Grosjean thought F1 crash dashed IndyCar drive

Romain Grosjean. Picture: Joe Skibinski

Romain Grosjean feared his fiery Formula 1 crash in last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix had put paid to his IndyCar move.

The Frenchman’s Formula 1 career came to an abrupt end when his Haas VF-20 speared into the Armco barrier on the opening lap of the third-to-last race of the year.

The resulting fireball resulted in burns to his hands, ruling him out of the season’s final two races.

Grosjean’s crash came not long after he and long-time team-mate Kevin Magnussen were announced to be departing Haas at the season’s end.

Grosjean would go on to sign a deal with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing in the IndyCar Series, though the 10-time grand prix podium finisher feared that might not happen.

“I was talking to Dale Coyne last year before my crash,” Grosjean said.

“I was going to do a full season, then the crash happened. My first reaction is I’m not doing IndyCar at all.

“A few days later I was like, Oh, well, I want to do IndyCar, but I don’t want to do ovals.”

Grosjean contested a part-time programme this year, missing the oval races at the high-banked Texas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As the season wore on, Grosjean came around to the idea of oval racing and the possibility of contesting the Indianapolis 500.

Part of that process was to test and then race at the short oval, Gateway, and have his wife in attendance.

“I really felt happy and in a good place in IndyCar,” said Grosjean.

“I said, ‘I’d like to do Gateway just to see how it is’, then I did Gateway.

“Also my wife came and she could tell how great for me that experience was, how much enjoyment I was having out of it.”

Now, Grosjean is preparing for his first full-time programme having signed on with Andretti Autosport for 2022.

Recently, Grosjean completed the Rookie Orientation Programme (ROP) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway necessary to contest the Indianapolis 500.

“We knew the next step was to do everything because you can’t go in the top 10 if you’re not doing all races,” he added.

“They do want to be fighting for championships, be at the front. It was something that I feel comfortable with my decision. I think you need to respect ovals a lot.

“Today, as I say, it doesn’t feel fast when everything goes well, but if you start losing the rear-end in turn one, two, three or four, you know the wall is there.

“You’re still doing 200-something miles an hour. The cars are getting safer and safer. You try to respect the wall, stay well from that zone.

“I feel like my level of happiness through my professional life, through being able to show that with my family, was the risk that we take.”

After the whirlwind from his near-death crash to joining one of IndyCar’ preeminent teams, Grosjean is counting his blessings.

“I think if I look at the past year, it’s an incredible journey from fire to racing for one of the biggest names in motorsports,” said Grosjean.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I have. Every day I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive, how lucky that I came in IndyCar and realised that it’s a place where I can be super happy.

“So obviously being in a team like Andretti, having Michael [Andretti] coming in the morning, having all the engineers and the database, all of that together, it’s just a great thing to live.

“I realise every day that I live something quite special. When it’s a bad day or when you know things are not right, I’m like, ‘Hey, you can be grateful of what you’re having at the minute and I need to enjoy that’.”

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