Reflecting on his Formula 1 career, Romain Grosjean has spoken of his struggle to remove the “first-lap nutcase” tag which Mark Webber put on him in 2012.
Grosjean, driving for Lotus in his first full season in Formula 1, made contact with the then Red Bull driver during the first lap of the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, which promptly pitched the Aussie into a spin.
After the race, where Webber finished P9 having started P2 on the grid, he stormed into Renault’s hospitality area to confront Grosjean and openly criticised him to the media as well.
The “first-lap nutcase” tag for Grosjean was born and the Frenchman believes Webber went too far in his criticism.
“I don’t understand it, I think it was frustration,” Grosjean said in an interview with The Race.
“He had a four-time world champion car and he won a few races, so I think he was quite frustrated by the whole situation and just decided, on that day, yes he can come at me, and have a word with me and say he’s not happy.
“If he approached me, I would have said ‘yes, I made a mistake – punch me’.
“But going to the media and outside and so on and openly criticising, I think that was a bit too much. For that, obviously my respect is not as high as for some others.”
“A sticker was put on my head from the first year by Mark Webber that I was a ‘first-lap nutcase’.
“In my [first full] rookie year, I had three podiums, yes there was Spa and Suzuka and I was not happy with both of them, especially Suzuka, that was my biggest mistake.
“But find me a rookie that has been standing on the podium three times recently?”
Well, let's resume the look back on my #F1 career… 2012, what a feeling to stand on the podium for the first time!
Team: Lotus F1 Team
Grand Prix: 19
Championship Classification : 8th
Fastest lap: 1
Points finishes: 10
Points scored: 96
Best result: 2nd in Canada pic.twitter.com/Pnl4lnBAa3
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) December 10, 2020
Grosjean thinks that sticker which Webber put on him has been stuck on his head ever since.
“Mark put that sticker on my helmet and couldn’t remove it,” Grosjean added.
“I give you an example, on social media, I got so much abuse for crashing under the safety car, in the pitlane and laps to the grid. Well, there’s more drivers that have done it. George Russell, such a great driver, but he’s done that.
“If you drive a Formula 1 car, and one at the back of the grid that doesn’t generate tyre temps, and you need to push harder to do it, you can understand.
“That’s why I supported George when it happened to him, it can happen to any of us in those cars.
“For some reason, we make some massive mess out of mine. Is it because I have that base put on me? I don’t know. I’m happy to talk about my mistakes and to take the blame for them, that’s absolutely, fine.
“Did I do things perfectly? No. I made mistakes, but 95% of the time, I was pretty good, and 5% of the time, I was making mistakes.
“But when you try always to go 102%, it cannot always work. That’s also my quality, I’m not going to go at 90% to save myself,
“I’m always going to go flat out, which brings P4 in Austria [in 2018], P6 for that first race for Haas, the podium at Spa in 2015 when Lotus is bankrupt.
“But it also brings that I can crash under the safety car, going to the grid or whatever.”