Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick Ware, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2021

Grosjean feels “like being alive again” after ending 10-year wait for pole position


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Romain Grosjean says he feels a new lease of life after taking his first pole position for 10 years.

The former Formula 1 driver will lead the field at the start of today’s IndyCar race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He scored his first pole position since the beginning of the 2011 GP2 season three races into his first IndyCar campaign.

“It’s like being alive again,” said the Coyne/Rick Ware driver.

Grosjean only started from the front row once in his Formula 1 career, at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2012, his first full season in the championship.

“When you get to Formula 1, you’ve won every category that you competed in before, but you know when you get to Formula 1 if you don’t have the best car, it’s going to be very unlikely that you get to win races,” he explained.

Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick Ware, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2021
Grosjean headed the 25-strong IndyCar field yesterday
“I was lucky early in my career to get a good Lotus and be in the front row, third spot quite a bit, which was great. But obviously there were the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel at the time and just on another level.

“It feels really good to be in IndyCar on a field that everyone got a chance to go for it.”

After losing his Haas drive at the end of last year, Grosjean said he’s put Formula 1 behind him.

“A lot of people are asking how I felt watching the first race, the Formula 1 race of the season, and I wasn’t there. I said ‘guys, the chapter is closed for me’. I’ve had a good time, now I want something else. That’s what I came looking for.”

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The Swiss-based driver is commuting to America for the road and street rounds of the championship this year, and evaluating whether to commit to the series for the long term.

“I love the atmosphere between the drivers, I love the tracks,” he said. “The cars are fun to drive, we can go for some good stuff. I’m really happy.

Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick Ware, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2021
The ex-F1 driver clicked immediately with the Indianapolis track
“Family-wise it’s a bit of a tough year because I’m away from them quite a bit. We knew what was going to happen this year before deciding for the future. I’m happier, I’ve said it for a few times, I’m happier than I’ve been for a very long time.”

Grosjean has made quick progress since his first IndyCar test three months ago. He took seventh on the grid for his debut at Barber Motorsport Park, another road course, but found the St Petersburg street track more of a challenge, lining up 18th.

He said the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grand prix course, which held F1 races between 2000 and 2007, is “the one that feels the most familiar” to the F1 tracks he has raced on.

“I can tell it was actually designed for Formula 1 the way the curves are, the layout and the corners. I knew I was going to feel okay on the track quite quickly, whereas St. Pete takes a little bit more time to learn. Barber, a few tricks here that you need to understand. Here for me it’s a bit more straightforward.”

Having taken his first pole position at his third attempt, Grosjean is optimistic more will follow. He is due to compete in at least nine further races this year, including the series’ return to the same track in August.

“The good thing about being on pole today is that it may not be the only one,” he said. “We have a chance when we race again to do more. It’s not like a one-off because it was dry for one or wet for the other.”

While Grosjean drew satisfaction from some results towards the end of his F1 career, he admitted he missed the excitement of competing at the sharp end.

“Even through the last few years that have been tough in terms of results, I take the example of Germany last year where I finished ninth, with the Haas car, that was quite special. I think Germany 2018 as well, we were like 12th after the last Safety Car. I came back finishing sixth or something in the last 10 laps. That was quite cool.

“Even though you’re not winning, you’ve got that feeling. Days that I completely forgot about is when you get to race weekend, you got those butterflies because you know if you do everything right, you may end up on pole or trying to win the race. That’s definitely something I had no chance to do over the last few years.”

Today’s race will be his third attempt at a rolling start in IndyCar, but this time he will be at the front of the field. “I’m just going to go through the rule book one more time before going to bed,” he admitted.

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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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45 comments on “Grosjean feels “like being alive again” after ending 10-year wait for pole position”

  1. I’m pleased for Romain, I hope he wins the race. It is difficult for F1 drivers who aren’t in one of the front running cars.

    1. True but he wasn’t in a front running car for a reason @drycrust. Grosjean would have you believe it was all down to luck but it really wasn’t.

  2. Really wish there were more drivers like Romain, who experience racing in both series. And I mean this in both directions. Lots of talent in both F1 and IndyCar, and both series give opportunity for drivers to show their potential and worth.

  3. So if rogro can get pole in Indy, what can max do in Indy? Lap the field 50x?

    1. Crash, probably.

    2. @f1fan-2000 despite S’s rather childish remarks, Chilton has competed at the Indy 500 from 2016 through to 2020 without major incident.

      He’s had 1 DNQ and four finishes from those five races, and in three of those he finished in the middle to lower part of the field. However, in 2017 recorded a best finish of 4th place and was in active contention for the win, leading 50 laps of that race (the most of any driver in the field) and eventually finishing about 1.1s behind Sato.

      1. Pedro Andrade
        15th May 2021, 11:36

        I think they were talking about Max Verstappen, not Max Chilton…

        1. It clearly is.

    3. Max will not have a Red Bull car but a Dallara car.

    4. Max would have to actually compete against drivers in the same car. Something that he isn’t used to do. IndyCar is not F1 where you can sit in a RedBull, whilst other drivers sit in a Williams or Haas.

  4. Very pleased for Romain. Good to see him enjoying himself and I hope he can convert this into a good result.

    I always thought the frequent criticism of him in recent years was exaggerated. He had many critics who have gone quiet.

    1. @phil-f1-21 Maybe they’ve gone quiet because he left F1? I really hope he does well and it’s great he got poll at Indianapolis. But he has always been an occasionally wild racer on track, causing dangerous incidents, and his own big crash at Bahrain was no exception. Also the idea that you just need luck to have the fastest car is disrespectful of more talented drivers and teams who make better use of their resources, even if there is a clear disproportion between Haas and Ferrari, say, though it’s hardly an attitude confined to him.

  5. Really glad to read this.

    Wish I’d seen the lap, but will be rooting for him later.
    I always liked RG, fully agree with Phil above that he was overly criticised (and that is not to say he was perfect or blameless).
    Lotus always said he was very smooth and had a great throttle application.

    Not expecting him to win today, but certainly hope he can. Also he mentioned it being an F1 track, I’ll assume they’re going to COTA this year so maybe another good one for him.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      15th May 2021, 15:20

      I don’t think they are racing at COTA this year. Apparently in exchange for giving Indycar the dates they wanted, Texas Motor Speedway got exclusive rights for races in Texas in 2021

      1. Ahhh shame.

        I have now seen the qualifying highlights, yet still haven’t seen his lap. Really the coverage is awful.

  6. ColdFly (@)
    15th May 2021, 11:55

    the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grand prix course, which held F1 races between 2000 and 2007

    I had to look up the lap times; 2021 Indy almost 3s faster than 2007 F1.
    Of course many variables explaining this.

    1. Indycar uses a different configuration of the track for example. (In my opinion better then what F1 raced on)

    2. It’s not the same track. T1 is tighter on the Indy circuit. T5-7 of the F1 track are bypassed with a chicane onto the back straight. The T9-10 double hairpin has gone. And they bypass the oval turn that F1 used with an infield sequence of 3 corners.

  7. Great stuff RG. Really pleased for ya.

  8. Very cool to see him bag pole, but still don’t understand how he can be 18th one race and pole the next..

    1. Yeah, good point. I don’t understand Indy

      1. @balue I don’t think it is too hard to understand and RG gives some clues as well. Aside from the fact this is all new to him, and he is not on what would be considered a top team (spec series reality aside), he has explained that the first two tracks were tricky. I mean, can he have a minute? And now this track feels more F1 like to him, so he (I’m guessing) probably feels much more comfortable and like his capabilities exceed that of the car at this track. He probably felt comfortable to wring everything out of the car that it had without fear of an off.

      2. @balue because they are all racing in essentially the same equipment, and the tracks that Indycar use are vastly different from each other so suit different driving styles and skills:

        Race 1 at Barber: Old school natural terrain circuit, super narrow with no run off (perhaps Suzuka is the closest F1 circuit in flavour)

        Race 2 at St Petersburg, Florida: Super tight and bumpy street circuit (I don’t think there’s a good analogy with F1 circuits, it’s faster than Monaco and has a much more brutal road surface)

        Race 3/4 at Texas Motorspeedway: Romain didn’t run these, but it’s a high banked oval which is a superspeedway but nothing really like Indy itself

        Race 5 at Indy’s GP layout: super flat and smooth road course, easily the most similar to an F1 track on the calendar (especially without a COTA race)

        Hopefully it’s obviously why a driver might be at the front one race and nowhere the next. In Indycar, a “dominant” championship run is usually a few wins with consistent top 10 finishes, nothing like what we’d consider a dominant championship win in F1 (i.e. on pole most races, winning more often than not).

        1. Well put. That’s one of the things that makes IndyCar interesting — you can really see the difference a driver makes, and the variety of tracks highlights a variety of skills and driver styles. It makes complete sense that Grosjean would shine at the only Grade 1 circuit on the calendar, and struggle at a track like St Pete.

        2. Yep, this.
          I’ll add that going from an F1 car an Indycar requires quite a change of approach to driving.
          And I know some like to think that F1 drivers are the best in the world at driving anything, but there’s not a lot of truth in that.

        3. Thanks Graham, great comment

  9. Congratulations to Romain but I’m getting tired of his narrative that it’s luck that gets you the best car in F1. There’s a reason no top team picked him up, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes for example. It is because he always lacked consistency and could, on occasion, engage in serious lack of judgement in races.

    1. No, it’s luck in a big part, how comes verstappen, leclerc, russel and ricciardo never won titles? I keep hearing vettel at least won 4 titles and I’m sick of that: titles aren’t a metric of success when you never had a year in the best car while the other had dominant cars for several years.

      1. It’s still not luck though. How did Mercedes choose Hamilton to replace Schumacher? Did they roll a dice? No, they chose him because he was an exceptional driver at McLaren.

        In F1 you make your own luck.

  10. Very pleased for him. Seems F1 Stifles so many drivers.

  11. I like Grosjean but he wasn’t a top driver in F1 and this performance shows how low the standard of Indycar currently is compared to F1.

    1. Being a spec series, skill plays a bigger role in Indycar than in F1 when it comes results. The best driver is not going to be getting pole in the weakest car for example.

      I don’t disagree that F1 very likely has the better drivers, but cos its also a constructor series, it is not just skill that plays a role in races. I am not saying that is a bad thing cos engineering is a fair competition in racing also but the two series are apples and oranges.

  12. Great job! Fantastic comeback story.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Looking forward to watching the race

    2. No need for Among Us…for now.

  13. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    15th May 2021, 15:34

    Pleased to see an F1 driver do so well at IndyCar. Though does make me wonder, if Grosjean can take pole then how good would our ‘greats’ be at it too? Would Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen etc pretty much dominate? Equally does this suggest an IndyCar great would potentially struggle even in a dominating F1 car?

    Either way good for Grosjean. He was inconsistent but he certainly wasn’t terrible and arguably deserved better cars than he got to drive, and if he continues to have success in IndyCar it’s a good advert for the quality of the F1 field just as much as Vergne/Buemi etc doing well in Formula E.

    1. greasemonkey
      15th May 2021, 16:00

      “Our greats”?

      Almost every top category in racing has top drivers who could probably run at the top of any category with practice and top equipment. And this has proven so over time, be it Clark, Andretti, Montoya, or whoever.

      And sometimes top drivers don’t sync well with a category and struggle. That really does not say much, except that human excellence is complicated and many faceted.

      The truth is, the filtering process for the sport of racing is already so narrow, that the odds that any racing has found its Usain Bolt or Pelé is very very slim.

      1. greasemonkey
        15th May 2021, 16:07

        Odds are, the best active driver in the world is racing karts out of the back of a pickup truck somewhere, dumpster diving used tires, and cobbling together chains from segments that still have not jammed, and plowing through zip ties and duct tape.

      2. greasemonkey
        15th May 2021, 19:28

        Carlin (team owner over time for Norris, Herta, O’Ward) rates them all top tier, and actually favors O’Ward out of the bunch. 2 of those 3 are in IndyCar, the other in F1. All that says is that human excellence is complicated and many faceted.

        You cannot do simple A > B in X and B > C in Y, and get to A > C. It doesn’t work that way.

    2. Wasn’t Bourdais an Indycar great by the time he turned up in F1? Then lasted about 1.5 seasons.

    3. Grosjean may not be an F1 great but he does have a few F1 podiums (one in hybrid era) so he is a pretty good driver in general still.

  14. I know no one cares but there’s a reason this websites traffic has fallen off a cliff from the once great site it was. The people posting here are toxic as hell and are someone of the most hateful bash everything not F1 people on the internet. It really is sad bc this used to be a really good site

    1. There’s a lot of them, but the notable one is a specific person who really hates Alonso.

    2. there’s a reason this websites traffic has fallen off a cliff from the once great site it was


      No wait, really? You can’t be serious.

    3. “The people posting here are toxic as hell” That’s a pretty sweeping statement. And I haven’t seen any warnings about this site being for 5 year-olds. Plus I haven’t seen anything nearly as toxic as what is being said every day by people in political office. :-)

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