Does Romain Grosjean, coming to the end of his F1 career, still feel he could go up against anyone? “Yes, for sure,” he instantly fires back. “Put me in a Mercedes and some days Lewis would be better than me, some days I’d be better than him, just depending on the feeling on the day. I know I’m one of the five fastest, let’s say. Some people may disagree, fine. But I know that if you gave me a Mercedes, I would win the race.”
It isn’t going to happen, of course. But as much as his claim may sound ridiculous, it’s spoken by one of F1’s fastest drivers of the last few years. His name does not appear even once in the grand prix winner’s list after 11 seasons. But that massively undersells him. Aside from the fact that he was in a semi-competitive car for only two of those 11 seasons, this was one of the few drivers ever to have caused the Pirelli engineers to see things on telemetry they hitherto didn’t believe possible, who caused them to have to recalibrate their analysis tools. Him and Hamilton, they said (though this was before the time of Max Verstappen).
His passing from F1 should be marked. For he has been a singular character and driver, not just another who ultimately was not a potential champion and who therefore eventually ran out of options. He had the spark of greatness but it was repeatedly extinguished. The supporting qualities needed to maximise that basic ability were perhaps lacking. He remains a vulnerable personality, too open for his own good, maybe not tough enough to let criticism wash off him, his emotions not always fully under control.