Haas’ Romain Grosjean was left confused after he was passed by Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez in Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The Frenchman qualified fifth for the Sunday’s race at Suzuka and ran well in the lead of the midfield pack even after the pit stop. He looked settled in seventh after Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel recovered in the race.
The Racing Point Force India drivers could have troubled him as Grosjean was on the harder compound with Perez on soft and Esteban Ocon on medium, but Grosjean maintained a gap of about 1.5-2 seconds to Perez for the most part of the race.
When Sauber’s Charles Leclerc retired on Lap 38, the gap between Grosjean and Perez was 1.626s. Under yellow flags, it was 1.618s on Lap 39 and increased to 2.155s on Lap 40. By the end of Lap 41, Perez was already ahead of Grosjean once VSC ended.
The Frenchman talked about a 2.4s gap to Perez under VSC which he was nearly correct about. However, Racing Point Force India used a clever strategy to gain time on Grosjean as and when the VSC ended to close the gap and overtake the Haas driver.
“I think the gap was 2.4s and I slowed down for the double yellow and I think Checo didn’t slow down as much,” he said to the media in Japan. “The gap went down and I think we were 0.6s when we re-started.
“So, 2.4s to 1.2s under the yellow and then 0.6s and he was there. Anyway, we had few issues in the car in general but I really respected the yellow flags and I haven’t got many points on my license.
“He used that [to his advantage]. I don’t think it’s the way the racing should go, but anyway, we did our best.” Grosjean is indeed on a tight rope with nine penalty points to his name. Three more will result in a race ban.
Three points will be deducted though from his license in Mexico and Brazil, leaving him with six heading into 2019 – provided he earns no more penalty points in 2018. Meanwhile, Haas’ team principal Guenther Steiner was perplexed with the move as well.
Since the data is quite complex to check especially with all the mini sectors counted for VSC, the Italian reckoned they will study it further to understand what went wrong. He praised Grosjean though for his performance after the loss of tyre data due to fire.
“We have got the data and we will look into it and I don’t know yet because it is quite complex,” he said. “You have to look into it with all the mini sectors and all that stuff, we will look into it on that one.
“As Romain said, on his car we had an issue in the beginning, we had no telemetry for tyres or anything, so we were struggling. We did the best and in the end, we got away with four points and we gained three on Renault.
“We have four races to go and we keep on going. Today wasn’t our day. On the timing thing, we will look into it and come up with a proper conclusions, it is difficult to do up there when you try to run a race.”
The American had more to worry about after another rant against their driver Kevin Magnussen from his rival – this time Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who accused the Dane for dangerous driving. The clash was deemed as a racing incident.
Looking at the bigger picture, Haas closed its gap to Renault in the fight for fourth as it sits at eighth points between the two with four races remaining, after Carlos Sainz managed to score a point in Japan.