renault had better options. I’m kind of sad that I was right. I think he’s just not quite been up to scratch - neither of them have actually, and for the money they were bringing in, they just weren’t getting the best results they could - there were rookie errors from both drivers when neither are rookies, and Renault needed drivers who could bring in the results. I’m sad to see them go, but looking at it from Renault’s perspective, you can see why.
I just hope they haven’t made a mistake with Romain and Kimi - Romain was consistently good in the Free Practice sessions, so he certainly looks promising, and hopefully Kimis comeback won’t be a resounding failure, because it looks very much like Renault could have a killer team on their hands if the car is even half-good.
Anyway, I’ll leave this post of random Lotus/Renault thoughts with this final message:
To Romain and Kimi, the very best of luck. And to Bruno and Vitaly, thankyou and all the best with your future racing careers x