Grosjean feels better off in IndyCar after crowd-pleasing charge to Laguna Seca podium

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Following a third place finish at Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway, Romain Grosjean said he was nearly moved to tears by the ovation he received from the crowd for his performance.

“It’s difficult to describe. It’s just been incredible,” said Grosjean, fighting to find the words to describe how he felt upon his reception from the crowd after the race. “At the podium, when I got the ovation […] I almost cried, and I don’t cry very often. Because it’s been more than anything I could imagine.”

“Without the fans, we wouldn’t be racing,” Grosjean added. “They are a very important part of what we do. But what they give me back is just incredible. So I wanted to share with them the podium.”

Grosjean started 13th, and had worked his way into contention for a podium finish by the time he made his last pit stop on lap 73 of Sunday’s 95-lap race. He began his final stint from seventh place, a stint which he described as being in ‘French torpedo mode’ on the softer alternate compound tyres.

“I told my engineer [Olivier Boisson], ‘yeah, let’s go!’ He was worried that the tire would go off. But I felt like we had a good balance and I could just go for it. That was a fun stint.”

Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick War, Laguna Seca, IndyCar, 2021
Grosjean made superb passes to claim third podium in 2021
“But I’ll tell you one thing, the 60 laps beforehand were not fun!” Grosjean exclaimed, referring to his two stints on the harder primary compound ‘black’ tyres. “When I had to last 30 laps on the blacks, and make sure that we went long, long – and then eventually [run a] short stint at the end. That was not the funniest part of the race. But then the last 20 laps were good. I just knew I had much more pace.”

After overtaking Simon Pagenaud and Marcus Ericsson to run fifth, Grosjean drove around the outside of Patricio O’Ward at turn three for fourth place. That lap 81 pass on the championship leader, at a difficult corner for overtaking, was a worthy a contender for the most impressive move of the race. So was his earlier, lap 15 move on Scott Dixon at the Corkscrew.

Next Grosjean overtook the lapped car of Felix Rosenqvist, erased a four-second deficit to Graham Rahal in third place, and braked as late as possible into the Andretti Hairpin (turn two) to take the final podium position. With the Coyne/Rick Ware car’s pace in clean air, and race leaders Colton Herta and Álex Palou trying to get around backmarkers, the possibility of another runner-up finish for Grosjean, or even a first victory, wasn’t out of the question.

Grosjean had a two-and-a-half second gap to Palou with seven laps to go, but the Ganassi driver’s team mate Jimmie Johnson was the next car ahead. Attempting a similar move to his pass on Dixon, this time Grosjean came from too far back, locked up the front tyres, and made contact with Johnson at the first left-hand corner in the Corkscrew. Amazingly, both cars continued with negligible damage, and did not lose any positions.

Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick War, Laguna Seca, IndyCar, 2021
Clash with Johnson left a mark on Grosjean’s car
“There was a bit of vibration going on after the touch,” Grosjean commented after the collision with Johnson. “I’m sorry to Jimmie for the contact out there. He was trying to protect Álex, and I wanted to go chase Álex.”

Grosjean’s third place finish at Laguna Seca brings him back to 20 points behind Penske driver Scott McLaughlin for the Rookie of the Year Award. However Grosjean said there would be no shame in conceding the award to the Penske driver, who unlike Grosjean has contested every round this year. “I’m very impressed with Scott McLaughlin, and his adaptation to single-seaters,” said Grosjean. “I think Scott definitely is more of a rookie than I am.”

As he nears the end of his first full season in IndyCar, with rumours strongly linking him to a full-time drive for Andretti next year, Grosjean’s US move has clearly paid off.

“I was one of the 20 lucky guys in the world to make it to Formula 1 and I had an incredible career,” he reflected. “Yes, the last few years were a bit tough and frustrating. I knew how to drive, but I couldn’t show anything.”

“So definitely, coming somewhere where you can fight at the front, where you have an engineer telling you, ‘you are the fastest car on track, you’re P1,’ you’re fighting for podiums, it’s definitely a revival,” said Grosjean.

And in a statement that resonated with IndyCar’s biggest advocates, Grosjean added: “I understand a lot of kids want to make it to Formula 1. But if it’s to be at the back of the grid every weekend, I think you’re better here.”

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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...

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  • 20 comments on “Grosjean feels better off in IndyCar after crowd-pleasing charge to Laguna Seca podium”

    1. Not surprising, he has made quite a transformation. From paddockjoke, on whom people were placing bets to crash out first, to regularly ending on a podium.

      Grosjean added: “I understand a lot of kids want to make it to Formula 1. But if it’s to be at the back of the grid every weekend, I think you’re better here.”

      However, this clearly is a statement from a man that no longer has that youthful ambition and self-belief in being the best, racing the best, and beating the best.

      Reply moderated
    2. It’s good that he appears to have found his ‘home’.

      As an F1 driver I found him difficult to like. The dangerous manoeuvres of his early career were replaced by excuses and occasional petulance. It’s a shame as he clearly had talent.

      I did get to meet him whilst staying at a hotel in Hungary when he was still at Lotus. I think I’m being kind when I say that he wasn’t the warmest personal I’ve met!

      1. Person not personal!

        1. @sonnycrockett I think part of the issue is that we only see what the media wants us to see.
          I remember reading an article/interview (no idea where as this was quite a few years ago) with the drivers who seemed shocked that Grosjean was seen as always moaning, and that he complained no more than any normal F1 driver. But as soon as a driver gets this sort of reputation, even falsely, the broadcasters will deliberately only replay radio messages that perpetuate that false reputation.

          The same thing goes for Alex Albon with the “why do they always race me so hard!” quote. He has a very valid point and I’m sure that anyone else in his position would say the same thing. I imagine that in Monza, Hamilton had a few messages on the radio when he was stuck behind Norris. But we didn’t hear any of that.

          Reply moderated
          1. @minnis

            I’m sure you’re right to a degree, although saying “I think Ericsson hit us” really didn’t help!

            1. someone or something
              22nd September 2021, 22:18

              @sonnycrockett
              Grosjean never said that. His race engineer did.
              In other words, you’ve proven him 100% right.

    3. Great news article!

      I really like Grosjean and it’s fantastic he’s making such a mark in Indy.

      I couldn’t be happier for him :D

    4. I was really impressed with his “Tribute to Alex Zanardi” overtaking performance!

      1. Yeah, that and paying tribute to Dale Coyne (along with Palou) for giving him a chance in IndyCar was cool too.

    5. He was really exciting to watch out there. I hope he gets the Andretti drive next year because wins won’t be far off.

    6. The way he’s taken to IndyCar, and the way the fans have got behind him is amazing. Rightly so, he’s the most exciting driver in IndyCar right now. He is brave, bold, making some brilliant moves, and obviously loves what he’s doing having a fair chance. His comeback after Bahrain is the best story in racing. He’ll have a real chance to win the biggest race in the world next year, and hopefully become series champion.

      1. Throughout his career I have always liked Grosjean for exactly that: brave and bold and very fast.

        In Indycar this gets you somewhere, despite being in an underfunded backmarker team.

        In Formula One this same constellation gets you nowhere and on top of that you earn yourself a reputation of being a slow and bad driver.

      2. Cristiano Ferreira
        22nd September 2021, 1:42

        His comeback after Bahrain is indeed impressive Don, but i think there are better tales than his, like Zanardi, Billy Monger and Kubica just to name a few that came out alive and continued to race despite the serious and disabling injuries that they sustained.

        1. Agree Ceistiano. Meant to say best story in racing this year, but can’t edit on Racefans.

    7. Small error regarding his pass on Patricio O’Ward who is referred to as the championship leader. Alex Palou was the leader coming into this race and is still leading it. O’Ward was a leader earlier this year (before Portland?)

    8. Better than becoming a chef, that’s for sure… More power to him. I still think he deserved a year or two at Ferrari after his first year or two at HAAS. If only he didn’t make so many unforced errors.

    9. Cristiano Ferreira
      22nd September 2021, 1:35

      He deserved a place at Ferrari in 2016 after his impressive 2015 with a sinking Lotus. Too bad he never had any chance of getting that seat, and that Haas could not keep up with its good form after 2016 either. I’m happy for Grosjean and i hope he wins the series (Indy) in the near future.

    10. So true. Look at Hulkenberg. No podiums to show for his F1 career. Why make a career at being a back marker in F1.

    11. In F1 that corkscrew move would have been a time penalty, points, several fan polls, and a Jolyon Palmer breakdown on the website with 4K livid comments.

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