Romain Grosjean reflects on his first year with Andretti Autosport
Romain Grosjean patched things up with Alexander Rossi and cleared social media with Marcus Ericsson with a couple of phone calls, but the Andretti Autosport driver won’t deny he has plenty of detractors across the IndyCar circuit. The former Formula 1 driver’s IndyCar campaign will be largely remembered for his surprise at IMS and his scarred hand clutching the runner-up trophy the next day, or the way the crowd at Laguna Seca chanted his name, standing 10 deep.
But his sophomore season?
There’s his frustrated, confused stare, his shoulders shrugging, hands in the air, as Josef Newgarden drives past Grosjean’s wrecked #29 in Nashville. His thunderous crash just after the halfway point in his Indianapolis 500 debut. Standing next to an Andretti Autosport transmission he calls Alexander Rossi an “utter idiot.” And who could forget that tongue-whacking Graham Rahal gave Driver of the Year a second post-race at Barber on NBC after the pair banged wheels multiple times during the closing laps?
This time last year, Grosjean was seen as the next huge star for IndyCar. Fans who ‘meet’ him through their TVs while watching him narrowly escape a fiery death in Bahrain on ‘Drive to Survive’ are now appearing at IndyCar races dressed in F1 gear.
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After a difficult and at times controversial contract in Formula 1, the 35-year-old was given a chance to race the American open wheel with the gritty little Dale Coyne Racing team, finishing 15 years old.The tenth points while skipping the ovals before agreeing to tackle the full schedule and join forces with the well-resourced Andretti Autosport.
At St. Pete in February, he was crowned IndyCar Fans’ Most Popular Driver. There is reason to wonder whether this honor has offended some of his rivals. After years of hard work for some drivers to promote the sport, here comes this F1 veteran without a recent string of solid and consistent results stealing all the headlines, fan attention and top spots in the series of promotional spots.
Although Grosjean does not admit to having any overt jealousy towards him from the other drivers in the paddock, he admits that he still cannot say why, in such a rough, he rubs the wheel, not giving an inch. In the competitive era of IndyCar, it continues to garner some drivers’ ire both on and off the track.
“These guys are who they are,” Grosjean told IndyStar in a recent exclusive interview. Now, I know I’m not perfect. I make mistakes, but those who say, “Yeah, you have an aggressive reputation,” I say, “Well, provide the facts, please. Who have you pushed off the track since you’ve been in IndyCar? “Bring me the facts, and if they are there, I will agree. But if they are not, they are not…”
Drivers see more than TV cameras catch, but on a quick mental tour of Grosjeans’ 28 IndyCar there’s throwing it at Jimmie Johnson in the Corkscrew a year ago at Laguna Seca hoping to chase the 2Abbreviation II or 1Street-Flying in the back of Takuma Sato during practice at St. Pete this year, he rubbed some overzealousness at Barber and his back-and-forth with his mid-Ohio teammates with nearly the entire organization imploding.
A mistake or two and some tough racing no doubt, but in less than two seasons Grosjean has become a lightning rod on the circuit. Love it or hate it, you probably have an opinion on it.
“You’re such a nice guy, I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Scott McLaughlin said calmly of Grosjean as he shared a post-qualifying press conference in Nashville.
A day later, McLaughlin’s Penske teammate Josef Newgarden was standing on the curb, after being asked about his late turn in Turn 9 with Grosjean leaving the Andretti driver in the tire barrier. He simply said, “Welcome to IndyCar.”
“I don’t know what that is. There’s nothing I can do for these guys to act,” Grosjean said. “I think we all make mistakes sometimes, and we have to go and apologize. There are a few guys that I’m really disappointed with in this series, but there are also a lot that I really enjoy. It is what it is, and I just do my business and enjoy my time with some good men, and others, they can just act the way they are if they want to.”
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Grosjean says the list of drivers he has grown to hate and mistrust does not include his former teammate Alexander Rossi for what he deserves. Grosjean said he was involved in a heartfelt phone call with Rossi after their on-track spark in Mid-Ohio that ended in some generic name-calling.
“I think we have very similar personalities, hence the clash,” Grosjean said. “But I love Alex. He’s a great driver, and he’s shown some solid performances lately. I’m delighted to learn from him. I know he’s going to another team next year, but hopefully we can keep that relationship going.”
“I think (their incidents in mid-Ohio) allowed us to discuss things and get what we thought on the table and go from there and be better. I have nothing against him. On my part, I apologized for calling him an asshole. It wasn’t great for me, but that’s it.” The only thing I can apologize for. (On the track), I didn’t do anything wrong, I was pushed off the track, and that was it.”
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Achieving consistency on the track has been a much less straightforward journey for Grosjean. During his Andretti debut, he showed speed and achieved results in all three aspects of the series: street racing (5The tenth In St. Pete, 2Abbreviation II in Long Beach and close to the top 5 courses in Nashville (7The tenth In Barber and 4The tenth in Road America) and ovals (7The tenth and 9The tenth in Iowa). But he maintains that the Andretti Autosport he watched and admired from afar a year ago didn’t show that casual dominance we saw so much in 2021 from Colton Herta.
When it comes to the lack of the truly dominant street track speed that we’ve grown to expect from Andretti cars in recent years, Grosjean blames the change to the Firestone tire compound. Finally, he said, they’ve found a nugget or two in a damper setup in Nashville that they hope they can bring to 2023.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s not the season we were expecting on the part of the team or on my part, so we shifted focus very early on to 2023,” Grosjean said. “Hopefully we can replicate what we found in Nashville. Some of the team’s strengths from the past became weaknesses because of the change in tyres, and we’ve had to overcome that. I don’t think it’s important that we have two new drivers. We were quick in places, which is It’s great, but I feel we can do more. Find a pack that I can drive fast, and that’s something that took me longer to find than I would have liked.”
On a much bigger team with a lot more resources than he’s used to as an IndyCar rookie, Grosjean said he sees the possibility of finding himself in that four-, five- or six-driver race to the finish for the Astor Cup in 2023. What he said will ultimately decide. , is a general improvement across Andretti Autosport – himself included – in avoiding mistakes, taking chances when they are available and blending into a machine that works better and better. Although he doesn’t often see himself as a natural leader in the team, Grosjean said he knows if he can raise his game, his ability to provide noteworthy and useable feedback to his young teammates may in turn boost them. .
He works individually and is focused on his own performance, he said, knowing that stronger results across the team must ultimately lead to more opportunities for him to establish himself as a potential race-winning driver who never shone during his contract. in F1.
“In my 10 years in F1, the way it works is you have a teammate, but you don’t really exchange anything. You have access to the data, and then it’s up to you to find and use it. I feel here it’s more open than in Formula 1 But I try to focus on myself and what I can do as much as I can.” “I will give my feedback to the team, and if they want to use it, they will use it. They share, and if there is any interest, I use it.
“But on the track there is actually less teamwork than in F1. There are no team orders, and that’s something I’ve had to adapt to, because sometimes I’m on newer tyres, and I’m like, ‘Let me pass’, and they say, ‘No, we’re We don’t do that here.”
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