Romain Grosjean: From Formula 1 to IndyCar

Romain Grosjean had a moderately successful Formula 1 career, but after it was brought to an abrupt end in Bahrain, Grosjean has ventured into IndyCar.


Nick Jacuby https-commons-wikimedia-org-wiki-fileromain_grosjean_at_road_america_in_2021-png

Romain Grosjean at Road Atlanta, wearing his Dale Coyne racing suit.

By Niklas da Silva Ekberg, Staff Writer

“It’s lights out and away we go…Hamilton gets off the line well…is that damage for Lando Norris?… and that’s certainly damage and a big fire there as they exited out of turn three, and that looks very nasty indeed… unsurprisingly that is a red flag… that was horrendous as the car hit the barrier…so unusual to see a Formula 1 car with all the safety cells, and fuel and what-have-you to immediately go up in flames… looking at the timing screens, I think that is Romain Grosjean who has gone into the barrier there…in the first of his final three races in Formula 1… looked like a really really nasty crash into the barrier…I am being told that he is out of the car,” said David Croft, Sky Sports lead commentator for Formula 1 during the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Grosjean would spend three nights in the hospital after suffering minor burns on the back of both his hands. Grosjean’s crash was the worst crash in F1 since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014 and would abruptly end his F1 career. Nearly three months later, Grosjean announced his entry to IndyCar, driving with IndyCar team Dale Coyne Racing. The big question is will Romain Grosjean be successful in IndyCar compared to his F1 career.

The barrier splitting was a classic problem many years ago and normally it resulted in a fatality. There is absolutely no doubt the Halo was the factor that saved the day – and saved Romain.”

— Ross Brawn

Grosjean had great success in his junior career, winning the 2003 Swiss Formula Renault Series, the 2005 French Renault Series, and the 2007 Formula 3 Euro Series, which secured him a role as Renault F1’s 2008 test diver. Opportunity arose for Grosjean in 2009 when the Renault F1 team dropped Nelson Piquet Jr due to his poor results, giving Grosjean the drive for the rest of the year. Unfortunately for Grosjean, his teammate would be Fernando Alonso, two-time F1 World Champion, and to make matters worse, Renault would be facing charges for telling Piquet Jr to crash to force a safety car.

Grosjean didn’t perform well and scored no points during the season. As a result, Renault didn’t keep him for next year. Afterward, Grosjean returned to GP2 in 2011 and won the championship, convincing Eric Boullier, team principal of the Lotus F1 Team, to sign him on for the 2012 F1 season. Grosjean would race alongside F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who had just returned from racing in the World Rally Championship.

Grosjean was showing his potential by regularly outqualifying his world champion teammate and scoring his first podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but at the Belgium Grand Prix Grosjean would receive his first and only race ban for causing a four-car crash. Grosjean would claim three podiums that year, and Lotus decided to sign him on again for 2013.

The 2013 season would be Grosjean’s most successful season in F1, scoring six podiums and becoming seventh in the championship. In 2014, the Lotus F1 car wouldn’t be as competitive. Where Grosjean scored 132 points in 2013, he would only score eight points in 2014. 2015 would see Grosjean’s last podium in F1, and because of financial issues, the Lotus F1 Team withdrew from the championship.

Grosjean found a seat for the 2016 season with the Haas F1 team. Haas wasn’t as competitive as Lotus, and Grosjean would see limited success for both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The 2018 season would be Haas’s peak, finishing fifth in the constructor’s championship. In 2019, Haas finished ninth in the championship, and in 2020 they would only score three points, Grosjean scoring two of those points.

On October 22, Grosjean announced he would be leaving the Haas F1 team at the end of the 2020 season. In an interview with the F1 paddock press, Kevin Magnussen, Grosjean’s teammate, said, “Of course, there is still plenty of racing left in the 2020 season… We value their inputs and experience to keep pushing the team forward through to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.” Grosjean, however, would not race in the final round in Abu Dhabi.

When the F1 Halo was introduced to keep drivers safe, Grosjean protested it. In an interview with ESPN in 2017 about the Halo, Grosjean said, “I am still against it, I still don’t think it has a place in Formula One.” The Halo ended up saving Grosjean’s life in the crash during the Bahrain Grand Prix. In an interview with Skysports, Formula 1 managing director, Ross Brawn said, “The barrier splitting was a classic problem many years ago and normally it resulted in a fatality. There is absolutely no doubt the Halo was the factor that saved the day – and saved Romain.”

After being released from the hospital, Grosjean mentioned he’s considered racing in IndyCar, but it would take commitment from his family to move to the U.S. On February 3, Grosjean announced that he would be racing in IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing. Grosjean also stated he would not take part in oval racing as, after the Bahrain crash, oval racing was too dangerous, and he didn’t want to put his family in fear again.

Expectations for his first IndyCar race weren’t too high, but Grosjean still landed his car seventh on the grid in qualifying, ahead of his teammate Edward Jones. He would only finish the race in tenth, but Grosjean stated that he learned a lot from his first race IndyCar.

In the third round of the season, in the GMR Grand Prix, Grosjean drove the car to pole position, his first pole since his GP2 season in 2011, and Dale Coyne Racing’s second ever pole position. In the race, Grosjean would claim second place, his first podium since 2015. At the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix, Grosjean would score his second podium, finishing just more than second behind the race winner: Will Power.

Despite saying he wouldn’t compete in oval races, Grosjean made his oval racing debut at WWT Raceway. He performed exceptionally well for his first time on an oval track, moving from 14 to eight, only to be dropped back down to 14 after an unlucky yellow flag.

Grosjean took his final podium of the season at Laguna Seca, finishing third in the race. Grosjean finished 15 in the end standings, beating his teammate Edward Jones despite not racing in every round.

To answer the big question of will Grosjean be successful in IndyCar? Yes, Grosjean has already gathered greater success in his first season in IndyCar than he did F1. In the Long Beach post-race interview, Grosjean said, “My first season in IndyCar is finished. I’m pretty happy with everything we’ve achieved. Getting three podiums has been amazing.”

Grosjean will not stay with Dale Coyne Racing for the 2022 season. Instead, he has committed to a full season in IndyCar, racing with Andretti Autosport. Andretti Autosport is a top team in motorsport, having a combined total of over 200 wins from each category they race in, as well as four IndyCar titles.

“Anyone in the motorsport world knows the name Andretti,” he said. “I’m super happy and proud to be racing with the team,” said Grosjean, in a pre-race interview at Long Beach.