Lotus came away from Japan disappointed with the weekend's result, after they lost considerable ground on their rivals in the constructors' championship.

Romain Grosjean once again found himself in the middle of a storm of criticism after running into Mark Webber's Red Bull on the first lap. Webber was subsequently particularly outspoken in his comments about the Frenchman's standard of driving this season. (See separate story.)

Grosjean insisted that regardless of how it appeared in the wake of this latest accident, he really had learned his lesson from the accident at Spa that had resulted in him being handed a one-race ban and missing the Italian Grand Prix.

"Ever since I came back in Singapore my priority has been to be very cautious at the start," he said. "I was watching Sergio [Perez] on my left to make sure there was no contact with him.

"There was quite a big speed difference between me and Mark as I came into the first corner which caught me by surprise and we collided," he explained. "It was a stupid mistake," he said, adding that he had met up with Webber after the race ended and apologised for the accident.

The initial incident had cost him time for repairs in the pits, and then earned him a stop-go penalty from the race stewards which put him out of contention for any points. In the end, the team called him in and retired the car from the race shortly before the finish of the race in order to put the Frenchman out of his misery.

Worryingly for Grosjean, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier appeared to offer only half-hearted support for his embattled driver - although he insisted that Grosjean had "made progress" since Spa to improve his race manners.

"Obviously, it has not gone as well as we expected," he admitted. "We could see in Singapore, when Romain was back on track, that the other drivers were putting some pressure on him at the start.

"Here it was a little bit easier, but he made a small mistake misjudging his pace compared with Mark, which was a bit higher."

A small mistake it might be, but with the clamour for 'something to be done about Grosjean' building once again in the F1 paddock, it could yet have major ramifications for the driver and for the team in the final five races of the 2012 season.

Meanwhile Grosjean's team mate Kimi Raikkonen managed to salvage some points for the team after he finished sixth, despite being involved with Fernando Alonso's first lap retirement triggered when accidental contact with the Lotus tipped the Ferrai into a spin. Raikkonen was able to continue, and the points he managed to win mean that he stays in third position in the world championship albeit 37pts behind leader Alonso.

"Overall it was quite a difficult race," he admitted. "The good thing is we managed to score points to stay in touch in the championship.

"The start was very tight; I was alongside Fernando straight away and he kept moving further across until there was nowhere left to go," Raikkonen told the media after the race. "Sixth wasn't the result we were hoping for but unfortunately we didn't have the speed to do better today."

Asked about Raikkonen's lack of pace, Boullier wasn't able to point to any specific issues at Suzuka. "We couldn't put everything together in order to make this race more successful and gain more places," he said.

by Cameron Paterson