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Grosjean Excited About New U.S. Gig

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 6 2021

Romain Grosjean will take to the streets of North America in 2021. (File photo courtesy of Haas F1)

Romain Grosjean’s star-crossed Formula One career ended last November during a YouTube moment defined by a halo, assisted perhaps by a guardian angel.

A veteran of 179 F1 starts, Grosjean is transitioning to the NTT IndyCar Series in 2021 on a one-year contract with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing. Grosjean will contest the series’ 13 street and road-course events on a 17-race schedule featuring the 105th Indianapolis 500 as its “grand prize.” 

“Well, I think if I was 25 and single or even with no kids, I would be racing ovals definitely,” said Grosjean, 34, married and the father of three children. “It’s also a family choice. I think on the 29th of November 2020, for 2 minutes, 45 seconds they thought they had lost a dad and my wife unfortunately lost her husband. The idea of putting them back into that situation, really I can’t take it.”

Grosjean was referring to the fiery crash on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix, when contact with the wheel of another car sent the Frenchman’s No. 8 Haas F1 Team entry hurtling through and under a metal Armco barrier. The Haas chassis was torn in half, with Grosjean miraculously extricating himself from the burning wreckage seconds before the arrival of F1 safety personnel.

Grosjean, whose burned left hand is still healing, credited F1’s halo cockpit safety device with saving his life. “I’m sure it’s going to save some more in the future,” Grosjean said during a ZOOM news conference with Coyne and Ware earlier this week. “It’s not unknown that I was against the halo being brought to motorsport. But in French we say only idiots don’t change their mind. I did change my mind. I wouldn’t race a car with no halo or Aeroscreen on.”

The No. 51 Dale Coyne with RWR Honda Grosjean will drive this season will be equipped with INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen cockpit safety device, introduced during 2020 to largely positive reviews.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s now part of the motorsports in general, halo and Aeroscreen,” Grosjean said. “Aeroscreen is a step behind I think absolutely even because the speed are higher, it makes more sense. But I think it’s a great invention generally.”

While ruling out competing in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval in May, Grosjean might be willing to race on World Wide Technology Raceway’s 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Ill., on Aug. 21. “I am not saying 100 percent no to Gateway. Let’s see how the season goes,” Grosjean said. “If we can do some testing on short track and see how it goes. It’s not 100 percent yes and 100 percent no, but for now I just need to look after my family in the speedways.

“Yes, I’m excited to come to the U.S., discover a new world, a different world of racing, but a world where you stand on the same chance to win the race.”

Grosjean drove in the FIA Formula World Championship for Renault, Lotus and Haas during a career that began in 2009 and included consecutive seasons from 2012-2020. Grosjean was the first driver hired by American businessman/racer Gene Haas at Haas F1 Team, where he has spent the last five seasons. Grosjean’s nine-year F1 career covers 179 starts with no poles, no wins and 10 podium results. Grosjean and teammate Kevin Magnussen were informed in October they would not be re-signed for 2021.

“I had different options in front of me for this coming season and choosing to go INDYCAR racing was definitively my favorite one,” said Grosjean, who sat out the final two races of the 2020 schedule after the crash. “INDYCAR has a much more level playing field than what I have been used to in my career so far. It will be exciting to challenge for podiums and wins again. My left hand is still healing, but we are just about ready to get back into the race car and to start this next chapter of my career.”

Grosjean’s résumé includes seven junior championships topped by winning the GP2 Series _ the last rung before Formula One _ in 2011 by 35 points. He spent the first four years of his F1 career with Lotus, where he finished a career-best seventh in the 2013 World Championship. He moved to Haas F1 Team in 2016. Grosjean’s 10 podium finishes include two second-place results, both on North American venues (2012, Montreal, Canada; 2013, Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas).

“We’ve been talking to Romain for some time now, even before his accident at Bahrain,” said Coyne, who will mark his 38th season in INDYCAR as a driver and team-owner in 2021. “Formula 1, it’s difficult to be a winner unless you’re with the top two or three teams. So we’re going to get him over here with the fourth-best team and show that he can still be a winner. We’re looking forward to having him with us.

“We’re going to create a good environment for him. We’re happy to have Rick Ware with us this year. (He) got a taste of it at Indy last year. Once you get a taste of that place, you want to keep coming back.”

Ware noted that while he is “knee-deep” into NASCAR, he’s always followed road-racing and Formula One. “This is our 30th year in motorsports. This is all we do for a living. We live and breathe it,” said Ware, whose Mooresville, N.C.-based organization includes son Cody in its driver lineup. “The racer in me, man, just ate up Indianapolis. Of course, we’d been there with NASCAR. Indy is about Indy cars. I really started seeing the benefit of trying to expand just our reach as a race team.

“To go in and say that we’re going to just do it all on our own would have been a huge feat. I joked a little bit with Dale, I kind of want to be him when I grow up. He’s been very, very successful.”

Grosjean’s prep work for INDYCAR has included plenty of home study. “I have been watching 18 hours and 36 minutes of INDYCAR racing over the last couple of months,” Grosjean said with a laugh. “I’m super-excited to discover the championship.  There’s lots to learn from rolling starts to doing the pit stop to learning the car. I’m ready to tackle the challenge. I think it’s the right one.”

Grosjean will be teamed with 2017 series Rookie of the Year Ed Jones, a 25-year-old native of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and driver of the No. 18 Team SealMaster-Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda. Both drivers will begin testing Feb. 22 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., site of the season-opener on Sunday, April 18.

REVISED 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE

Sunday, April 18 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (NBC)

Sunday, April 25 _Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (NBC)

Saturday, May 1 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 1, Fort Worth (NBCSN)

Sunday, May 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 2, Fort Worth (NBCSN)

Saturday, May 15 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (NBC)

Sunday, May 30 _ The 105th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (NBC)

Saturday, June 12 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1, Detroit (NBC)

Sunday, June 13 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 2, Detroit (NBC)

Sunday, June 20 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (NBCSN)

Sunday, July 4 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (NBC)

Sunday, July 11 _ Streets of Toronto (NBCSN)

Sunday, Aug. 8 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (NBCSN)

Saturday, Aug. 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (NBCSN)

Saturday, Aug. 21 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Madison, Ill. (NBCSN)

Sunday, Sept. 12 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 19 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 26 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (NBCSN)

  

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 6 2021
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