The above image is forever etched in the minds of Formula 1 fans, the Lotus of Romain Grosjean getting airborne when he speared over the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso as the field roared into Turn 1 at the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix.
By then, the erratic Frenchman had already been involved in seven first-lap incidents in the 12 races of the season. But that day at Spa-Francorchamps he took out-of-control to an all-new level.
That Sunday the sport was lucky. Alonso was fortunate to not be struck by a wayward bit of Grosjean’s car as it carved a path over the Ferrari. Both cars were seriously wrecked.
Also beyond repair (for the race) during the incident was Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Sauber of Sergio Perez. Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber also suffered damage but he managed to continue.
Grosjean was handed a €50,000 fine and given a one-race ban for his causing the incident by the FIA.
They reported in their findings: “The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.”
Grosjean said immediately after the incident, “I misjudged the gap to Lewis. I thought I was in front of him. It was a small mistake, but a big incident. I’m very sorry and I’m just glad nobody is hurt. That’s the main thing.”
The Frenchman’s boss at the time, Eric Boullier said: “This is a severe penalty, but it’s part of his learning curve. Part of the problem is that he wants to do well. He is somebody who is a perfectionist. He needs to understand he will deliver more if he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself at the start of the race.”
Hamilton simply said: “I really don’t want to talk about the start. People can see what happened.”
Alonso counted himself lucky to escape with only some muscular back pain, “You can have an injury in your hand or even in your head because everything was so close.
“I think we broke everything on top of the car, so it was lucky in that aspect. I did not know what happened until I saw the TV. It was difficult to imagine how the hit could be so big.”
“I am not angry. No-one does this on purpose. They were fighting, two aggressive drivers on the start – Lewis and Romain – and this time it was us in the wrong place and the wrong moment.
And added, “But it’s also true that in 12 races, Romain had seven crashes at the start, so…”
Seven years down the road and the song remains the same for Grosjean, despite the 155 F1 races he has contested he remains his own worst enemy, never able to shake the “The First-Lap-Nutcase” nickname given him by one-time victim Mark Webber.
The 33-year-old, now a Haas driver, remains accident prone to the point that many in the paddock predict that his presence on the grid next year is increasingly unlikely.
Big Question: Is Romain.2019 any different to Romain.2012?