Grosjean no longer Suzuka's 'first lap nutcase'

Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:04pm EDT
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(Note: Story contains strong language in paragraph 16.)

By Alan Baldwin

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - No longer the 'first lap nutcase' of 2012, Romain Grosjean was dreaming of his first Formula One victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday before Red Bull provided an unwelcome wake-up call.

The Frenchman made a storming start for Lotus from fourth on the grid to seize the lead and stay in front for half the race before Red Bull's strategy put 2012 world champion and series leader Sebastian Vettel in the driving seat.

Even then a second place might have been Grosjean's consolation, had he not been held up by backmarkers and then overtaken on the penultimate lap by Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber on fresher tires.

"I thought it was the day that the first victory was coming," Grosjean, a former GP2 champion who has a chequered past, told reporters after appearing on the Suzuka podium.

"I said 'our car is beautiful today, it's going to be good..."

The Frenchman's 2012 season was littered with first corner crashes, including one that brought him a race ban for the Italian Grand Prix, but Sunday's start showed how much progress he has made.

"When I dropped the clutch I said 'Whoah, that's a good one, come on, come on go for it'. Amazing," he said.   Continued...

Lotus Formula One driver Romain Grosjean of France drives during the qualifying session of the Japanese F1 Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit October 12, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato