x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Lots for Grosjean, Hamilton and Maldonado to learn from

Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado had chastening weekends in Belgium.

Romain Grojean, left, and Lewis Hamilton both had tough weekends at Spa.
Romain Grojean, left, and Lewis Hamilton both had tough weekends at Spa.

At 31, Fernando Alonso is no veteran, but his words of advice to Formula One's younger drivers must not be ignored.

The Spaniard saw his Belgian Grand Prix ruined after Romain Grosjean tried to squeeze Lewis Hamilton off the track on the approach to Turn One.

All three cars ended up in a mangled heap of broken bodywork, yet the consequences of Grosjean's actions could so easily have been fatal. The Frenchman's Lotus, as it was propelled over the top of Alonso's Ferrari, only narrowly missed the Spaniard's head. It is little wonder the two-time world champion had to visit the medical centre at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for shock.

Alonso said afterwards he was not angry with Grosjean, but urged less experienced drivers to take fewer risks at the start.

"It's a bit of a tendency in the junior formulae," he said. "But it would be better if, right from the start of their career, they got used to respecting more strictly the rules relating to behaviour on track."

Grosjean, after being fined €50,000 (Dh231,400) and banned by the governing body from partaking in this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, issued a contrite apology accepting the punishment, and adding "it was a small mistake, but a big incident". He is delusional.

This was no small mistake. This was an extremely serious error made at the worst possible time.

And neither was it an anomaly. The 26 year old has now been involved in seven first-lap crashes in 12 races this year, a statistic that makes for uncomfortable reading for all involved in this consistently dangerous sport and surely a primary factor for the race stewards when deliberating adequate punishment.

And while, yes, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile in the wording of their statement needlessly acknowledged that the incident eliminated leading championship contenders - would they have been less severe if the driver had ruined the race of, say, Narain Karthikeyan? - they were absolutely correct with the sanction itself.

The hope is now that not only will the FIA be consistent with their rulings throughout the remainder of the season, but also that Grosjean will learn from the incident and temper his high-risk driving. A one-race ban and monetary fine is little price to pay if it produces a safer driver.

Unfortunately, Pastor Maldonado of Williams - 12 penalties so far this season, including three last weekend - continues to prove that both race steward consistency and increased driver maturity are far from certain consequences.

If Grosjean and Maldonado are to heed the words of Alonso in a quest to mature and improve their behaviour on track, it can be argued Hamilton should heed the actions of the Spaniard to mature and improve his behaviour off it.

The 27-year-old Englishman, much like his Spanish counterpart, has in recent months embraced social media.

Yet while Alonso has maintained caution with what he shares on the likes of Twitter and Instagram, posting short on-message notes that could be - but are likely not - approved first by Ferrari, Hamilton has instead provided his followers an unprecedented, unfiltered insight into the life of an F1 driver.

While Hamilton's approach is by far the more enlightening of the two - and I personally see no issue with the language he chooses to use - a certain level of prudence is essential. On Sunday morning, just hours before the race and shortly after a team meeting, the McLaren-Mercedes driver posted a photograph of telemetry data that included a breakdown of both his and teammate Jenson Button's qualifying laps.

Such information is highly confidential and thus highly coveted by rival teams. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before Red Bull Racing, among others, acquired a copy.

Likewise, following a qualifying session on Saturday in which he finished eighth and Button finished on pole, Hamilton was quick to take to Twitter to express his anger with the decision to run an older wing modification compared to his teammate.

Even though the decision appeared to have been taken with his input, he appeared to blame the team and, again, the tweets quickly disappeared.

Such disputes, while fascinating for the public to witness, should remain private.

Alonso knows this. When a poor strategic call by Ferrari lost him the 2010 world championship at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, it would have been quite understandable for him to express his anger. Yet he bit his tongue and played the team game. Hamilton must learn to do likewise.

Fortunately, the Briton has a chance to quickly put his recent behaviour behind him and let his driving do the talking at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Grosjean will need to wait until Singapore.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae