13 October 2013
Japanese Grand Prix: Perfect start for Grosjean dispels 2012 cloud
When F1 last raced at Suzuka, Romain Grosjean found himself branded a "first-lap nutcase" by Mark Webber. Not so this year, after a terrific run to third place in the Japanese GP.
How quickly things can change: last year he was the villain of the race, the driver who took out Mark Webber on the first lap. But 12 months on and Grosjean's smooth pass for the lead at the start was one of the moves of the race, with even Sebastian Vettel labelling the Lotus driver "fantastic" here at Suzuka in 2013.
"It was just the perfect start," he added. "That start came from nowhere ... I dropped the clutch and thought 'Woah, woah, woah, I can go for this, come on!'
"Today was just a very, very good race. What a start! It was superb to go past both the Red Bulls like that and it'll be one of my best memories of the year," beamed Grosjean. "The car was fantastic on the first set of tyres and we managed to pull away.
Grosjean admitted that the events of 12 months ago at Suzuka - which saw him collide with Mark Webber and earn the Australian's ire who dubbed him a "first-lap nutcase" - had been a factor on his mind in those opening laps.
"For sure I was a bit stressed on the grid after what happened last year but today was just perfect and on option tyres the car could pull away," he said. "Spa and Suzuka were not the easiest starts of the year for me. You do remember the past and I've been working on myself for a year and it's been paying off. It takes a lot of energy, but there are much more things I can do and I feel much better as a driver."
Team principal Eric Boullier was delighted by what he'd been watching in the first half of the race.
"To see Romain leading the race was very satisfying and we hope to see that again very soon," said Boullier. "It's great to see such a good fight in the race and both our cars show so strongly. Once again, both drivers, our strategists and the pit crew performed brilliantly and we did the very best we could on track."
In the end, Grosjean was unable to hold back the Red Bulls once they rebounded from their early setbacks, and third place was the very best that the Frenchman was able to do. "Ultimately, we were the only car to almost catch the Bull," he pointed out. "But then the Red Bulls were able to reel us in later on.
"We finished much better than we thought, if you'd looked at our pre-race strategy graph the two Red Bulls were flying away and we were supposed to be fighting with Lewis," Grosjean explained. "So seeing a 35- or 36-second gap to fourth place - and we got caught up in the backmarkers quite badly in the last few laps - it's an amazing result."
"We don't have the pace to beat Red Bull," agreed Boullier. "But today we showed them that we are nevertheless quite formidable whilst also underlining to Mercedes and Ferrari that we are a strong contender for the final four races of the season," he added.
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