The Inside Line #65: Paying the price

TILI Logo PrintRomain Grosjean must be one very, very patient man – which isn’t the first adjective you (or, as documented here, I) would have used even halfway through last year to describe a driver who was, quite frankly, a liability on the opening lap of races. After last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Lotus had scored 183 points in the constructors’ championship, sat in a comfortable fourth place, and were a genuine chance to make the podium at every Grand Prix. And that was before Grosjean’s spectacular end to the season, where he turned around his reputation as a crash magnet and scored more points in the final six races than any driver not named Sebastian Vettel.

Fast-forward 12 months to this coming weekend’s race in Budapest, and Grosjean has no chance of finishing anywhere near the top three spots through no fault of his own. None. It’s been a dramatic fall from grace for Lotus, who could barely scrape together enough money to test their new car in the pre-season [1] and have been attempting to play catch-up with next to no success since. Nobody seems to be shedding a tear that Pastor Maldonado [2] hasn’t yet scored a point in 2014 (he can cry into his PDVSA millions after all), but Grosjean deserves better. Lotus’ freefall has been underplayed as a story this season thanks to Mercedes’ dominance, Sebastian Vettel’s struggles and the increasingly hopeless position Ferrari finds itself in, and the team can only hope Mercedes engines in 2015 can make this year look like a blip rather than a trend in years to come.

A preview of the 11th round of the season this Sunday in Hungary is just part of a jam-packed Episode 65 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week. Back-to-back race weekends will do that, and with this being the final race before the mid-year break, Nico Rosberg will be determined to extend his advantage at the top of the drivers’ championship over teammate Lewis Hamilton after winning in Germany last weekend. We review Hockenheim at the top of the show, and look at Kimi Raikkonen’s waning motivation to stay in F1 and drive for Ferrari. Again, I might add [3].

Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday July 23, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday July 24.

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[1] Lotus has financial struggles. Sauber has barely two cents to rub together. Let’s not even talk about Marussia and Caterham. Yet half-decent hotels not even that close to Hockenheim were charging close to A$500 per night for a minimum five-night stay last weekend, and that’s before you factor in the costs of tickets and incidental costs. There’s plenty of money still around F1, but it doesn’t seem to be going to or staying in the right places. Looking at the pics of opening practice at Hockenheim, Friday must have been ‘come dressed as your favourite empty chair day’. The sport continues to treat its fans with complete contempt.

[2] How did this man ever win a Grand Prix? Other drivers to have won one and only one race in the last 20 years: Jean Alesi, Olivier Panis, Jarno Trulli, Robert Kubica (sadly), Heikki Kovalainen, Daniel Ricciardo (there’ll be many more). Pastor is surely propping up that list.

[3] I’m not sure Ferrari would be doing any better if they had someone younger, cheaper, hungrier and who actually appeared to give a crap as Fernando Alonso’s teammate, but it’d be nice to find out.

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