Martin Donnelly says Romain Grosjean needs to lose this 'sprint race mentality' of winning at turn one

"To finish first, first you have to finish," warns former Lotus driver

By William Esler at Silverstone.   Last Updated: 19/10/12 4:40pm

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Martin Donnelly says Romain Grosjean needs to realise that unlike some junior categories, F1 races are not won at the first corner.

A former-F1 driver himself, Donnelly is now one of the driver representatives on the FIA Stewards Panel, filling the role in Canada and Korea this year.

The Northern Irishman feels that the 'sprint race mentality' drivers learn in the lower categories means they are not prepared for the longer races when they arrive in F1.

"You could say that he has just been unlucky if it had been once or twice but to have seven in, I think it was nine races at the time, it is more than just bad luck," the former Lotus driver told Sky Sports.

"I had a long chat with his manager Eric Boullier in Korea and he said what they have to try and instil into Grosjean's head is that when you consider his career to this point, everything he has done -from Formula Renault 2.0, Formula 3, GP2 - have technically all been sprint races, where the starts are important and do make a difference.

"It is not like F1 where you have got the DRS Zone, you have got tactics from the team to get you out of traffic and it is an hour and a half to two hour race and they aren't won on the first lap as they are in two-litre and F3.

"He has got to get himself into that mind-set where if he loses one or two places at the start, then fine, so what, if he gains two, great. But it is not the end of the world - teams can readdress their strategy in a race situation to try and leapfrog them in pit-stops or go from a two-stop to a one-stop and cars in Grand Prix are also temperamental so they can breakdown.

"The fact that he has been in an environment where everything is about the first lap, he has to readdress that mentality and I read that he recognises that now, that it isn't a sprint, it is a two-hour race and to finish first, first you have to finish and points make prizes."

Drivers are reaching F1 at younger and younger ages - Grosjean was only 23 when he made his debut in 2009, whilst Sebastian Vettel was only 19 when he stood in for Robert Kubica at the United States GP in 2007 - and that means they have had less time to hone their skills before reaching the pinnacle of the sport.

Grosjean was placed back into GP2 in 2011 to develop his skills before returning to the grid this season, but rather than being too young, Donnelly feels that a lack of track time, caused by prohibitive testing restrictions, is the reason some drivers struggle to adapt to F1.

"I don't think they are dropped in too early, I think there is just a lot more pressure these days - a lot more commercial pressures and a lot less track running these days," the 48-year-old added.

"I was sat in the hotel on Sunday morning having breakfast at 9:30am and Mark Webber came down and sat beside me. I said 'Mark should you not be at the circuit', he said, 'I have nothing to do until 2pm'.

"In my day by 8.30am we had done 30 laps in morning warm-up and you had been in there since 6.30am! It is obviously all cost related and unfortunately one of the cuts is testing - more mileage means more costs."

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