Romain Grosjean, Ross Chastain and the code


We brought you here today, during this week when NASCAR and IndyCar are out and only Formula One is on the race schedule. (Canadian GP, ​​Sunday, 2 pm ET; broadcast live on ABC) to discuss what has always been a hot topic among hot shoes, but has become a particularly hot topic in recent weeks in all forms of motorsports: self-control on the racetrack.

Drivers enforcing highway codes through bumpers and retaining walls. Chrome Horn Justice. It’s been around forever, but when exactly is it okay for racers to take the discipline into their own gloves? And is it okay at all?

“I don’t think it’s any different in motorsport than any other sport where you see veterans giving lessons to youngsters or champions reminding rookies what’s acceptable and what’s not,” explains Mario Andretti when asked about discipline management. on the race track. “What’s different is that in our sport, someone can get hurt or die. The person who needs to be taught the lesson needs to be remembered first and foremost, but also the rider who has decided he’s going to be an enforcer. It can’t be fixed. something making it worse”.


Then the man who won all three heats adds, “But you can fix it. And sometimes it really needs fixing. No it’s really, but who.”

There have been a couple of very high-profile “whos” this season, starting in the IndyCar paddock.

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When Romain Grosjean arrived in the IndyCar Series in 2021, he brought a preset image with him. A reputation. Not the one you might be thinking of, the stunning death-defying “Phoenix” who emerged from a crash at the 2020 F1 Bahrain GP, ​​came out of a terrifying hell and looks just like Hugh Jackman in that Wolverine movie that everyone hates.

No, we mean the reputation it had earned long before that day for being, shall we say, difficult to overtake without some sort of problem. Specifically speaking, a slightly unpredictable driving pattern and the resulting inevitable contact for those trying to maneuver around the Swiss-born driver on the race track. F1 competitor Mark Webber once described him as a “first lap nut”.

It was that notoriety that gave his new American single-seater rivals pause when he moved from F1 to IndyCar. It’s a scouting report that clearly influenced Graham Rahal’s words six weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park. After a run-in with Grosjean, the three-time Indy champion’s son, Bobby, was furious.

“I knew Romain was going to bomb me because I had already been warned that this was what he was doing,” Rahal said, referring to calls of caution he received from the F1 driver corps and other competitors after Grosjean’s other incidents this week. season, particularly in Barber and St. Petersburg. He then turned his comments into promises to send a future message through his racing machine. “If the race control does not want [penalize Grosjean]then they won’t do anything. But when we go to kick him, you better not do anything to me. … I think drivers need to come together, all of us, because I’m not the only one with a problem.”

A month later, when the NASCAR Cup Series held its inaugural event in St. Louis, Ross Chastain was so in the way on the narrow 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval that he drew the ire of not one but two future NASCAR Halls. of famers. Denny Hamlin, furious at being kicked into the wall by Chastain, swerved to block him almost in the infield down the backstretch. Then Chase Elliott, also converted by Chastain, tried to crash him more than once during the same lap, all while Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson was yelling over the radio to put the No. 1 car in the fence.

After the race, Chastain frankly trailed off apologizing, while Hamlin said, “There seemed to be no sense of conscience that said, ‘Maybe I’m getting a little aggressive.'” That is his decision. He can make any decision he wants. He’s his own kind of him…he’s been very successful doing what he’s doing, but ultimately the sport is self-controlled. When you least expect it and when it means the best is when it turns around.”

It didn’t occur to Chastain last Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. He doesn’t have it for Grosjean either. Even.

Rahal and Grosjean spoke privately after their incident with Barber. During the week of the Indy 500, Grosjean seemed to think his problem with Rahal was solved, but Rahal said their conversation was little more than Grosjean telling him that you don’t drive in F1 for 10 years “unless you’re top-notch.” “. level” and recalled that he was far from the only driver eliminated from a race this season due to contact with the former Haas F1 driver.

Chastain, meanwhile, said he has “talked to all parties involved” and that it was “a good conversation,” but added cryptically, “Whatever happens, happens.” He sure feels like a lot of ‘yet’s. It’s just a matter of when, where and how it happens.

Will it be with a bumper or nose somewhere down the road when, as Hamlin said, it matters most? See: 2012 Phoenix, the penultimate race of the NASCAR Cup Series season, when Jeff Gordon turned on Clint Bowyer in the closing laps to keep him from going to the championship final. Why? To avenge a run-in with Bowyer at Martinsville eight months before.

Or will it be in a closed-door driver’s meeting, in which the room will be joined by the only problem child? See: Talladega 1991, when Ernie Irvan was so out of control that many drivers and team owners cornered and reprimanded him, for which he stood up at the pre-race drivers’ meeting and apologized. Most of the room applauded “Swervin’ Irvan’s” speech. Others refused to show praise until he actually earned it: ahem, Rusty Wallace.

See also: The countless number of overly honest F1 driver meetings when drivers angrily talk about questionable moves by their colleagues as if the offending party wasn’t there in the room.

“The nature of our cars doesn’t lend itself to many physical lessons on the track, certainly not like NASCAR or V8 Supercars in Australia,” explained McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo during the Miami GP weekend. He grew up a huge fan of the track’s last stock-car discipliner, Dale Earnhardt, who always credited Richard Petty’s insults for putting him in his place as a reckless rookie. “That leaves our driver meetings in F1 as the place to voice the grievances. You’re just praying you’re not the guy they go after, because when they do, they’ll cross that line from polite to awkward very quickly. “

“That’s what you have to decide: where is the line that you have to cross for you to decide, ‘OK, this has to be done now,’ and then what line are you willing to cross to make your point?” Kevin Harvick explained earlier this season. Last fall, he ran over Elliott at the Charlotte Roval to make one of those points, after Elliott stopped him from advancing to the playoffs.

“Sometimes life teaches you good lessons,” Harvick said that day. Now add context to that lesson teaching. “You don’t go out to hurt a man. You go out to hurt his day. Again, you have to know where the lines are that can and cannot be crossed.”

That day in Charlotte, NASCAR determined that Harvick and Elliott had crossed one of the bad lines and called the two former champions to the carpet to tell them as much.

“What NASCAR does is take the position that they’re trying to let competitors race,” Gustafson later recalled of the incident. “They want the competitors to be able to determine the outcome of the races, let the competitors take care of it on their own. I think that’s the way it should be, but the message that NASCAR delivered was, ‘We tried to do the best job we could to leave for you guys to fix this on the track, but that went too far. They basically told us they were over it.”

The surveillance of self-monitoring.

“We all know where that line is, at least we should,” said two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. At times, he has been one of Grosjean’s most vocal critics. “But this can’t be Mad Max. It’s a bunch of runners who depend on each other to run hard but also run smart. Run safe. That’s really the point of all of this.”

“And there isn’t a single racer at these levels who hasn’t gotten a pep talk from a veteran because they did something dumb. The result has to be that you don’t do that dumb thing again. That’s when you’ll get the wagons around you.”