Romain Grosjean says Indy 500 qualifying 'most intense' driving experience ever

Indycar Racing News

Romain Grosjean has opened up on the pressure of qualifying at Indianapolis, saying it surpasses F1 and other disciplines

Romain Grosjean Indianapolis 500

Grosjean has opened up on the unparalleled intensity of running at Indy

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Romain Grosjean has said the qualifying session of the Indianapolis 500 was the “most intense” session he’d ever participated in, as he prepares for America’s biggest single-seater race this Sunday.

The veteran of 179 F1 starts, now in his sophomore IndyCar season, has qualified a creditable ninth for his first race at the Brickyard. Whilst emphasising the challenge of having your foot to the floor for four laps might not require quite the same skill as an F1 qualifying run, the Frenchman said the pressure was perhaps even greater.

“A lot of people asked me if it was the most difficult driving I’ve done my life and that is absolutely not [the case] because you rely on what the car can do and cannot do,” he explained.

“Is it the most intense? Probably yes. My reaction after the first run on Sunday was like ‘I don’t want to go again,’ because I’ve pushed the limit for those four laps, and if the car is not better, I’m definitely not going again.

Grosjean data

Grosjean ahs been able to share data with team mates to get a better understanding of the Brickyard challenge

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“In Singapore, Monaco, Suzuka or places like that, you push the limit for a lap really hard, but the speeds are a bit slower. Here the speeds are so high, it is a very high intensity level.”

Though oval racing might seem simple in concept to some, Grosjean says taking part in the discipline has made him appreciate the challenge.

“It is much more complicated than I thought it was and I think everyone in Europe thinks it is,” he admitted.

“You look at the onboards and yes, the full lap of Scott Dixon is incredible, he’s flat out and the car seems to be behaving really well.

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“It’s easy when that’s the case but when your car is not that well set-up in qualifying, it’s already quite a challenge and then in the race it’s all about managing your car, if you’re saving your tyres, and the traffic running which is very different.”

Grosjean’s team, Andretti Autosport, has a technical and data-sharing agreement with the Meyer-Shank outfit, which won the race last year with Helio Castroneves, who took an unprecedented fourth victory. Crunching the Brazilian’s numbers has impressed upon Grosjean how much the devil is in the detail.

“When you look at everything Helio does, you’re not surprised that he won the race four times,” says Grosjean. “There’s actually a very specific technique and a few small details – at 230 miles an hour all the small details actually become quite big. So [it’s just about] just making sure you get everything right.”

When Grosjean first entered IndyCar with Dale Coyne last year, he was operating on a road-course only programme after rowing back on original plans for a full season. This was due to concerns over the dangers after his fiery Bahrain shunt at the end of 2020, but the Frenchman explained his change of heart this year in taking on the ovals also.

“Once you make the decision of doing something like Indy 500, you stick with a decision and you have to be happy with it,” he said. “So the work was done before making the decision of doing ovals.”