Romain Grosjean’s path to F1 would make quite a film – if the directors believed the storyline. Few drivers have ever made an initial appearance in F1, been binned and then rehabilitated back to the sport. Fewer still became a hot property on their return. But I can’t think of any who went on to fall so far out of the minds of team managers in under a year.
Should I stay or should I go?
Twelve months ago Romain was on the crest of a wave. Often driving the second fastest car on the grid he was showing up his Ferrari-bound, World Champ team-mate and became the subject of speculation linking him with everyone from McLaren to Williams. Now, in the final weeks of a terrible season with Lotus, no one is talking about the Frenchman in the context of 2015’s driver shuffles. So is that it? Is the director teeing up the closing credits?
Lotus still want Grosjean, particularly if you put the silly rumours about Alonso to one side. Despite their financial difficulties, this is a team that still wants to win. Securing Mercedes power for 2015 is not the action of a team just trying to survive. Similarly there are no indications they need or want to take on another “pay” driver like Maldonado, which in itself is a clear statement of intent.
Upheaval at the end of 2013 and the financial difficulties compromised this season massively. Renault’s power units have been soundly second best this year but the Lotus chassis has looked like a wild animal at times. Bolting on a Mercedes power unit won’t solve their problems entirely but gives cause for optimism that a more conservative chassis for 2015 might reap some real dividends.
Taking that in to account, Grosjean is likely to be tempted to stick around. With the engine freeze still very much on, Mercedes is the badge to have on your nose cone. But if he decides to stick around, is that really more to do with other options being so limited?
2016 and beyond
Romain’s performances last season combined with Eric Boullier’s move to McLaren left many believing it inevitable that Grosjean would follow. That is highly unlikely for 2015 however with Alonso and Magnussen the likely pairing.
The Dane has done enough to stay at McLaren for now but not much more. Should he fail to deliver in year two, against perhaps the ultimate benchmark in Fernando Alonso, McLaren might ditch their recent young gun policy and take Boullier’s recommendation. The experience of a year with Mercedes engine technology could in itself be invaluable.
Beyond that who knows what might shape up elsewhere. Though it pains me to write it, the tragic events of Suzuka have certainly put Ferrari’s long-term plans on hold. At Williams Felipe Massa needs to up his game next season to keep hold of a seat that is back to being one of F1’s most coveted.
So like all good movies, this one is likely to have plenty more twists before the final credits roll.