Romain Grosjean, Haas, Interlagos, 2019

‘I’ve got a lot of weaknesses, but developing the car is one of my strengths’

Driver performance analysis: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean doesn’t deny the 2019 season was a bad one for him and the Haas team. Even taking his car’s weaknesses into consideration, 18th in the drivers’ championship ahead of the Williams pair was a huge disappointment.

But he made a valuable contribution to helping the team understand where it went wrong.

Ferrari weren’t the only team who left pre-season testing expecting they had a good year ahead of them. The VF-19 set impressive lap times around the Circuit de Catalunya during the winter as well. Haas never suspected they were about to slump from fifth in the constructors championship in 2018 to ninth, ahead of only Williams, who didn’t even manage to get their car to testing on time.

What was originally blamed – repeatedly – on the difficulties of making the VF-19 work with the latest Pirelli tyres turned out to be a more complex problem, as Grosjean explained.

“At the end I don’t think it was a tyre-related problem,” he said at the end of the season. “It was more just an aero characteristic of the car which means that on the new tyres we can live with it.

“[But] on the tyres that has got one lap already you lose the peak of the grip from the mechanicals and therefore we rely more on the characteristics of the car and that’s where it starts be an issue for us.”

His performance during the season therefore needs to be seen against that backdrop.

Qualifying: Lap time

The lower the lines, the better the driver performed

“I think in qualifying I could have done a better job,” Grosjean admitted. “The characteristic of the car with the characteristics of the 2019 tyres doesn’t really suit my driving style.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Paul Ricard, 2019
Grosjean’s home race was a turning point
“You can always drive around [it] but it’s never as easy, as smooth as you would like. Hopefully the characteristic towards we’re working for the future will work better in that [respect].”

The team switched between different versions of its 2019 chassis on several occasions, making a direct comparison between Grosjean and team mate Kevin Magnussen tricky.

France was a major turning point. Grosjean, who had been unhappy with the car since an aerodynamic upgrade Haas introduced in Spain, retired early from the race to save mileage on parts. He came to a conclusion about the source of the team’s problems.

“Until Paul Ricard we thought was tyres,” he said. “Then in Paul Ricard after qualifying I said ‘look guys, it’s not tyre, it is the car, the characteristic of the car’. We’d been through every tyre temperature range, every characteristic, every possible circumstances we want to and he’s never been working on scrubs. So it’s not tyres.”

The Austrian round followed just one week later but for the following race at Silverstone Haas made a major change, bringing back their round one aerodynamic specification. Grosjean was much happier, at least until his race was ruined by a first-lap collision with Magnussen.

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Qualifying: Classification versus starting position

At the next round, Germany, Grosjean enjoyed his best qualifying result of the season. He believes his aptitude for car development served the team well at this point in the season.

“It’s been always my strength,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of weaknesses, but definitely developing the car has been one of my strengths.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Melbourne, 2014
Grosjean helped refine “terrible” 2014 Lotus
“In 2014 [at Lotus] we had a terrible car and we worked really hard, and in 2015 we came back and actually had a decent car and took a podium and had some good finishes. So I think generally it’s always one of my strengths.

“Same thing with this team: 2017 was not so good but 2018 was much better. And this year it’s very clear from Barcelona onwards that I just didn’t want to run the new package, I felt it was less good. We could have probably saved some time if we had reverted back earlier to the other spec. But it’s always easy afterwards to say things.”

Race: Start versus finish

These problems notwithstanding, Grosjean was no stranger to Q3 and started inside the top 10 many times. But precious few of these were converted into points scores.

“I think in terms of race pace and racing itself, it’s been pretty good,” he said. “Even though when you’re 15th and 16th no one sees when you’re doing but I think in general the race has been my strong point.”

“The only place you can compare is with your team mate,” he added. However Grosjean accumulated far fewer of Haas’s points than Magnussen did.

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Race: Share of points

Race: Results versus other drivers

As Grosjean suffered more retirements than any other driver (details below) he missed out on several opportunities to take points off his midfield rivals. These retirements were largely not of his own doing, even when collisions are taken into account. However he was only infrequently able to beat rivals from the likes of Renault, Toro Rosso and Racing Point.

“It’s been a tough season,” he admitted. “A total failure, disaster? No. A good season? No. A bad season, most likely, yes.”

However Grosjean feels he was able to “extract more than the maximum of the car most of the time” and is broadly positive about how 2019 went.

“If you put the pro and the cons there is more pro than cons. But the overall picture is not great because the car wasn’t great.”

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Race: Reasons for retirements

Race Retirement reason
Australia Wheel (pit stop)
Bahrain Damage
Azerbaijan Brakes
France Retired to save parts
Grosjean Damage (collision with Magnussen)
Hungary Water leak
Russia Accident (collision with Ricciardo and Giovinazzi)

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “‘I’ve got a lot of weaknesses, but developing the car is one of my strengths’”

  1. Looking back, a driver that knows his weakness (or his car’s weakness) can go two ways:

    The smart ones play their own game, knowing that in F1 consistency is key. I would put Prost and Lauda in this group. Leclerc and Hamilton would fit in nicely too.

    Than you have the ones that try desperate measures to overcome their (or car’s) weaknesses, ending up overdriving or worst, dirty driving. Vettel springs to mind, as Villeneuve Jr. Schumacher had his moments in this group, specially when he was beginning and ending his career. Adelaide 94, Monaco qualifying, Barrichello against the wall to name a few.

    Finally, the chosen ones. It doesn’t matter what they are facing, straight line speed deficit, worn tyres, rain, new track, muscular pain… They always delivered, 110% performance, no excuses and no one to blame. Senna, of course, Verstappen Jr, Villeneuve Sr.

    I have no idea where to place Grosjean.

    1. In the group you did not mention: Those who perhaps know their weaknesses, by whose strengths are not enough to compensate for those weaknesses.

    2. Hamilton fits in both the first and the last group, he is very adaptable in this way.

      Verstappen jr is in the middle group, crash and mistake prone, over and over, causing no less than 7 collisions in 2019 alone.

      1. @megatron You do yourself a disservice when you spew rhetoric. “Max causing no less than 7 collisions in 2019 alone,” shows your bias against him, as taken on it’s own you have made him sound like the worst driver to ever grace a track, whereas in fact by the vast majority he is a massive force to be reckoned with for F1’s new chapter and beyond, his talents undeniable, his career likely wrought with trophies. He is likely the most sought after driver in F1 right now. Sorry you will have to buck that for the rest of his career, unless you choose to quit the rhetoric now where it is so unfounded, and try to see what the rest of us are seeing…a purebred racer who is going to amaze and excite us for a long time yet.

        And yup, sometimes that’s gonna mean trading a little paint. Those drivers involved in those ‘7 collisions’ that ‘he caused’ which you claim with relish, get that, and are well past what you cling to, and to them was the result of racing with an absolute pit bull on the track who is going to be a thorn in their side, as well as a benchmark for them to try to overcome.

        1. Verstappen crashed into Sainz in Bahrain, crashed into Bottas in the Pitlane in Monaco and then touched/collided into Hamilton same race. Crashed into LEC in Austria(and also Silverstone but that was minor so we won’t count that).
          Crashed into Kimi in Spa, TWICE. Crashed into the back of someone in Monza, breaking his front wing.
          That is 7, and there might be more.

          He’s a crasher

          1. Lol, I give you Sainz but that is hard racing, Bottas isn’t his fault (actually Bottas was to blame by holding the field up, but hell unsafe release…) Hamiliton steered in (Lewis said he saw him coming and just steered in so he could blok Max ) but that was racing. Crashed into LEC in Austria is the otherway around LEC should give away when the road was gone. (Silverstone LEC banged MAX out of his spot so he had to take over on the outside.
            Spa Was it not that Kimi didn’t saw MAX and steered in .. the second on his way to the top It was Kimi who hit Max as Max tried to go up slow when he noticed his steering was bad.
            Monza is actually one i give you too So he did ‘crash’ trice.

            Mexico it was Bottas who crashed Max by hitting Max’s rear tyre but Magnussen right that was one. Lewis and Max didn’t hit each other in that race…. you mean the first corner Nope no contact just check it!

            So Please keep your views a bit honest. We know you don’t like racing but the after Qualiflier don’t change anything the order racing i find the racing when Max came to F1 very GOOD.

        2. @ Robbie
          Oh and his Mexican debacle, hitting Hamilton, Bottas and Magnussen in 1 race.
          Yeah, he’s an over aggressive crasher.

    3. @Only Facts! The ‘ending up overdriving’ part also applied to Gasly in the first twelve rounds of last season.

      1. Only Facts! Couple of things though. Interestingly you cite Prost and Lauda for playing their own game and for consistency, but they drove in an era where drivers were very much more on their own in their cars out on the track, not being ‘paced’ by a bank of engineers over the radio.

        Leclerc? Have we really seen enough of him to really know all his characteristics? LH…for sure consistent, and that’s easier to do when you are a top driver in the best car for a 6 year run with a bank of engineers pacing him (and them all of course) due to tire and component conservation. That is not meant as a slag against LH as I did say them all, but just meant to point out the difficulty in comparing eras, but is also why I have considered F1 in the last decade F1-lite. Hopefully 2021 and onward makes for more driver vs driver close action and less conservation of so much at once.

        Your last paragraph about the chosen ones? Love it.

  2. Grosjean has maybe one more full season, if that, to put in a convincing performance. I like the guy and agree he has had a lot of bad luck but 2018 and 2019 were bad, I think this year should be his last chance. He needs to shine this year… or he’s out.

    1. I pretty much agree with this. On his day and if he can the car working to his liking he can be pretty fast. On certain circuits he seemed to easily out qualify Magnussen.

      I too think though he has had enough chances. Unless he can do significantly better this year, I think it will be his last, as a regular driver anyway.

  3. Interesting article concept. Are we to except one for each driver?

    I liked the new charts. It’s always good to have different ways to display data.

  4. @OnlyFacts

    Wait… wait.. Hamilton has weaknesses? Sacrilege! Hamilton is a god among mortals. When he wields steering wheel weakness is created in time-space continuum and grip is generated for him to slip through.

    Meanwhile Prost and Lauda were exceptionally fast and built upon it. All champions are eventually great at developing the car.

    There is lots of myth about Senna being naturally fast, but when David Culthard was his test driver drove his car Senna showed up to investigate on his off-day. He cared obsessively about his car being developed the right way.

    1. Neither Prost or Lauda were exceptionally fast. Both sacrificed their qually set up for more time in practice setting up for the race duration. And that was at a time when their were completely different chassis and engines for qually and the race.

      1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
        21st January 2020, 22:51

        Prost is actually quite interesting that aspect. Compared to Lauda, he was very clearly the fast one. Compared to Senna, he was the slower, more tactical driver.

        1. @justarandomdutchguy

          Lauda was like what? 54 by then, Prost was often outqualled by teammates after lauda retired.

          I wouldn’t say he was more tactical than Senna, just slower in qually so therefore resigned to settling to trying to win by strategy rather than speed.

  5. This guy should be a development driver on the sim. Let someone else have a go at racing in his Haas seat.

  6. On a different note that lotus 2014 must be the worst looking car ever.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      21st January 2020, 19:09

      Caterham i think were worse than Lotus. When I look back to races in 2014, most cars had hideous noses. Toro Rosso also may have looked worse than Lotus.

  7. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    21st January 2020, 17:09

    I think this is an excellent article. I have constantly tried to explain that Hass will have had some reason to sign him on, and I always have felt that his feedback is good. His team very often starts the season very well, and you never know, that could be down to him helping the team find their weaknesses over the winter. But the team don’t seem to be able to keep a car working well for very long. If he has better reliability, I feel he may just about be able to show he is good enough to remain in F1. It isn’t like his speed isn’t there.

  8. Poor man, he’s deluded. As he said, they still don’t know what the real problem was, so Grosjean’s development was basic – he worked out the car was rubbish. That says a lot about Magnussen’s ability.

    Haas hasn’t got top notch engineers or designers, so they just left it to the drivers to drive around the problem. That might have worked, but the pair of clowns spent too much time trying to take each other off the track and threw away many valuable points.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      21st January 2020, 17:37

      We don’t know exactly what he did or didn’t work out. The team are unlikely to want to admit exactly what their problem was, and it could be that Grosjean did indeed figure out the problem himself. We can’t know everything. Don’t you think Grosjean will have said significantly more to his team that what is said here?

      1. The car had a design flaw which caused it to stall. Despite a lot of mods/fixes/faffing around, it wasn’t improved/developed/fixed/sorted. A better driver/team would have noticed the problem was associated with air temperature.
        There’s is an article on the problem elsewhere.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          21st January 2020, 19:57

          Still, I don’t think they will have kept Grosjean unless there was some big advantage to having him. And I think it is likely to do with the fact he’s been with the team ever since they have been in F1. And they almost always do seem to start strong, but I don’t think it is down to the drivers that the car gets worse over the season. It seems Hass are good at starting strong, but the other teams are far better at progressing throughout the season.

          1. Haas’ problem is Dallara – a good company with some spectacular successes over the years – largely designing spec series cars and thus losing out in developmental experience, resulting in strong season starts that taper off as the other specialist teams outdevelop them.

            Hiring specialist firms to design your cars has been risky business in F1 for quite some time though, if memory serves, Reynard were behind the original BAR in 1999…

  9. F1oSaurus (@)
    21st January 2020, 17:49

    Didn’t Haas start the season stronger than they finished it? They went further and further back as he season progressed. So he “developed” the car in the wrong direction then.

    1. Not really @f1osaurus, rather, as the article alludes to, and as one of the links that were under the article when I first read it says, Steiner has admitted the team should have listened to its drivers sooner, and had they done that, maybe they would have had been able to do more than revert to the 1st package, with some small modifications, and thus would have been able to develop along with the rest of the field, rather than be stagnant while others developed.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        22nd January 2020, 16:40

        @bosyber Whatever the reason, the results did taper off during the season. So how can Grosjean claim that he’s good at developing the car?

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          22nd January 2020, 17:28

          We don’t know if Hass really went backwards. They seem to have a pattern of starting decent, and then the other teams make progress during the season while they don’t. But I think the Hass has had problems, and it does seem that Grosjean is quite good as working out what they could be. As this article mentions the 2014 Lotus and the difference that was made the following year, it could well have been down to Grosjan’s feedback that helped a lot with identifying the problems with it the previous year. The fact that it was almost the worst car in 2014 and then improved dramatically and got a podium one race in 2015 shows that there were some big changes being made, then Grosjean went to Hass.

          Hass always seem to be good or possibly better than most at the beginning of the season. And some of this may be because of Grosjean’s feedback on the areas that need improving. Not all of this can be done during the season can it? I think it is more to do with the team than the drivers in this area. Other teams seem to slightly improve their car over the season which never seems to happen at Hass.

          As I keep saying, Hass will have had a good reason to keep Grosjean, and if Grosjean is saying that this area is one of his strengths, i don’t see why this can’t be something he is indeed very good at.

  10. Grosjean really is great at car development, every time he goes on track he changes his car shape, straight away.

  11. I have something else in mind that really bothers me. How good is the Haas F1 aero team if they have to entirely rely on the inputs of the driver to fix a problem that the engineers with all their collective mind and equipment cannot fathom?

  12. I like Grosjean, I loved his heyday. But he indeed seems to have had a torrid couple of years. I believe Haas knows more than we do. I’ll explain : Surely there must be something at play. The guy has a big salary, close to zero commercial value. Surely he must bring something important to the table in Haas’ eyes ? (I mean, of course they might feel thankful for his two first seasons with him but this is business).

  13. The characteristic of the car with the characteristics of the 2019 tyres doesn’t really suit my driving style.

    Maybe changing one’s driving styles would help. Nevertheless Haas voted to keep the 2019 tyre range in preference to Pirelli’s 2020 range. I really hope Haas get better results in this forthcoming season, mind you I really hope Williams get better results too. And I really wish I could feel more optimistic about Haas’s 2020 campaign.

    1. Grosjean is and always will be a fwit. He cost Alonso the 2012 championship and in the words of Webber is a nutjob. He should have been sacked in 2012 and forced to pay millions in compensation. He must be a great butt licker to still be in f1.

      1. Or probably his still being there is a demonstration of how strong France is at diplomacy, sport diplomacy, and probably he’s a bit supported by a huge factory like Renault. It would be very different if he comes frome a less powerful country.
        I’m sad about this, because it’s quite sure that there are many talents never making it to F1 and many dropped guys are more capable than him. Same applies for many backmarkers at F2, they would never make it to F2 by their own right.
        I’m quite surprised that Latifi had been able to collect enough points to earn the superlicense, imo despite of his many seasons at F2 that was still lucky. Hes likely quite less capable than Stroll. It’s very much about money. Sad because for some years I felt like the superlicense points system is doing it’s job quite well. But they learnt to hack it meanwhile :)
        Now as F2 is about to implement their own license points system it will get better for a while maybe.
        I would implement license points system at every continental and world level championship, so at F3 European level and above definitely (maybe with adapitve points requirements, so for example series for woman, or series at Australia requires less points, as they have less opportunity to collect points).

  14. Is it me or does Grosjean not speak like a true F1 driver? He doesn’t care does he? Hang up the helmet and grab that apron mate.

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