|By Stuart Neo - 12 March 2013|
In the 2012 season, Romain Grosjean was in the spot light for being involved in seven first lap collisions. His antics at the Belgium GP, in which his Lotus E20 alarmingly sailed inches past Fernando Alonso's head, earnt him a one race ban and a reputation as being a reckless and unpredictable driver. Even exceeding the "overly aggressive" reputation of fellow rookie, Pastor Maldonado.
On return from his one race ban where he sat out of the Italian Grand Prix, Romain was involved in another first lap incident, bunting Mark Webber out of the Japanese Grand Prix.
F1 pundit Martin Brundle, expressed his concern for Romain's inability to change, fearing "there may be no solution." Johnny Herbert of SkyF1 concurring with "I don't think there is anything he can do because he just keeps on repeating it."
Fans of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso expressed their outrage on internet forums.
Post Suzuka, Mark Webber branded Romain Grosjean as a "first-lap nutcase" and Martin Whitmarsh capped it off by calling the incident as "Classic Grosjean." His name now synonymous with racing incidents.
To help Romain cope with the media storm and the backlash from F1 fans, late in 2012, Romain hired the help from a sports psychologist.
"It's helped in how I approach my racing and how I approach the race weekend," Grosjean said. "That said, I don't want to give too many secrets away.
With support from his psychologist and team, Romain was focused on staying out of trouble and working on his spacial awareness. In the final races 2012, Grosjean seemed overly tentative, giving up places to avoid incidents. It was however all part of his plans to revive his F1 career.
His support from Lotus team boss and manager, Eric Boullier has been rock solid, even during his darkest days.
"The support from the team has been fantastic and I am looking forward to hopefully a very strong 2013 season," Grosjean said.
It seems Romain's work over the winter has given him some perspective and empathy.
"I knew when I made mistakes. I'm the first one to blame myself. I've been sorry sometimes for drivers that I touched. I said it and that's about the best I can do - and trying to not repeat it."
During pre-season testing, the E21 looked strong, despite having some relibility issues. Grosjean remains optimistic about their chances at the opening race at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne.
"The E21 feels like a good racing car, better than the E20 and that was a good car already. We're still working on set-up and upgrades of course, and that's something you work on all season.
"I feel quite confident heading to Melbourne. Hopefully, you will see the results in a more consistent performance from me in 2013 - that's what we're all working for."
No doubt Romain Grosjean is fast. He is the only driver to hold both titles in the GP2 and GP2 Asia simultaneously (2011). In his first full F1 season last year, he scored three podiums and edged Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying (10 vs 9 - excluding Monza). He also won the 2012 Race of Champions in which Sebastian Vettel participated.
If Grosjean is able to direct his energies towards improving his race craft, has the speed to become a future world champion.