Grosjean banned for Italian Grand Prix

By Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Posted at Sep 03 2012 01:11 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2012 09:11 PM

Lotus Formula One driver Romain Grosjean (R) of France crashes with Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (L) of Spain at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps September 2, 2012. Photo by Jan Van De Vel, Reuters.

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium - French Formula One driver Romain Grosjean will miss next weekend's Italian Grand Prix after being handed a one-race ban and 50,000 euros ($63,000) fine for causing a first corner pile-up in Belgium on Sunday.

His Lotus team said they would not be appealing the stewards' decision.

"When you love racing it's very hard," Grosjean, looking stunned, told reporters after returning to the team motorhome following a meeting with race officials in the Spa paddock.

"I accept my mistake...I misjudged the gap with (McLaren's) Lewis (Hamilton), I was sure I was in front of him. It's a small mistake in a way but a big incident.

"I am not here to stop the race in the first corners, I am very glad that nobody is hurt. But I have to say it is a very hard decision to hear."

The Frenchman has been involved in seven incidents in 12 races this season and triggered Sunday's crash at Spa when he turned into Hamilton at the first corner after Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado's Williams had already jumped the start.

The Briton had nowhere to go and the concertina effect lifted Grosjean's car into the air and skimming across the front of championship leader Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, the Spaniard fortunate not to be hit on the head.

Both the Saubers were also affected in an incident that brought out the safety car. The stewards said the collision was "an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgement" that had eliminated leading contenders from the race.

Driver bans are rare in Formula One, where financial penalties have been more usual in recent years.

The most memorable was a two-race suspension imposed on Michael Schumacher in 1994 with Benetton - the same team that became Renault and is now Lotus - for ignoring black warning flags.

Double champion Mika Hakkinen picked up a one race suspension that same year while Britain's Eddie Irvine was banned for three earlier that season.

Jenson Button and Japan's Takuma Sato missed two races in 2005 when their BAR team were suspended for a fuel tank irregularity.

D'Ambrosio return

Belgian reserve Jerome D'Ambrosio, who raced for Virgin last season, is the likely replacement although the team have yet to take a final decision.

"His chances are very high," said team principal Eric Boullier. "We will consider very seriously Jerome. He is the third driver...but I need to sit down with him and to review a couple of things."

Asked about his track record, Grosjean agreed there had been too many collisions.

"It's too much, I know that," he said. "Some are not my fault, some are. I will analyse that and try not to repeat it in the last six (seven) races."

Grosjean has had three podium finishes this season and has impressed many in the paddock with the way that he has come back to the sport after a difficult time as a stand-in alongside Alonso at Renault in 2009.

Many had thought then that the Swiss-born driver was unlikely to find a way back but he won the GP2 feeder series and has been strongly supported by Lotus team management and French oil company sponsor Total.

Team principal Eric Boullier expected the driver to bounce back from what he termed a 'severe' punishment.

"He was not responsible for seven incidents, he was involved in seven," he said.

"It was a bad accident today but all the drivers around him, when they started their careers, they had also their crashes on the learning curve. We need now to make sure that he is learning fast.

"He went through a tougher time in the past," added Boullier. "Obviously it's a hit for him, a blow, but he's going to recover."

($1 = 0.7933 euros) (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)