Facing Death book review: Grosjeans on success, setbacks and survival


In Facing Death, Marion and Romain Grosjean recount their memories of the fiery Bahrain crash, as they tell the story of one of racing's good guys — and set the record straight when it comes to Netflix's Drive to Survive series

Romain Marion Grosjean Facing Danger picture

City Editions

It would be easy to assume Romain Grosjean’s semi-autobiographical new book, written in partnership with his wife Marion, is a slice of commercial opportunism – a chance to cash in on the fiery incident that made him front-page news for a few days late in 2020.

Easy, but wrong.

His dramatic exit from last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix naturally forms a central motif and is relived from two perspectives. His own, sitting in a blazing car, fearing he was trapped, then thinking about his kids before making one final, happily successful effort to wriggle free through the limited space available. And that of Marion, at home in Switzerland, watching events unfold at their home cinema with three young children and her father-in-law, having no idea about her husband’s condition, nor even whether he was still alive.

The tone is tense, without ever becoming unnecessarily sensational, and in parts it is very moving – even though you know from the start that there will eventually be a happy outcome.

There is much more to this, though, than the 29 seconds during which he was trapped in a blazing Haas.

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He’s an interesting case study, Grosjean.

A relatively late starter in karting, the Franco-Swiss won titles at every level during his formative years – including the 2007 Formula 3 Euro Series, when his adversaries included team-mate Nico Hülkenberg (with whom there were some interesting mind games) and Sébastien Buemi. When he was promoted into the Renault F1 team during the summer of 2009, following Nelson Piquet Jr’s sacking, he still had a part-time job in a Genevan bank – hardly conventional for racing drivers of the modern era, but another detail that sets him apart.

After himself being dropped at the end of that campaign, Grosjean admits he considered quitting the sport and enrolling for culinary lessons, to plan an alternative career in another domain he enjoys (he and Marion have previously collaborated on a cookery book, published in 2017). Competitive opportunities in the 2010 FIA GT1 championship (he was a race winner) and AutoGP (in which he became champion, despite missing several races) hardly looked like F1 career lifelines, but the faith of DAMS boss Jean-Paul Driot – and the offer of a free seat in GP2 – restored him to the mainstream. After winning the GP2 title in 2011, he was back on F1 teams’ radars and ready to accept the rare commodity of a second chance.

Romain Grosjean on the podium at 2011 GP2 race

Grosjean’s 2011 GP2 title-winning season brought a second chance at F1

Grand Prix Photo

He didn’t waste it. With Lotus (or Renault, or whatever it was called that week), he had a number of potential race-winning opportunities that went unconverted, sometimes through a cautious strategic approach on his team’s part, but he netted 10 podium finishes – six of them in 2013. He obtained some strong results with Haas, too, as the newcomer punched above its weight during the early days of its new F1 initiative.

The Grosjeans relate the peaks and troughs of his career with good humour and include a few interesting asides – Netflix tweaking the chronology of certain events to create a stronger storyline for its Drive to Survive series, for instance – but we won’t throw in any more plot spoilers.

The book concludes with his first steps into IndyCar racing, how he was taken aback by the bond between drivers (a band-of-brothers mentality long since extinct in F1), his decision to reverse an initial promise not to compete on ovals… and how Marion felt about that.

The title might be dramatic, but for the most part this is a charming series of essays about a devoted family man who happens to be quite handy behind the wheel, but who also emerged from a 67g impact – and concurrent fireball – with relatively minor injuries and a fresh perspective on life.

It’s a good read and the English version – Facing Death – should be available from November 24.

La Mort en Face book coverLa Mort en Face

Romain & Marion Grosjean

City Editions, €18.50
(French version)
English version expected to be available from November 24