Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Grosjean: “Sport is supposed to be fair and Formula 1 is not”

2020 F1 season

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Expecting Formula 1’s midfield drivers to be able to compete with their front-running rivals is ‘like asking Roger Federer to play with a ping-pong racket’, says Romain Grosjean.

Only three F1 teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – have won races in the last six years. Grosjean, who took 10 podium finishes with Lotus between 2012 and 2015, admitted when asked by RaceFans he faces ending his F1 career without a victory to his name.

“It could happen,” said the Haas driver. “Could happen. I mean I was already lucky to be 10 times on the podium. I should have won, I believe, two grands prix and things didn’t come my way.”

The lack of opportunities for midfield drivers to compete with front runners undermines F1’s claim to be a sport, Grosjean believes. “We call Formula 1 a sport,” he said. “Is it a sport? I’m not so sure. It’s a show, but a sport is supposed to be fair and Formula 1 is not fair.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Ricciardo went without a podium in 2019
“It’s very physical to drive Formula 1 car,” Grosjean added. “It’s hard, it’s demanding, it’s a lot of effort going from everyone. But it’s like asking Roger Federer to play with a ping-pong racket.

“Would you call tennis a sport if they were not coming all with the same rackets? Or if the court was wider on one side than it was on the other side? You judge it.”

Daniel Ricciardo’s move from Red Bull to Renault last season demonstrates how hard it is for drivers in the midfield to show how competitive they can be, said Grosjean.

“If you only take his time at Renault he hasn’t even scored a podium. But he’s been winning races, he’s a great drivers, he’s been on the podium. It all depends what you’ve got between your hands.”

[smr2020test]Grosjean is still looking for opportunities to get in a race-winning car, but admitted he could see himself leaving the sport in the near future.

“It could well happen that I won’t win a grand prix,” he said. “I will do my best to get some opportunities in the future. There is obviously a lot of drivers out of contract at the end of the year.

“There could be drivers also retiring. I think that’s a decision that I believe for me would come quite quickly. We’ll see [after] maybe half a season or three-quarters of the season [if] I don’t have that passion anymore and I don’t really want to be travelling the world and being far away from my family.

“I could see me retiring and going somewhere else. It could happen to other drivers, [there] could be opportunities, you never know.”

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Author information

Gabriele Koslowski
Gabriele Koslowski first began following Formula 1 during the early noughties, and is a director of a Belgian motorsport media company. During the past...
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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56 comments on “Grosjean: “Sport is supposed to be fair and Formula 1 is not””

  1. W (@vishnusxdx)
    6th March 2020, 8:28

    Well, it would a lot fairer when race-ending hacks like Grosjean would be outed after a season or two, and give way to promising and talented youngsters. Instead of letting everything depend on sponsors.

  2. He had a fair point, Veto and Mafia tax are good examples of unfair F1 system.

    1. While some rules like tthe veto etc are biased. The F1 is a technological sport between teams who can build the fastest most reliable car and then have the best driver in the car to ensure victory. Its alwaya been that way. Grosjean if he ia unhappy he should go to a spec series.

  3. RocketTankski
    6th March 2020, 8:51

    Romain, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood.
    AMATEUR sport is meant to be fair. Like the Olympics.
    As soon as cash is introduced then it all changes. Professional Sport is all about the Benjamins.

    1. Euh, you have heard about a sport called Football….

      Very professional and very honest and still they try to improve like the VAR.

      F1 cars will be aways different in performance BUT the rules must be the same for all teams. And the rules should be applied by honest controlbody without any exceptions.

      1. Actually Football can be compared with F1 very well. You see a few countries where a lot of money is available, so all the stars go there. Just like in F1 where you have teams with seemingly unlimited funds, and teams without, but here the players are not just the drivers, but also the engineers, developers and so on.

        I can’t really see the difference, unless Romain does not believe F1 is a team sport and thinks only the drivers should make the difference. In that case I suggest he joins a spec raceseries.

        1. Exactly @mosquito, football is a great parallel to F1 where evidently the big money teams monopolize the winnings

        2. Football does not compare at all well with F1 although there may be similarities. Don’t tell me a country with hundreds of player opportunities is anything like a F1 team with just two driver opportunities.
          In F1 we have two championships, constructors and drivers. I have the greatest respect for the constructors championship and its ability to find the best team. The winners over the past 10 years (at least) have deserved their championships.
          The drivers championship does not have the ability to find and reward the best driver. We consistently end up with champions who are not actually the best driver in the field. I agree 100% with Romain.

    2. The way racing works is that it does actually get more fair the closer to F1 you get. Williams of last year was closer to mercedes than in most grass root sports the backmarker is to the winner. Williams had the same engine and same tires and same amount of tires as mercedes for every session. The facilities are comparable and williams has everything merc has but just less. At grass root level you have teams that could be running almost worn out tires, worn out engines, worn out dampers with badly setup crashed and fixed car along with a host of other issues like working out of van and sleeping in it. Whereas the winning team arrives to the venue in a motorhome after a week of private testing, has new spare engines, spare chassis, as many tires as they need for every kind of weather, all top of the shelf stuff. Compared to that f1 is very good.

      At the same time I do agree with grosjean. The gap between the mid field and the top teams is a massive issue for f1. Even if you get everything right, the strategy works perfectly and everything goes the best it can the front runners are so much quicker they can literally just ignore you because unless they crash out they will finish p6 guaranteed. P5 if you are not albon. When things go right for a mid fielder they need to be able to hang on to a podium or even win sometimes. But they can’t. It is a massive issue for f1 because everybody knows it is the reality. It takes a super freak race to get a mid fielder on the podium and win is literally impossible unless all of top 6 crash out or get disqualified. And it must be frustrating as hell to a mid field driver who can put in best of the field performance every weekend and get nothing in return.

      Fairness is subjective but also as a term misleading. However what I think grosjean means by fairness is that mid fielders should have opportunities if they do excellent job and luck into excellent chance. Even if it is one race per year the conditions must be able to change just enough to put a mid fielder in good position to race the top3 cars and win. But it can’t. That and mercedes domination are the two biggest issues f1 has. Every other issue can be forgotten if these two issues were gone. Shouldn’t but could be.

      1. Thanks for pointing out how hard it is to really create a level playing field in equipment heavy sports @socksolid.

      2. COTD.
        You could make formula1 fair, by putting governors on spec cars… and making them race like that… but who wants to watch that?

        If I’m gonna watch a basketball game, it will be a NBA game… not a YMCA youth girls game. Which, ironically, is where Romain sounds like he belongs.

        This is formula1, get faster, or go away.

  4. He’s right that F1 is not a driver sport, it’s a team sport. Put Ronaldo or Messi in a team of third rate amateurs and they won’t win any trophies either.

    That being said, in football those other players are at least allowed to play their best. In F1, the idea seems to be to handicap and steer the engineers as much as possible.

  5. Yeah, Gro is the Federer of f1, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    1. That’s not what he said. I wish comments like these would be removed.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        6th March 2020, 11:48

        Well I agree with you that Grossjean didn’t say that, he kind of implied it and with Tennis he used a really bad example.

        Tennis in last 15 years is much worse than F1 when it comes to different winners.
        Federer, Djokovic, Nadal have pretty much won all Grand Slams since French Open 2005 – there have been only 7 different winners in 15 years with 87% of them being won by top 3.

        In the last 15 years of F1 there have been 18 different winners with the top 3 (Hamilton, Vettel & Alonso) winning 60% of the races

        1. Ah but he did say that. Look again at Gro’s quotes: “Like asking Federer to play with a ping pong racket”
          @mashiat, People should read first before commenting on comments, jeez.

          1. Grosjean is using Federer as an example of a well known tennis player. He could have said ‘it is like asking a tennis player to play with a ping pong racket’ but people know Federer. In Grosjean’s example, every driver is Federer, that’s the point being made.

  6. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    6th March 2020, 9:19

    Some of these rather disrespectful comments were so predictable. He was the one who just happened to be asked about this as the article states. Seems like some have read the title and just given a straight criticism towards Grosjean.

    He even goes as far as mentioning how Ricciardo’s move from a top has effected how good he looks. Which I actually think is nice of him given he looked to be describing Ricciardo as an excellent driver. Especially in the first half of the season, he seemed to be trying everything to get the best out of the car, but brought himself no end of penalty points.

    For those who criticize Grosjean, 7 Drivers got more penalty points than him, Including Ricciardo, Vettel, verstappen and Hamilton. This doesn’t show anything to do with their ability, I think all are far better than Grosjean, but Grosjean has been noting like as bad as people think last season.

    Virtually everything he’s said in this article is relevant to the questions asked. This hate towards him when just answering the media is just ridiculous.

    1. Peter Waters (@)
      6th March 2020, 9:58

      +1 Well said.

    2. Well said @thegianthogweed, it seems that many see it as a sport to share negative pre-conceived opinions after bearly reading the headline.

      On the content though I disagree with Grosjean. F1 is just as much a sport as football. You can be the best individual football player, but you will not win the big prizes at FC Local compared with playing for FC Barcelona; it’s a team sport. Part of the task for the FC Local player is to show how good (s)he is and get noted by FC Barcelona.
      I’ve often shared my opinion that there should be more focus on the WCC than on the WDC. The latter sometimes only has two participants. Reserve the big podium for the top-3 teams, and the small side podium for the winning driver.

      1. what’s ‘bearly’?

        1. Clearly you meant ‘beerly’. Easy mistake mate.

    3. @thegianthogweed You are champion of the internet today. Well said.

    4. Thanks for that comment @thegianthogweed, well said, this was badly needed in the comments today

    5. Well played sir

    6. (@thegianthogweed) you are a brief of fresh air and sensibility and the type of commenter I wish we had more of. You would think it obvious by now that the drivers and most quotes are derived from someone asking them a question. Irks me when i see these knee jerk responses with no thought of context put into it.

    7. People hate grosjean because he’s a baby. Listen to his post incident radio transmissions.

      But go ahead, and make it into him being a victim of the global f1 community as a whole. Then you go ahead and pretend Hamilton, or vettel are just as bad. When did Hamilton or vettel get a race ban? When was this? I don’t remember.

      I can’t wait for his financial backing to dry up, so that he might go finally some day go away.

      T. An American embarrassed to have him in an American teams car….

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        7th March 2020, 1:14

        This comment is just another example of an overreaction to something that has not been read…

        First of all, you can have your view on grosjean, but just because he often sounds silly on the radio doesn’t tell you everything about him. The team won’t be keeping him just because of his backing. He’s actually getting a pay cut this year sort of indicating he is not just there for the money. The team stated that he had helped them work out some issues with the car last year. We may get sick with his moaning, but a lot of it that we don’t hear could actually be very good feedback and a reason for him to still be here.

        The other point of your comment is where it gets to where you clearly haven’t read mine right.

        I go ahead and “pretend” that hamilton and Vettel are as bad as Grosjean? You have totally twisted my words if you understand it that way. Read this below again:

        This doesn’t show anything to do with their ability, I think all are far better than Grosjean, but Grosjean has been noting like as bad as people think last season.”

        I state just before this that many drivers have managed to collect more penalty points than him, which happened to include Hamilton and Vettel as you point out. Nowhere did I suggest that these drivers are just as bad, in fact I stated that they are all far better drivers in general (clearly ignored by you). They just happened to do more things against the rules last year. So I was highlighting that many drivers in this specific area had done worse than Grosjean.

        At least many people thought my comment was well worth having here. You seem to be taking what I wrote the wrong way.

  7. Well said @thegianthogweed. The vitriol spewed towards all drivers when they answer a question from the media hacks is unbelievable.
    I agree that Romain is a fair driver and fast enough on his day. I for one would have liked to see what he could have done in a front-running car.

    1. He scored podiums in good cars (not champ winning cars mind). He scored a podium in a dreadful car. He has won junior championships left and right. He has shown sufficient one lap speed against two word champions while being rookie and young driver. I don’t believe he has been shown up speed wise by a team mate since. I would mark him as a potential gp winner in a great car (able to beat whoever his team mate is at least once in the year). Mind you most of the field is there or thereabouts. That’s actually great. Since hulk has left the rostrum, I believe only Lattifi, Gio, Norris and Russel don’t have a F1 podium to their name, and I’d wager two of them clearly have what it takes.

  8. Grosjean is off the mark. F1 is a TEAM game. A great driver in a poor car is like a great striker in a bad football team. They can’t say it’s ‘unfair’.

  9. It’s always been like this. Should the grid be closer together? Sure… But it’ll never be “fair” for all drivers unless you race in a spec series. And even then.

    I get his point tho, F1 was on the right track, merging performance from 2005 all the way to 2012/2013. Heck, I remember the qualifying gap between pole and the last force India in 2008 to be around 2 seconds. They were all very very close.

    But the drastic changes after 2014 put that all behind. They made power units difficult and complex and then they went and let the aero side go mad… It’s a sport for big teams.

    1. @fer-no65 Your point is well made, but I’d also say that even spec series have teams that consistently head the pack (such as DAMS in F2 and Penske/Andretti/Ganassi in IndyCar).

      1. @geemac hence the “and even then” remark :P

  10. The mistake is in thinking about F1 as a sport where individuals compete alone against individuals. It’s not, and it never has been. Yes there is a drivers’ championship, which confuses matters, but F1 is essentially a team sport where every member of the team (including the driver) is working toward the objective of getting a car around a racing track for a proscribed number of laps in the shortest time possible.

    A driver, even a driver in a slower team, is capable of shining. It’s just that there’s a tendency – even among those who have been involved in F1 for decades and should really know better – to judge a driver by where they finish in a race or championship. There are lots of ways to objectively assess the quality of a driver which don’t depend on finishing position. Performance relative to teammate, consistency of laptimes, number of mistakes made, not to mention their history in spec series on their way into F1. Then there are other qualities such as how they handle themselves with the media, how well liked they are, how they integrate with the team, how they work with the team to improve the performance of the car.

    I can appreciate the frustration of a driver stuck in a midfield team, pouring their heart and soul into their performance just to finish in the points, with no prospect of moving into a top team. It must be utterly galling when those drivers may have been the fastest in feeder championships, with a long list of wins already under their belt. Years of winning, feeling as though you are the best, I think it’s only natural for a driver to assume that when they get to F1, they will be winning there too. The reality of it has to be crushing. But that’s the reality of F1, it always has been, and I don’t understand why it continues to come as a surprise to people.

    F1 is not a sport in which there are twenty competitors. There are thousands of competitors in F1. Not all of them get their own bespoke championship, but all of them work just as hard and are just as crucial to the result. Drivers should keep this in mind when they bemoan being held back by a poor car, or feel they aren’t getting the results that they personally deserve.

    1. Duncan Snowden
      6th March 2020, 11:38

      Well put. I’ve always said that F1 isn’t competitive driving; it’s competitive engineering.

      1. Fully agree with both comments. It’s always been like this, since 1920s.

  11. Headline of the year, so far. If F1 was fair, Grosjean would not have been involved since Spa 2012. The very top sports stars get to the front and remain there because they work hard and are consistent. They seldom make mistakes and when they do, they learn from them. They don’t run around making claims about unfairness, they let their results speak for themselves. In his early years, Grosjean was desperate to drive for Ferrari, so he knows it’s important to get in the right car. The reasons why Grosjean never got a Ferrari are written in many of his own error strewn race reports. Grosjean has been lucky, he’s been the token French driver until recently, that got him a seat at Lotus. Now it is time for him to go.

    1. Fully agree, what about Barcelona? Returning to the track in front of other cars. Other drivers might have more penalty points but not one of them ever came close to killing other drivers, Spa should`ve been a life time ban for him.

  12. I can’t stand the lamentations coming from anyone from the Haas team anymore

  13. Grosjean gets a lot of flak, some of it deserved, but he’s made a fair point here, particularly regarding Ricciardo.

    Yes, three teams have had a huge advantage for six years due to the lousy Ecclestone-era financial structure. But on the other hand, F1 is an engineering contest, so there will always be some drivers in uncompetitive cars

    1. Yeah, but Dani could’ve stayed at RBR. He chose to go to Renault. I still believe the best drivers race for the best teams. Grosjean is not one of them. Every football player dreams of playing for Real, Barca, Liverpool or Bayern… that’s were you can win big titles, but they only choose the best players. Same goes for F1 and every other team sport. Tennis is not a team sport. So his argumentation is wrong.

      1. @davisp Fair point about the choice DR made. He could have stayed at RBR and they would have been thrilled to keep him. And you are right that tennis is of course an individual sport, although the top players do speak of their ‘team’ around them, as in, coaches, trainers, family etc, but RG was not trying to prove in a court of law an equivalency between the two sports, but just wanted us to imagine a top player whose had his racket replaced with a ping pong paddle, and how well he would do then.

    2. @keithcollantine Pretty much sums up my sentiments too. We can go back well more than six years to observe the phenomenon that RG is talking about, although of course in times past at least lesser teams had some glimmer of hope of bettering themselves and eventually mixing it up with the top teams, of which there has always been in F1.

      But at least F1 is about to start a new chapter that works towards more balance in F1, and it would have been nice for RG to acknowledge that as part of his answer about fairness.

    3. @keithcollantine what is more important? That f1 is a technical competition that takes away from the drivers or censorship? Romain gets flak, I get flak?
      Grosjean comes from a very wealthy background, that is partly the reason why he has stayed in f1 this long, that is not fair, there are other drivers out there. A far more relevant pertinent subject than the car driver dicotomy. f1 is a team sport as we all know, he certainly isn’t wrong on that. Censor me then, apparently censorship is a good thing, not important at all.

  14. He’s got a point. I’m wondering what it does to a driver’s psyche, knowing you’re never going to win a race.

    I’ve been a fan for 25 but I have to admit it’s a duff ‘sport’

  15. F1 isn’t sport. Its *motorsport*. Fundamentally different.

    1. Well said

  16. It’s not like he didn’t knew that when he got in F1.
    It was always like this and he’s only complaining because he’s on the backfoot of it.

    Other good drivers also left without winning a single race. I always remember Stefano Modena, for example, or Nick Heidfeld, Martin Brundle or even Timo Glock.

    And what he said also applies for Sergio Perez, who’s better than him, by the way, and Hulkenberg, who left without even a top 3 finish.

  17. petebaldwin (@)
    6th March 2020, 15:57

    If we’re talking about things being unfair, how must Williams have felt last year to be beaten by B-Teams like Haas? Is it fair that Williams are competing with Haas when they are getting help from Ferrari? I’m not so sure…..

  18. What’s wrong with table tennis?!

  19. F1oSaurus (@)
    6th March 2020, 21:12

    It is fair. The best drivers are invited to drive the best cars.

    It’s like complaining that some mid level tennis player is not invited for a high paying exhibition event.
    Besides, how is tennis fair. High ranked players get to play lower players in their schedule.

    So yes the better players in any sport will have an easier timeonce they are there. Getting there is the thing.

  20. Following grosjeans logic… a child should be able to go up against Federer, and stand a fair chance at winning. OMG TENNIS ISNT FAIR EITHER! A child stands no chance against someone like Federer!

    A child should never have a “fair shot” at defeating a world champion engineered into the rules. If that’s what fairness looks like, I’ll pass.

    This is racing, racing isn’t fair. Nor is life. I’m tired of hearing millionaires being paid to travel and drive the worlds fastest cars complain! Too many snowflakes (and bad drivers/crybabies)!

    1. Ah, no. He’s not talking about people and their ages, he is talking abut equipment. He is merely suggesting trying to beat the top teams in F1 is like Federer trying to play tennis using a ping pong paddle. Ie. even he wouldn’t stand a chance.

      Your last paragraph though, I don’t disagree with.

  21. The racing will be a lot closer next year when you are racing touring cars or Formula E.

  22. I’ll think about supporting Haas when they get rid of him.

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