Hungary

Last Race: 26th July Hungary

Hungary GP Results
Pos Driver
1 Sebastian Vettel
2 Daniil Kvyat
3 Daniel Ricciardo
Belgium

Next Race: 23rd August Belgium

Conclusions From Belgium

2012-09-03 12:10:00

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Conclusions From Belgium

Romain Grosjean might have deserved a ban but he didn't on the terms set out in the stewards' verdict...

Romain Grosjean might have deserved a ban but he didn't on the terms set out in the stewards' verdict...


Grosjean's ban remains harsh on these terms
Though a very strong argument can be made for Romain Grosjean deserving a ban on account of his penchant for first-corner collisions and, more pertinently, the need for F1, as the pinnacle of motor-racing, to set an example both in driving standards and for the value of safety, the fairness of the verdict is far less compelling on the terms set out in the stewards' judgement.

Their subjective nature was made apparent on Saturday night when they opted to defy convention and demote Pastor Maldonado three grid places rather than the standard five on the basis that, although he was guilty of hindering Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India was still able to escape Q1. Hmm. Abandoning convention and objectivity is a risky business when meting out any form of justice - and so it continued to prove on Sunday night.

For Grosjean was not punished on account of his own penchant for risky business this season or the sport's overdue requirement to deliver a proper deterrent against recklessness. Instead, he was suspended because his error 'eliminated leading championship contenders from the race' - a curious and dangerously arbitrary criteria on which to base so swingeing a penalty.

For swingeing it certainly is. Ignore all the misapplied clichéd talk of his suspension being equivalent to a slap over the wrist; Grosjean's suspension amounts to a public flogging and will forever remain a permanent stain on his reputation. Not since 1994, when Michael Schumacher's reputation was at its most notorious, has a driver suffered a race ban.

Had Grosjean made a grudge move then it would have been different. But he didn't. Had he been given a prior warning to clean up his act then a suspension would be palpably fair enough. But he wasn't and it isn't. And had the stewards cited the number of first-lap incidents Grosjean been involved in during his nascent career - seven in twelve races this season - then any verdict on their verdict would require a different perspective. But they didn't - and in any case, 'involved' does not constitute blameworthiness. The thought lingers that Grosjean has been punished because of the crash's aesthetic and circumstantial evidence; put another way, would he have been suspended had Hamilton simply been shunted into the grass or the drivers concerned piloted a HRT?
The stewards, surely, have lurched into dangerous territory themselves by making such a self-acknowledged subjective ruling.

None of this is to say that Grosjean was not to blame for triggering a horrible chain reaction which could have ended in a casualty and not just carnage. He left Hamilton no room and, by putting the right-front wheel of his Lotus between those of Hamilton's McLaren, gave his rival no escape; whether Hamilton speeded up or slowed down, a collision had already become inevitable.

Yet it was nonetheless a slight mistake, literally the width of a tyre wheel, and was transformed from the relatively minor to major by circumstance rather than degree. It wasn't, for instance, as blatant as when Pastor Maldonado returned to the Valencia track to ram Hamilton into the barriers. Not by coincidence is Valencia chosen for illustration because it offers a trenchant reminder in the shape of Alonso's pass around Grosjean's Lotus at the restart that the Frenchman is a fair driver; it takes two to tangle for F1 to dance like that.

This weekend, Grosjean made a mistake, but it's hard to make a defence of a punishment that only fits the crime of consequence rather than the crime actually committed.

Button pressed into title contention. Almost
So that's the title race crashed wide open. Having been subjected to a deluge of questions at the start of the weekend on whether he ought to play second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton, Jenson pressed all the right buttons on Sunday to put himself back into World Championship contention - though pressed is the one thing he wasn't in a victory made to look simple. When Jenson's good, he tends to be great.

Yet two large flaws remain in Jenson's title candidature and larger even than the 63 points separating the McLaren driver and Fernando Alonso is the number of drivers - five - between Jenson and the summit. He's a very long way back whichever you look at it.

Indeed, looked at through the prism of the championship battle, Sunday's clear victor appears to have been the reigning World Champion. Though the gut instinct remains that Sebastian Vettel hasn't had a great year, he's now within striking distance of Fernando's lead. Indeed part two, but for his engine failure in Valencia, Sebastian would now be leading the championship. With the Red Bull recovering Saturday's lost position to be as fast if not faster than both McLaren and Lotus on Sunday, it's a straightforward matter to suggest that Vettel is the new championship favourite.

For Hamilton, Alonso's exit made his own mildly palatable. He hasn't fallen any further behind, although the number of races he has in which to remedy the deficit has been cut by a tenth. So perhaps the real loser of the day was Mark Webber who symbolically and literally lost the Red Bull initiative when passed by Vettel into the Bus Stop chicane on lap ten.

Since winning at Silverstone three races ago, Webber has collected a paltry sixteen points and has become a persuasive reason for team bosses to keep the driver market for 2013 firmly shut. Contract extensions, it seems, are bad for a driver's competitive health.

Maldonado in danger of turning a profit into a loss
Williams' predicament has turned uncomfortable. Likeable though the South American is, and as quick as he might be, Pastor Maldonado is lurching towards becoming a liability. The Williams driver almost certainly made unwanted history this weekend in receiving three separate penalties, a bounty which rendered his qualifying pace - where, lest we forget, he outpaced team-mate Bruno Senna by fourteen places - utterly meaningless. He let himself down, and his team.

Since winning in Spain, Maldonado has received six more penalties than he has points, a problematic pair of facts which no team in a business-based sporting industry can ignore. This weekend was probably not a decisive tipping point, but his vulnerability is now certain and the crux of his future may rest on the team's opinion of Senna. If the team accept Bruno's modest pace as an accurate yardstick of their car's capabilities then Maldonado, on account of his superior pace, will be flattered towards certain retention. Alternatively, if the team does not consider the Brazilian to be a worthy barometer then they might be minded to replace both of their highest-profile employees.

Given that both drivers, but especially Maldonado, provide such valuable sponsorship, that scenario remains

Ciao Jules, F1 remembers the affable Frenchman

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