Sauber: Grosjean hasn’t apologised for Spa crash

Peter Sauber has slammed as a “lie” suggestions Romain Grosjean and Lotus apologised for last weekend’s Belgian grand prix crash.

Fernando Alonso, who narrowly escaped injury when the now-banned Grosjean’s Lotus flew across his cockpit at Spa, confirmed that the French driver subsequently said sorry by text message. And Lotus boss Eric Boullier said Grosjean has also spoken to the others caught up in the shunt, including Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

Perez’s Sauber teammate Kamui Kobayashi was also smashed out of the race by the Grosjean incident, having qualified a career-best second at Spa.

“I read everywhere that Grosjean has apologised to all the drivers for the starting accident at Spa,” team boss Peter Sauber is quoted by Blick newspaper. “(That’s) a lie. He has contacted neither Sergio nor Kamui,” said the Swiss.


Schumacher escapes grid penalty after gearbox issue at Spa

Michael Schumacher can breathe easy, having worried after last week’s Belgian grand prix that he would have to take a five-place grid drop at Monza.

Knowing that unscheduled gearbox changes carry the penalty for the next race, the great German finished at Spa with a broken sixth gear. But Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports that the gearbox has been fixed, even if there is no guarantee the problem will not return.

However, Mercedes believes there is a good chance Schumacher’s woes are now over, because the main damage was to the actual sixth gear cog — which can be changed without penalty.

“I think we can save the transmission,” team boss Ross Brawn is quoted as saying.

He thinks sixth was damaged at Spa because the drivers are often negotiating corners with high G-forces with that gear engaged. The problem should not recur at Monza, because sixth gear on the famous Italian layout is mainly engaged whilst the car is on the straights.


Grosjean apologised to Alonso by text message

Romain Grosjean has said sorry to Fernando Alonso.

“He apologised in an SMS,” the Ferrari driver, whose hands and head were narrowly missed by Frenchman Grosjean’s flying Lotus last Sunday at Spa, revealed.

2012 F1 returnee Grosjean, 26, was subsequently banned by the FIA for Monza, reportedly due to the high number of early-race incidents he has been involved with so far this season.

“I told him (Grosjean) it’s okay and that we’ll see him again in Singapore,” Alonso is quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE.

Eric Boullier, Grosjean’s team boss, revealed to the French-language RMC Sport that the Swiss-born driver has also spoken to the others caught up in Sunday’s crash, such as Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

“They have spoken and the messages were very positive and cordial,” said Boullier.

“There is no longer any animosity between them.”

Boullier and Grosjean met for talks earlier this week at Enstone.

“I want to understand why, in this time of intense stress that is the F1 start, he behaves (that way) and how he can manage his emotions better,” said Boullier.

According to France’s well-known L’Equipe, Grosjean cancelled a media interview on Monday after struggling to sleep on Sunday.

French reports said Grosjean will definitely be at Monza this weekend, even though Lotus reserve Jerome d’Ambrosio will be racing his black and gold car.

Retired double world champion Mika Hakkinen told the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that the FIA was right to suspend Grosjean.

“Alonso narrowly escaped a tragedy,” he said. “I see the penalty as entirely fair and gives him (Grosjean) a chance to reflect on the way he drives.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Grosjean’s teammate, said he is happy to continue to race alongside the usually-smiling Frenchman.

“He is a good teammate,” said the 2007 world champion. “We talk often and we work together well, even if we don’t do anything together outside of the track.”

Raikkonen would not comment on the first-corner crash or Grosjean’s ban.


Boullier: Grosjean hasn’t blown second shot at F1

Romain Grosjean’s race ban – the first in Formula One for almost two decades – has not damaged the Frenchman’s relationship with Lotus.

That is the claim of his boss and manager Eric Boullier, who fended off speculation Grosjean, 26, could be on the verge of blowing his second and final shot at a grand prix career. Boullier’s other Gravity-managed driver, Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio, is sitting in for Grosjean this weekend, prompting the risk the usually-happy Frenchman could lose momentum and – as he did at the end of 2009 – once again slide off the grid.

Asked if Grosjean will definitely be on the Singapore grid, Boullier told RMC Sport: “Of course.” And 2013? “He has a one-year contract as well as a long-term renewable contract,” said the Lotus team boss.

“A priori, he will be with us next year and for a long time beyond,” revealed Boullier.

Boullier also revealed that Grosjean has sat down for a team meeting to discuss his race ban, which according to speculation was applied because the FIA ran out of patience following a sequence of incidents for the Swiss-born driver this year.

“It (the meeting) was neither severe nor relaxed,” said Boullier.

Asked if Lotus will add its own penalties to Grosjean’s official FIA sanction, he insisted: “Not at all.” Rather, Boullier said Lotus will try to help Grosjean.

“This is an important point that has been raised with Romain. In Formula One, there is a very high level of stress, especially in qualifying and the start. We have spoken with Romain about how to set up a structure so that he can manage his life as a driver and all of his functions.

“I would say that when you have your second chance in F1, there is more pressure. We put a structure in place last winter and now we might have to renew it.”

Part of that structure might be to relegate Grosjean to a ‘number 2’ role for the rest of 2012, also given the fact Kimi Raikkonen is the driver most likely to challenge for the title.

“No,” said Boullier. “But we will do everything to avoid penalising Kimi, who is likely to be fighting for the championship.”


Caterham given fine for unsafe pit release during Belgian GP

Caterham has been handed a €10,000 fine after Heikki Kovalainen was deemed to have been released in an unsafe manner after his pitstop.

“The team [Caterham] admitted to the stewards that it considered itself at fault in causing the unsafe release and apologised to HRT accordingly,” a statement read. “The stewards did not consider that any sporting advantage was gained.”

Also under investigation for pit incidents were Webber and the Red Bull team after a near-miss with the Ferrari of Felipe Massa.

“It was OK. I knew I had Felipe there,” said Webber. “I rolled out of it a little bit to let him merge back in, and then took the fast lane.”

The stewards agreed with Webber and decided not to penalise him for his pit release.

“The stewards noted the evidence that indicated the driver of car #2 [Webber] was aware of the approach of car #6 [Massa] into the pitlane and deliberately, after being released, kept to the right and momentarily lifted throttle to allow car #6 to enter its pit unimpeded, before car #2 turned out into the fast lane.”

Karthikeyan’s crash caused by wheelnut issue

The cause of Narain Karthikeyan’s crash at the Belgian Grand Prix has been revealed – a wheelnut problem stemming from his second pitstop.

The HRT driver went off at Stavelot on his 30th lap, spinning into the barrier causing him to retire from the race.

Talking to Autosport Karthikeyan said, “Something went wrong with the pitstop. The bolt was cross-threaded and then it came off. I was lucky it didn’t come off at Eau Rouge or something like that.

“I didn’t feel it at first, but a few tenths before the accident I felt the front going and it happened too quickly for it to be possible to react. By then, it was already making me spin.”

Karthikeyan has revealed that the crash left him with a slightly knocked foot but this injury won’t cause him any problems at next weekend’s race in Italy.

“It was a big impact and there was a knock to my foot, but it will be fine for Monza,” he said. “What happened is a shame because up to that point we were having a good race.”

Grosjean given one race ban for Belgian GP crash

Romain Grosjean has been handed a one-race ban and €50,000 fine for his part in the crash at the start of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Grosjean moved across on McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton as they approached the first corner. The two cars made contact before coming into contact with both Saubers and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

Race stewards have decided that Grosjean was responsible for the incident and have handed him a one-race ban for the Italian Grand Prix next weekend. He has also been given a €50,000 fine.

“The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others,” a statement said. “It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.”

Lotus have confirmed that they will not be appealing the stewards’ decision.

“The stewards note the team conceded the action of the driver was an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgement,” a Lotus statement said. “Neither the team nor the driver made any submission in mitigation of penalty.”

Double grid slot penalty for Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado has been handed two ten-place grid slot penalties at the Italian Grand Prix after two separate incidents during the Belgian Grand Prix.

Maldonado’s first five place grid slot penalty is for jumping the start of the race at Spa-Francorchamps. Ordinarily, Maldonado would have been given a drive-through penalty during the race however because he retired early the stewards were unable to impose this penalty and therefore gave him a grid slot penalty for the Italian Grand Prix instead.

“The driver failed to finish the race so the usual penalty for a false start could not be imposed,” said an official statement.

Maldonado has also been given a penalty for his clash with Timo Glock. Although Glock was able to continue in the race, the Belgian race stewards decided that Maldonado’s actions deserved a five-place grid slot penalty.

Alonso unhurt after Belgian GP crash

Fernando Alonso visited the medical centre on Sunday after the terrifying first corner crash at Spa-Francorchamps.

The championship leader was visibly shaken after the crash that involved Lotus’ Romain Grosjean flying over and close to the cockpit opening of Alonso’s Ferrari.

“He (Alonso) took a bad knock, but fortunately he was uninjured,” said an initial race report posted on Ferrari’s official website.

The Italian news agency AGI said Alonso returned to the pits after his mandatory medical check-up, where he watched the rest of the race with the Ferrari mechanics.


Button: Win from pole crucial for fading title hopes

Jenson Button has acknowledged a win from pole in Belgium on Sunday is crucial for his fading world championship hopes.

This season’s first winner, Button’s 2012 campaign then nosedived so badly that he has been fending off questions all week about when he will slip into a ‘number 2’ role to accept team orders and help his teammate Lewis Hamilton. But the 32-year-old has bounced back strongly after the August break, securing a dominant pole at Spa-Francorchamps. He is now focused on cutting into his huge 88 point championship deficit.

Asked how important a win on Sunday is, the Briton answered: “It’s very important. It (the title) is a long shot. I need to be on the podium and finishing in front of Fernando (Alonso) at every race for the rest of the season, which is not easy given his consistency.

“But this (pole) is a good start,” he said in Belgium.

“Yeah, a win is very important tomorrow (Sunday) to fight for the championship,” said Button.

He admitted all the questions in the last few days about ceding to team orders and a ‘number 2’ role to support Hamilton have been “very unusual” so early in the season.

But those stories were fuelled by team boss Martin Whitmarsh suggesting there may eventually be a time for team orders, to which Button told F1’s official website on Saturday: “Well, I have never had a teammate that helped me.” He also told reporters on Saturday that rumours and stories like that are “Part of formula one and I’ve experienced it before”.

“The important thing is that within the team we’ve got a very good relationship and we’re working together to build the best car we possibly can and on the weekends trying to extract everything from it.”