How IndyCar has reinvigorated Grosjean’s career

Romain Grosjean. Picture: Joe Skibinski

After a difficult final Formula 1 season – in more ways than one – Romain Grosjean has rediscovered his sense of self-belief in the United States.

Grosjean’s raw pace has never been in question.

He won a string of feeder championships on his way up the ranks and by the end of 2013 was a nine-time Formula 1 podium finisher, matching it with world champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus.

One more podium would follow in 2015 before signing as a foundation driver at Haas.

Five years there saw the car improve before rapidly worsening, and his last grand prix ended in a dramatic fireball at Bahrain.

Prolonged poor results took a toll – so when an opportunity in the IndyCar Series at Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing opened up, it was a fresh start… and boy has the move come up trumps.

Grosjean has quickly become hot property in IndyCar off the back of a rookie campaign that, so far, has been headlined by a pole position and two podiums.

All this in an ultra-competitive field described by Australian star Will Power as the “toughest era in IndyCar history right now”.

“It’s been a really, really good year,” Grosjean told Speedcafe.com.

“It’s been an absolute incredible journey, I’ve loved every race of it and I must say I’m super happy and glad I got to discover the series.

“Formula 1 has been incredible but the last few years we were fighting at the back with Kevin [Magnussen, former Haas team-mate] and after 20, 40 races in a row where you are always at the back you start doubting yourself.

The terrifying, fiery crash Grosjean had at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

“You see Kevin doing really well [now] in IMSA and sportscar and myself doing great in IndyCar, you’re like ‘okay, it wasn’t us, it was definitely the car, 100 percent’.

“Knowing what they are doing now, it’s like, ‘those guys were doing really well’.

“In sport you always doubt yourself a bit, building self-confidence is not easy and it takes very little to lose it but I guess yes, from the first [IndyCar] testing I felt pretty good and it was a really good environment to help me get up to speed.

“Right now, I’m lucky to surf a good wave.”

A long-awaited win now seems just a matter of time, his last open-wheel victory having come in July 2011 at Hungary as part of his title-winning GP2 campaign.

“That would be very special,” Grosjean said of the prospect of standing on the top step of an IndyCar podium.

“I haven’t been winning a race for 10 years almost, so I hope it’s going to come soon.

“It wasn’t far a couple of times, not far at all, so I hope it’s going to come.

“The only thing I can do is keep doing the best I can and obviously you need the day that everything goes well – the car is good, you drive well, you have the strategy on your side and you go for the win.”

Grosjean (left), Will Power (middle) and Colton Herta (right) made up the podium a fortnight ago at Indianapolis. Picture: James Black

While he has no regrets about persisting with F1 as long as he did, Grosjean considers the IndyCar switch “one of the best decisions I have ever made” and is sure he has many more years to come in the series.

After all, he’s just 35 years of age; category stars including Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais are all 40-plus.

Dixon in particular is a remarkable talent, currently vying for a record-equalling seventh IndyCar title.

The Kiwi doesn’t get the worldwide plaudits of someone like a Lewis Hamilton, but his abilities have not gone unnoticed with Grosjean.

“Scotty is very strong,” said the Swiss-French driver, who has split time between living at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his bus that he’s taken around various US states.

“He is always there, he is always around the top five even; though he sometimes doesn’t have the good qualifying he always bounces back in the race and comes back to the front.

“The way he drives is really smooth and nice, so I think that combination is key in IndyCar to win the title.

“He has been in a very good team for a very long time but definitely he has got something special about making sure that he is always around and always scoring points to try to get a seventh one.”

As for Guenther Steiner-led Haas, Grosjean remains in contact with his former colleagues.

“I have been keeping in touch with most of the boys at Haas and keeping watching Formula 1,” he said.

“[IndyCar] has become one of the hot topics of the Formula 1 paddock, I heard.”

Grosjean is 15th in the 2021 IndyCar standings, despite having missed three oval races, with a triple-header at Portland, Laguna Seca and Long Beach to round out the season next month.

Grosjean in action at Gateway Motorsports Park. Picture: Joe Skibinski

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