until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Grosjean’s IndyCar shunts and conflicts aren’t the full picture

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Romain Grosjean’s desperate cries on the radio have become as familiar and regular as his cheers about success in the 2023 IndyCar season.

A tonne of work by Andretti Autosport to improve its cars in the off-season coupled with a set-up breakthrough to alleviate Grosjean’s 2022 problem of too much understeer has given the ex-Formula 1 driver a new lease of life this year.

But every time he looks to be making a breakthrough on track, something new pops up to dampen his enthusiasm.

Romain Grosjean Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented By Lear By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M84180

He was on pole in the St Petersburg season opener before Scott McLaughlin crashed him out of the race. At Texas Motor Speedway he ran up front all day until he crashed at the end when he encountered dirty air and lost control while fighting for fourth.

He was second in Long Beach and at Barber Motorsports Park, before qualifying 18th due to traffic at the Indianapolis road course, which required a comeback just to finish 11th.

His race was basically over in the Indy 500 when he was harpooned in the pits by team-mate Colton Herta – which also wasn’t Grosjean’s fault – and then he crashed a few laps later.

Then, the latest in a long line of trouble, his suspension broke in Detroit while fighting for the top five and maybe even a podium.

Really the Texas crash was the only one that was totally his fault, and even then, the dirty air could have caught any driver out. The Indy 500 crash was also his own doing but came after his race was already ruined by Herta in the pits.

In an alternate universe, a win at St Pete and an eighth in Detroit immediately lift him to fourth in the standings from his current 11th.

It’s easy to see then why he was so, so angry after the Detroit retirement where he remonstrated solo for what felt like ages, sitting down and getting up again, waving his hands, holding his head, questioning what must have felt like his whole world.

Romain Grosjean Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented By Lear By James Black Largeimagewithoutwatermark M84382

The root of that dismay is not only that he feels like everything has been going wrong off track, but that he feels he should be a championship contender.

He’s probably the only driver in the field that wants to win the championship more than the Indy 500, as he admitted to The Race in the build-up to the special race.

He has shown what feels like character progression this year. After he was furious having been held up in traffic again for qualifying for the Indy road course race, Michael Andretti reportedly said he had been working with Grosjean on his anger and emotion.

But before the 500 Grosjean said that he would “never change” in that regard.

However, over the 500 he did admit that he reacts differently to drivers’ crashes after his own fiery wreck in Bahrain in 2020, and said he’d been to visit Stefan Wilson in hospital after Wilson broke his back in practice at the Speedway.

Grosjean also spoke of being a bad team-mate in the past and how he has tried to work to be more inclusive and cohesive in his working methods.

Romain Grosjean Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Day 1 By Matt Fraver Largeimagewithoutwatermark M80756

Some of these developments do go unnoticed though as Grosjean comes with a reputation – perhaps unfairly, perhaps not – being an over-aggressive driver capable of errors and driving that affects others.

In Penske’s post-race press release Josef Newgarden appeared to call out Grosjean – although not by name – when he said “It got a little rough out there at times and we were on the receiving end of it, but you’ll have that on a street course. That stuff always comes back on you, like it did later in the race.”

Grosjean had barged Newgarden wide at Turn 3, resulting in an arm wave from Newgarden, and the “comes back on you” comment certainly seems pointed.

McLaughlin also felt that Grosjean didn’t care for where he was on the track as the two came together at Turn 1 earlier in the race.

Romain Grosjean In Front Of The Pack Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented By Lear By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M84339

Grosjean’s reputation from F1 and how that has been built upon in the States will almost always lead to conflict and people not being happy with the way he races. Detroit seemed a good example of how that reputation can be justified.

But in equal measure, we should remember some of Grosjean’s willingness to develop and become more understanding, of which he certainly has after his crash, and ask ourselves – are we judging him by his actions or his reputation?

No driver is perfect – remember Newgarden smashed Grosjean into the wall in Nashville last year, seemingly unnecessarily – and although Grosjean’s move didn’t appear to be retaliation for that, all of these drivers have blemishes on their records.

There’s no doubt Grosjean deserves to be in the championship hunt, and whatever you make of him as a driver, he certainly makes the IndyCar series a more interesting place.

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