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Lotus reserve driver Jerome d'Ambrosio has emerged as the most likely substitute for Romain Grosjean after the Frenchman was banned from this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.
Stewards slapped Grosjean with a one-race ban, the first in Formula One since 1994, after deeming him responsible for the opening lap collision at Spa, labelling it an "extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury." Indeed, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was lucky not to be struck on the head by Grosjean's Lotus, a point which has prompted renewed discussion around driver protection.
With Grosjean out of the running for Monza focus has naturally turned to who will replace him, with d'Ambrosio, the team's reserve driver, the obvious choice. Present at every race on stand-by the 26-year-old has spent much of the season in the commentary box providing expert comment on GP3, GP2 and F1 races for a number of television networks.
Indeed it was d'Ambrosio's GP2 commentary colleague who fuelled speculation that the Belgian could be set to race after suggesting he had rushed back to Lotus' headquarters for a seat fitting. With just a week between the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix time to make any adjustments to Grosjean's car is limited.
However, Lotus boss Eric Boullier has refused to confirm who will be behind the wheel come Monza despite the speculation. "We'll announce the name of Romain's replacement a bit later in the week," he said. "We are thinking of our third driver first of all. There are many drivers looking for a steering wheel."
Speaking after the race which saw his lead driver knocked out - almost literally - at the first corner, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali claimed the sport needed to be harder on young drivers. "It would be better if, starting with the junior formulae, rules relating to on-track behaviour were enforced in an inflexible manner, so as to have drivers as well prepared as possible when they reach the highest level of motorsport."
"No-one does this on purpose," admitted Fernando Alonso. "They were fighting and they are two aggressive drivers, Lewis and Romain, and this time it was us in the wrong place in the wrong time.
"In twelve races he had seven crashes," he added.
Boullier however defended his driver, refuting insinuations that Grosjean was the common denominator when it came to early race incidents. "He was not responsible for seven incidents," he explained, "he was involved in seven incidents, which is different.
"Obviously being in the wrong place is not good, and that means we have to keep working and talking," he added. "He will learn even more if he does not put too much pressure on himself at the start of the race."
D'Ambrosio raced for Marussia in 2011 after graduating from GP2, his best result a brace of 14th place finishes in Australia and Canada. The Belgian driver joined Lotus in January, spending time in the car during the Mugello test in May.
There were several bans in 1994. Eddie Irvine (Jordan) picked up a three race ban for an incident during the season opening Brazilian Grand Prix, a ban which was to rule him out of the ill-fated race at San Marino,
Very much on edge following the incidents at Imola, the FIA was to subsequently ban McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen from the Hungarian Grand Prix following his involvement in a major incident at the previous race (Germany) while Michael Schumacher was banned from the Italian and Portuguese rounds after being disqualified for 'plank irregularities' at Spa. The German was driving for the Benetton team which subsequently became Renault and then Lotus.
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