until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Grosjean can’t just retire – he deserves a real goodbye

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

It was a nice sentiment when Haas Formula 1 team boss Guenther Steiner said he would plan for Romain Grosjean to return to racing as soon as possible after his Bahrain Grand Prix crash.

Steiner meant that Grosjean would be the one to make the decision to race again after the terrifying fiery crash that almost took his life. If he is fit, and willing, the priority is for him to return.

“I would like to cross the finish line properly when I finish my career in Formula 1. I don’t really want it to be over with that day” :: Romain Grosjean

However, Grosjean has not been able to make an immediate return this weekend. He needs to recover from the burns to his hands, so Haas has drafted reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi to replace him in the Sakhir Grand Prix.

It leaves Grosjean just one opportunity to return to F1 before leaving it for good.

Grosjean’s out of a drive for 2021 as Haas is moving to an all-new line-up and that probably means the multiple podium finisher’s final chapter with the team closes the book on F1 for him as well. As a result, his exit was already out of his hands.

However, it would be cruel if he is now robbed of the farewell he deserves. Because despite a violent crash in the final throes of his grand prix career, and in the knowledge it is a “selfish” decision that upsets his family greatly, Grosjean wants to get back behind the wheel one last time in F1, in the Abu Dhabi season finale.

“It’s been my life,” he says. “And I would like to cross the finish line properly when I finish my career in Formula 1. I don’t really want it to be over with that day [last weekend].”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Race Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

Grosjean has his critics but a career spanning 10 seasons across only two teams (Renault became Lotus, don’t question it), taking in 179 starts and 10 podium finishes, warrants serious respect.

As a driver and a person, he will be missed from F1. The raw emotion that dominated the reaction to his crash, and his return to the paddock a few days later even only as a guest, was for more than just an endangered colleague – it was for a man who is respected and liked.

Hopefully, not rushing back into action this weekend is the time he needs to heal sufficiently, so he can get behind the wheel for Haas one final time.

If Grosjean had tried to race this weekend it would have been too much, too soon, and he’d have had a difficult if not impossible weekend.

He would have aggravated his injuries. Even rushing back in Abu Dhabi risks the same. And maybe he’d struggle mentally to readjust that quickly too, although he seems confident that he has avoided the worst of any demons that may lurk in the form of post-traumatic stress.

Of course, the nature of F1’s season-ending triple-header means that we’re not talking a matter of weeks for Grosjean to get back to fighting fitness, it’s a matter of days. However, when it comes to burns, even a few days can make a vital difference.

In this case it could be the defining factor between Grosjean being unfit for the Sakhir GP but OK for Abu Dhabi. But all he can do is wait. There is still talk of a skin graft and Grosjean will not do anything to race next week.

“The right hand 100% will be ready,” he declares. “The strength and the mobility in the left hand gets better day after day. The strength is there, the mobility is still [limited by] a lot of swelling from the inflammation.

Nov 30 : Grosjean out, Fittipaldi in for Haas

“So, this needs to start reducing. But the graft hasn’t been ruled out yet. I’m joking, I’m happy. [But] the pain this last two days has been high.

“I’m quite strong with pain, I broke my right hand early this year, falling down in the kitchen! I haven’t told anyone.

“The story would be beautiful to go to Abu Dhabi. If I don’t, I’ll call every single Formula 1 team and see if anyone would offer me a private test” :: Romain Grosjean

“But it was an open break, two bones and I put them myself in place, and went to the hospital and the pain was OK. So I’m very strong with some pain.

“But I won’t take the risk to lose mobility of my left index and left thumb for the rest of my life just to go to Abu Dhabi.”

If he can race, it’s far more fitting that he returns to the car physically and mentally able to do a proper job, rather than driving compromised or with the fear of a life-altering injury niggling away at him. That way he can have his send-off behind the wheel, ideally making it to the finish (and who knows, in the points?), rather than with a hospitalising crash.

Of course, Grosjean shouldn’t feel obliged to do whatever it takes to race in the finale.

He has talked of potentially needing psychological work after his brush with death. The suffering his crash caused his family deeply upset him.

If the injuries still feel questionable, or next week he decided racing for a lower-midfield finish one last time doesn’t prove appealing anymore after a second chance at life with his wife and children, who is anyone else to judge if he thinks ‘actually, I’d rather not’?

What he deserves more than anything is to be able to take that decision himself. How is left hand heals is the biggest factor now.

Grosjean is philosophical about this. He adores the idea of a final farewell: “Even though the footage of having a Haas crossing at the back of the grid, crossing the line will be less dramatic and probably less broadcasted around the world, I would like to.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Sakhir Grand Prix Preparation Day Sakhir, Bahrain

But, he adds, he will race again in the future. OK, IndyCar might now be off the table after all – the danger he feared in oval racing is suddenly a lot more real again – but he wants to keep racing.

So if it doesn’t happen in F1, he says, “it’s OK. I will have other opportunities to cross other finish lines in the future.”

And he adds, with a smile and a great deal of sincerity, that he’ll make his F1 goodbye work another way if he has to.

“The story would be beautiful to go to Abu Dhabi,” says Grosjean. “If I don’t, I’ll call every single Formula 1 team and see if anyone would offer me a private test in January or so, to jump back in the car and have 10-15 laps for myself.”

I hope the real thing happens, though. Leaving F1 because he’s lost his drive is one thing but to be denied the goodbye he wants as an F1 driver would be unfair.

After all he’s achieved, and what he’s been through the last few days, Grosjean deserves to make his next move on his terms.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks