While the debate rages on surrounding the outcome of the 2021 Formula One world championship, won by Max Verstappen over Lewis Hamilton amid a controversial conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it is easy to forget the rest of drivers and teams.
An increasingly prevalent theme this season has been the tribulations of Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman not short of an infuriated outburst on any given weekend.
Yet, it’s difficult to know whether the 31-year-old is a genuinely troubled specimen or the object of Formula One’s desire to create narratives from his tirades alarmingly disproportionate to competitors.
His hybrid Franco-Swiss dialect has been the source of much amusement since his debut in 2009, complete with the shaggy mop, though his character has undergone several incarnations across that time.
It is fascinating to equate the crash-prone Grosjean of 2012, infamously incurring a rare suspension for instigating the dramatic first-turn melee at Belgium, to the apparently jaded individual projected whenever his radio communications are broadcast.
Branded a “first-lap nutcase” and warned to “put his sneakers on if he hits me” by Mark Webber, his moniker as a quick yet reckless driver gave way to a greatly maturing Grosjean over the subsequent 12 months.
The same Australian praised the Frenchman’s “very different mental approach to the job” as he established himself as the closest equivalent Sebastian Vettel had to a rival in the forgettable back half of 2013.
Sadly that campaign continues to represent the peak of his achievements, as his emergence as a team leader coincided with a downturn in form for the Enstone outfit now known as Renault, with a solitary podium gleaned over the following four seasons.
A switch to newcomers Haas for 2016, with designs on a future berth at Ferrari, appeared to be an inspired call based on the initial races, with points at three of the opening four events indicating considerable potential.
On the contrary, Grosjean has since cast a perpetually aggrieved figure, an attitude not without its merit last season, though the extension of his forlorn demeanour through 2017 has been a curiosity.
His sensitive style hasn’t lent itself to brake configurations, which the Frenchman has struggled to come to grips with over the duration of his tenure with the American squad, yet his inability to adapt despite recurring switches between Brembo and Carbone Industrie in an attempt to find his sweet spot has led to his sometimes irrational frustration.
Protesting to the pit wall at Austin last month that “we should retire the car… I can see the whole f***ing tyre. What are we doing guys, seriously?” he was chastened with a terse “shut up” reply, speaking to the tension which has slowly been rising within.
That teammate Kevin Magnussen is gradually winning the upper hand having taken time to find his feet, evinced by his ability to drive around the car’s inherent issues at Mexico to eighth while Grosjean languished in 15th, is also certain to be weighing on the latter’s mind.
Not helping his disillusioned projection has been the induction of pre-race drivers briefing footage at Liberty’s behest, frequently featuring Grosjean as a central proponent regarding often trivial issues of the day.
In the Japanese edition his opposition to the loosening of seat belts at the conclusion of races earned Lewis Hamilton’s ire. On the other hand, he is Grand Prix Drivers Association director and thus has a mandate to conduct himself with welfare at the forefront, though perhaps this has always been the dynamic.
Grosjean is aware that the clock is ticking, and having been passed over by Ferrari and others it’s inevitable that he feels jilted. It’s merely whether he’s the only driver with such an axe to grind.