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Grosjean: ‘Traffic cost us’ first IndyCar win

by Jack Benyon
3 min read

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Pole-sitter Romain Grosjean believes “traffic cost us the win” as he was usurped by Rinus VeeKay for IndyCar victory on the Indianapolis road course.

Dale Coyne Racing driver Grosjean was in scintillating form all weekend at the Brickyard, bagging pole position in just his third qualifying session since moving over from Formula 1.

Despite missing the last two races at Texas as he isn’t contesting the ovals this year, he showed no signs of rustiness, and even excelled in a pre-race area of worry, on starts and restarts.

Romain Grosjean Indianapolis IndyCar start

He controlled the first stint banking a lead of over four seconds from Jack Harvey, and went 12 laps longer in the first stint to open up his strategy options later in the race.

Ultimately though, just before his second pitstop, he hit traffic. He passed reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato at Turn 1 in a wheel-banging move, but Sato barged back past at Turn 7 in a similarly forceful overtake.

Grosjean then also became stuck behind Sebastien Bourdais, who was fast on fresh tyres late on the race, halting any chance Grosjean had of pressurising VeeKay at the end.

Unlike in F1, IndyCar doesn’t employ aggressive blue flags and allows its cars to fight to stay on the lead lap in the event of a caution.

Asked by The Race if he was happy how Sato raced him, Grosjean replied: “Well, I think every series is different, and you’ve got blue flags issued everywhere.

“In Formula 1 I was shown the blue flags quite a bit over the last few years and it was terrible for us.

“Here today obviously I wish it was [flagged] more often because I was the guy that was chasing them [backmarkers], but it’s the rule that IndyCar uses. Is there room for improvement? Probably. Is there a perfect solution? No.

“But definitively I think traffic cost us the win today.”

Rinus VeeKay Romain Grosjean IndyCar Indianapolis

He later added: “We were also a bit short in sixth gear – I think the wind changed a bit direction – so I was actually hitting a limiter, which didn’t make my life easier to overtake the guys.

“But you know, with Takuma, it was a bit on the limit I would say. With another car, as well.

“And if you lose three seconds over two laps and another time a couple of seconds passing a guy that’s five seconds, then that would have been more than enough to keep Rinus behind us. But it’s the same for everyone.”

The result was still the best for the team since Bourdais’s victory at St Petersburg in March 2018, and if you were to discount the two races Grosjean missed for all drivers he would be sixth in the points standings.

Asked by The Race if it was important for Grosjean to prove that he could still compete up front, he said: “I don’t think I need to prove to anyone what I can do.

“If somebody doubts that, well, they should look a little bit at my career and what I’ve done and what I could even do in the last few years with the car in my hands.

“So it’s more for me, to enjoy racing as I love it and to fight for good positions with people that are passionate about it, in a great atmosphere, but also very professional.

“I’m here for myself. I knew it was going to be a challenging year for my family with me being away quite a bit and traveling, and with the time difference not being able to talk to them as much as I would love to.

“But they can also see how happy I am, how much I’m enjoying the moment, and the fans are giving me back also so much through social media, through the grandstands today, the fans cheering for me.

“It’s just incredible to live, and I’m very grateful.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday, May 15, 2021 ©2020 Walt Kuhn

Grosjean misses the next race, the Indianapolis 500, and will head home to Europe as he doesn’t like to spectate at races.

He will return to IndyCar to test at Road America on June 2, before the double-header at Detroit on June 12 and 13.

The focus in the simulator will be on Detroit as it’s a street circuit, where Grosjean and Dale Coyne have struggled most so far after qualifying 17th and finishing 13th at St Petersburg.

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