Romain Grosjean made a mistake at Spa. He did not do it deliberately but his actions resulted in a accident that could have been a lot worse if the flying cars had landed differently. It is irrelevant whether these cars were driven by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, or if they had been driven by the guys at the back. He was not banned because he hit Hamilton and Alonso, he was banned because the accident should not have happened. By imposing such a ban the stewards are hoping that Grosjean will reflect on his driving and understand that he needs to change his ways. Grosjean is a man under pressure. His first foray into Formula 1 was a disaster and he needs to prove in his second F1 adventure that he is a man who is worthy of a place. So there is a level of desperation in his driving that others do not have. Particularly on the first lap of races, when much is decided. The hope is that the Frenchman will calm down a little, learn from his mistake and mature. It is not unusual for top class drivers to get themselves into such situations. A look back through the history of the sport reveals a number of similar stories, although it is 17 years since the last such ban.
The last driver banned was actually Mika Hakkinen, who was not allowed to race in Hungary in 1994, after casing a first corner accident in Hockenheim. However, the last driver to SERVE a ban was Michael Schumacher, who was given a ban at the British Grand Prix (the race before Hockenheim) for ignoring a penalty and then paying no attention to black flags. His team appealed the decision and so Schumacher did not miss races until after the Court of Appeal had heard the case. He ended up not racing in Italy and Portugal that autumn.
Earlier that year a wild young Eddie Irvine was banned after causing a multi-car crash in Brazil. The Jordan team appealed the ban and lost. The ban was increased to three races.
Before that the most famous incident along these lines was in 1998 when Nigel Mansell was banned from racing in Spain in 1989, after taking Ayrton Senna off AFTER being black-flagged.
Beyond that Felipe Massa was “rested” by the Sauber team in 2002 after he was given the very first 10 grid position penalty after a crash at Monza when he crashed into the Jaguar of Pedro de la Rosa at the Ascari chicane, after the Spanish driver had overtaken him the previous lap by running across the chicane. Sauber decided that it would give the car to another driver rather than race with Massa.
There is a feeling in F1 circles that Pastor Maldonado also needs to calm down after a string of incidents. At Spa he was given two separate five grid-place penalties in the same race. If this goes on, Pastor will probably get a one-race ban at some time in order to see if he will calm down.
Alonso made a very valid point after the crash.
“I think that certain drivers should try and take fewer risks at the start: it’s a bit of a tendency currently in the junior formulae, 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.”