The first time I covered a race for AUTOSPORT featuring Romain Grosjean was in June 2007 - an F3 Euro Series event at the spectacular Norisring circuit in Germany.
He was already building a formidable name for himself, having won the French Formula Renault title two years earlier and shown flashes of speed during his maiden F3 campaign in 2006.
Earlier that month, he had claimed his first victory in the F3 Euro Series at Brands Hatch, having moved to the crack ASM F3 team (later renamed ART). He qualified fourth for the first race of the weekend in what was a strong field. The three drivers who had outpaced him were Sebastien Buemi, Nico Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi. Grosjean went on to win a rain-affected two-part race on aggregate. And here's how he did it, according to the report on this very website.
"Kobayashi led at the start from third on the grid after Grosjean's attempt to pass Buemi at the first corner forced them both wide and gave the Japanese ASM driver a clear lead. Kobayashi led, with Nico Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Buemi tracking him as the first four pulled away at the front.
"First to hit trouble was Hulkenberg, who crashed out of the race when Grosjean forced him onto the dirt off the inside of the track on the run to the hairpin. Hulkenberg spun, and was fortunate not to collect Kobayashi as he flew across the track at the first corner.
"The rain then struck, and on lap 24 Grosjean lost it in the wet and hit Kobayashi in the left-hander of the Esses. Kobayashi spun, while Grosjean continued in the lead ahead of Buemi."
Romain Grosjean and Kamui Kobayashi battle for position in the 2007 F3 Euro Series at the Norisring © LAT
From there, Grosjean managed to win the race, which ended after a red flag flew for a heavy downpour, without angering any more future F1 drivers.
It wasn't the only race that season in which he upset some of his rivals, a tendency that has occasionally flared up during the intervening years in his career.
I couldn't help but think back to that day in 2007 as the Franco-Swiss Lotus driver fielded questions in the Korean Grand Prix paddock today. While many have been critical of Grosjean ever since his ban, others have been a little more circumspect.
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly because missing Monza will have given him the time to reflect on the blunders and the incentive to sort them out and secondly because for all the eye-catching numbers about the first-lap incidents he has been involved in, they have far from exclusively been his fault. But after Suzuka, the pressure is really building on Grosjean.
Inevitably, both Grosjean and Mark Webber were summoned to the afternoon's FIA press conference. The Australian paid a visit to the Lotus driver shortly after the Japanese Grand Prix to make emphatically clear his feelings about the incident, which effectively ended any lingering hopes Webber had of the title.
"I went to see Romain," said Webber. "We had a discussion about it and that was that"
Grosjean admitted that he was quick to apologise and insisted that he is taking the problem seriously.
"The only thing I could say was to apologise and that's what I did," said Grosjean. "I'm clearly conscious of the risk at the start. I'm working on changing quite a lot of things. There is a process going on. I'm not stupid and I'm conscious of the risk."
But recognising and accepting the problem isn't the challenge Grosjean faces. He is undoubtedly sincere in what he says, but can he fix it?
Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber (foreground) in Thursday's press conference at Mok-Po © LAT
Young drivers will always make mistakes and once they get to F1 those blunders happen in full view of millions. The stakes are very high, and at 26 you have to ask how much longer Grosjean can be forgiven for these errors. More worryingly, after five years of watching a driver who unquestionably has the pace to cut it with the best in F1 get involved in the odd scrape, you have to ask if breaking the pattern is beyond him.
Team principal Eric Boullier said after the Japanese GP that only Grosjean himself can solve the problem. Boullier is a shrewd driver manager and rightly rates Grosjean as having world champion potential, but there is a limit to what can be done to help. One of the characteristics of the greats is the way they respond under pressure and he's right not to make excuses for his charge. Grosjean knows he's making mistakes and he knows that he must stop.
To make matters worse, every single driver will know that Grosjean must be on his best behaviour on track and will capitalise on any perceived weakness in a driver who cannot afford to make more errors.
Succeeding at the elite level in sport is all about dealing with the pressure. In the first few seconds of Sunday's race, Grosjean will be tested. If he can pass that test, and the ones that follow, he will have taken a significant stride towards fulfilling his potential as a regular grand prix winner.
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