Getting back into a racing car ‘felt like home’, says Romain Grosjean

Indycar Racing News

Speaking after his first IndyCar test — and his first return to a racing car following his Bahrain crash — Romain Grosjean said he was happy to be back on track, but nervous about starting a race again

Romain Grosjean smiles during his 2021 Indycar test

Joe Skibinski via IndyCar

Romain Grosjean’s first IndyCar test involved a spin and left him aching, but the former F1 driver jumped out of the car with a smile, ahead of racing in the series this year.

Less than three months ago, Grosjean was contemplating death, as he struggled to escape from his burning Haas at the start of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 30 seconds he spent in the car before emerging from the flames left him with burns to his hands, particularly severe on the left. Grosjean has also mentioned the psychological effects of the traumatic experience.

Asked about his reaction to getting back into a racing car for the first time since the crash, Grosjean said: “It felt like home, to be fair. It felt like home, and didn’t have any apprehension whatever.”

However, he said that the rolling start for his first race, at the same Barber Motorsports Park circuit, was likely to be his biggest test: “The real question is going to be at the race start but for now, driving the car is good.”

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Grosjean completed 80 laps during the test for the Dale Coyne-Rick Ware team, and was reportedly the slowest of the 12 runners as he adjusted to the new car — but within a second of the day’s fastest lap from Rinus VeeKay.

“It is tough driving those cars, very much, in a different way than Formula 1 where the only thing you fight in Formula 1 is the g-forces where here you actually fight the heaviness of the car physically,” said Grosjean. “But I don’t mind it. It’s quite cool.

“It’s definitely the hardest steering wheel I’ve had to cope with. The first few laps, the muscles weren’t quite warmed up or ready for it. It got better at the end, which is always a good sign.”

Romain Grosjean on track during his 2021 Indycar test

Adjusting to heavy steering was one of Grosjean’s challenges

Joe Skibinski via IndyCar

Grosjean put his spin down to the difference in how IndyCars and F1 cars perform in fast corners, due to the way that their differentials work.

“I just went too fast in,” he said. “When I was on the brake I also picked up the throttle which you do in high speed, but because it’s a mechanical diff it opens the diff when you do that, and therefore it makes the car lose, whereas in Formula 1 it would actually stabilise the car.

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“Every time you come testing you have to try to find your limit, which I did this morning in Turn One. I wasn’t quite happy with it, but it happened… that was kind of a good learning experience.”

The burns to Grosjean’s hands prevented him from returning to Formula 1 for the end of the season and the Frenchman said that he was still feeling the effects from his injuries.

“There’s a nice big blister on my left thumb which is not pretty, but driving-wise it was okay. It wasn’t painful. I was being a bit careful on some of the curves, but generally, it hasn’t been a limitation,” he said.

“Putting the gloves on and removing it is not always nice so I tend to keep my left glove on, protect it from the sun, as well.”

Romain Grosjean cornering in his 2021 Indycar test

Grosjean was taking part in the session alongside fellow Dale Coyne driver Ed Jones, and said that he was taking a grown-up approach to his new team-mate.

“We have a good relationship,” said Grosjean. “I told him I used to be an asshole as a teammate back in the days, but now I’m 35 and I’d like us to be friendly. On track you want to beat them, there’s no doubt, but outside of the track I think if we can be friends it’s mega.”

Grosjean returns to Barber in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 18 for his first race of the Indycar season, in which he will compete at all of the road circuits. He previously ruled out racing on ovals this year, after reassessing the risks he was prepared to take following his Bahrain crash.

Romain Grosjean gets into his car at the 2021 Barber Indycar test

Grosjean’s helmet – designed by his children for what should have been his final F1 race – finally got an outing

Joe Skibinski via IndyCar