Grosjean apologises as Hinchcliffe and Castroneves bemoan turn one chaos


Posted on

| Written by

Less than six hours after the tight right-left Variante del Rettifilo at Monza became the scene of a major championship flashpoint in Formula 1, another tight right-left chicane – the first and second corners at Portland International Raceway – was the scene of a messy first-lap incident which left two of IndyCar’s more experienced drivers distinctly unimpressed with certain rivals.

The chaos broke out as pole winner Álex Palou and team mate Scott Dixon approached the corner Felix Rosenqvist behind them passed Alexander Rossi for third place. As Dixon cut to the right to try and get alongside Palou, Rosenqvist tried to cut to the left – then made contact with Dixon’s left rear wheel, upsetting his car under braking.

Dixon short-cut the infield portion of the chicane, and Palou did the same to avoid contact with his team mate. Rosenqvist drove straight through the escape road on the left. “I didn’t really have a choice but to go straight,” said Rosenqvist. “I couldn’t have really done anything so it was out of my hands, which is a shame.”

Behind them, Romain Grosjean came into the braking zone too quickly, and struck the right-hand side of James Hinchcliffe’s car, moments after Hinchcliffe checked up to avoid driving into the back of Sébastien Bourdais. IndyCar debutant Callum Ilott locked up his rear wheels as he tried to avoid hitting Scott McLaughlin, which sent him into the path of Will Power and Hélio Castroneves. Oliver Askew also locked the rears, trying to avoid a side impact collision with his team mate, Graham Rahal.

The aftermath was not as destructive as it might have been but five drivers – Power, Askew, Castroneves, Grosjean, and Hinchcliffe – were stopped on track as the caution came out. Power and Askew were able to resume running, but the other three drivers suffered significant damage.

“Obviously, it’s turn one, and everybody knows it’s going to be a problem, right?” exclaimed four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves, who was making his first start at Portland since the 2001 CART Indycar season. “So we’ve got to use common sense.

“I just saw somebody coming like a torpedo! The experienced guys start backing off, and I don’t know who it was, that just came and started hitting everybody. I guess the guy from the right side got hit, hit me, I end up hitting somebody on the left and bent the suspension.”

After extensive repairs by his Meyer Shank Racing crew, Castroneves returned to the track and turned the rest of the race into a de facto test session for next week’s race at Laguna Seca. He was classified 23rd, 19 laps behind.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

While Castroneves at least has a full-time IndyCar return in 2022 to look forward to, James Hinchcliffe’s driving future in the series hangs in limbo at the end of a frustrating season at Andretti Autosport. He wasn’t able to continue after bringing his stricken number 29 Dallara/Honda back to the garage, leaving him 27th and last in the running order – absolutely not what the multiple race winner needed if he aims to continue racing in the series next year.

Hinchcliffe vented his frustrations – pointedly towards Grosjean – on the television broadcast. “It’s comical at this point. It’s so sad.

Grosjean admitted he made a mistake at the start
“You watch the replay, Romain wasn’t going to make the corner no matter what. I don’t know why he decided to brake so late, starting where we were with a 110-lap race. I’m sure he’s just as upset as everyone else. I mean, it’s an easy mistake to make. But I just can’t believe we keep being on the receiving end of this stuff, you know?

“We nearly got in the back of Bourdais, I avoided getting any contact there, and then we just got absolutely clobbered. It’s just so frustrating, it’s so disappointing. It would have been fun to see what we could do, but now we’re just, kind of on the sidelines watching.”

Grosjean, who early in his Formula 1 career had a reputation for being involved in first-lap incidents, was quick to apologise for his role in the collision.

“Portland was definitely not the weekend that we were hoping for,” Grosjean commented. “Qualifying was not easy and I made a mistake going into turn one at the start. I’m sorry to everyone that was involved.”

“It’s too bad because we had really good pace, but we lost too much time at the beginning. Hopefully we do better next week at Laguna Seca.”

The incident cost Grosjean in his fight with Scott McLaughlin for top rookie honours in the series. Having finished 15 laps down in 23rd position, Grosjean heads to Laguna Seca trailing McLaughlin by 38 points with two races remaining.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Browse all IndyCar articles

Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

18 comments on “Grosjean apologises as Hinchcliffe and Castroneves bemoan turn one chaos”

  1. Old school Grosjean action.

  2. Grosjean’s already got one “first lap” nickname, so why is he trying to steal Kvyat’s?

  3. “The First Lap Nutcase”. He couldn’t even hide it for that long.
    Grojean is, has always been and will always be a dangerous driver. He is a liability behind the wheel and has nearly killed many drivers in his career. There is only so much luck a person can have in their life.

    How many drivers have had a race ban for being dangerous in modern F1?


    1. someone or something
      14th September 2021, 15:09

      I take it the last months have been tough, with all of IndyCar singing his praises for his driving and being an all-around likable fellow. What a relief it must be to finally have an opportunity to spew out some of the built-up bile.

    2. OK, here we go with the “dangerous diver” BS again.

      He’s done a very good job so far. He made a mistake and admitted it. No problems with that.

      1. This. “He’s done a very good job so far” AND “He made a mistake and admitted it”

      2. someone or something
        14th September 2021, 15:40

        Also, it’s not like the driving standards in IndyCar are top notch. There are messier incidents once every three races.
        I believe John hasn’t even seen any footage from the incident, he just took the bait laid out in the title, because it just confirms his bias so well.
        In reality, Grosjean didn’t single-handedly cause a multi-car pile-up or anything like that. He braked too late, but didn’t cause too much trouble, except for Hinchcliffe, with whom he banged wheels. And that was literally all that happened. A front wheel to front wheel bonk that bent the steering on both cars.
        Meanwhile, half the grid didn’t even make the first corner, including the entire top 4, another driver rear-ended a competitor at the corner entry, it was a real mess. Like 5 separate incidents, and Grosjean was involved in one of them. Accepted the blame, apologised for it, end of story.

  4. These constant first lap, first turn incidents would be minimized if Indycar would bother enforcing the formation rule at the start of the race. It has become ridiculous. Cars already passing before the green flag, cars backing up 10 car lengths to get a run at the start. half the field already skewed after the last turn of the pace lap and staying that way, cars three wide before the flag, the list goes on. But as long as nobody has passed the pole sitter it’s good enough, just let the green fly.

  5. Peter Farrington
    14th September 2021, 16:56

    Same old ! Same old ! Grosjean has changed since he moved to Indycar ?
    NO he hasn’t ! First lap brain ( or lack of ) fade !

  6. He didn’t do anything “spectacular” or damaged anyone’s car

  7. @denis1304 Ha, ha, thanks!. Looks like Grosjean further perfected that move he pulled in Spa at the start of his crashing career. Nice work!

  8. What a disgrace. He sort of started to get sympathy from a lot of fans after his accident at the end of his F1 career, but he’s still the same man. Good enough to make it to F1, not good enough to impress once there. It seems that he might take the same path with Indicar. There are more talented drivers out there but without a drive…

    1. Wdym not good enough to impress? 10 podiums and the perfect 2nd driver to Kimi during Lotus days. Brilliant drives from P17 to P3 pulling spectacular overtakes on drivers such as Lewis Hamilton. Would have been very close to Kimi at lotus without team orders.
      He more than impressed, but chose to work with haas to build the team up. Then, they gave him a terrible car and he couldn’t do anything.

      Grosjean has been scoring podiums in q bad team at indycar (Yes spec cars, but best teams have best setups and it’s almost unheard of lower teams scoring podiums).
      He’s doing a fantastic job in indycar, far better than half of the grid at least. He shouldn’t be punished by everybody for one minor mistake (which wasn’t serious if you actually watched the footage)

  9. Well done to McLaughlin, showing the best of the Aussies can mix it with the best in the world. Considering the move from tin tops to open wheels unlike Grosjean, he should already be considered to have sealed the honour.

  10. Well I knew this would happen…

  11. I wonder if Grosjean has considered dirt track.

  12. Good to see Grosjean back in full form!

Comments are closed.