Dangerous precedent set by banning Grosjean

Romain Grosjean became the first driver in almost 20 years to be receive a race ban in Formula 1 following a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix.

The Frenchman triggered a startline accident and left championship contenders Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, as well as Sergio Perez, watching proceedings from their garages. The crash came after Grosjean squeezed Lewis Hamilton onto the grass with an abrupt shift of direction on the run to the first corner.

With nowhere to go Hamilton clashed with Grosjean and the Lotus driver was catapulted into the path of Perez and Alonso. It was a lucky escape for Alonso after Grosjean’s car came perilously close to his arms and helmet before all the drivers came to a halt relatively unhurt.

The incident is not the first time that Grosjean has been involved in a startline smash this season. At the Monaco Grand Prix he clashed with Michael Schumacher off the line. His spatial awareness has been called into question on numerous occasions throughout his F1 career but for the most part he has improved as the season has progressed and while still prone to incidents like these he has solidified his position on the grid.

However with the stewards deeming that Grosjean “caused an avoidable accident” and had an “abnormal change of direction” after the lights went out he has received this black mark to his name.

When the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, announced the penalty that was being handed down by the race stewards it was said that a contributory factor in handing Grosjean a race ban was because the accident “eliminated championship contenders.”

Quite the relevance of this in determining a suspension for a driver is very debatable. Is one accident worse than any other simply because leading drivers were involved? The FIA statement implies that if Grosjean had collided with a Toro Rosso or a Caterham instead of a Ferrari and McLaren that the FIA would not have had reason to suspend him.

This penalty, in effect, has said that the FIA view the battle at the front of the field to be more important that the scramble for championship points in the lower reaches of the race. It is very dangerous for the FIA to look to differentiate penalties based on which drivers or teams are involved in the accident.

Given the number of accidents that have occurred throughout the season maybe the FIA decided that it was important to draw a line in the sand and start penalising drivers but the precedent set by their penalty of Grosjean is not one that should have been established.

Grosjean, and his Lotus team, accepted the penalty without looking to appeal it and as a result the team will have to field a new driver during this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

It looks likely that Jerome D’Ambrossia, who drove for Virgin Racing last year will deputise for Grosjean. It is a great opportunity for the Belgian who had a solid season last year but was hamstrung by a poor car.

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