MY LIFE IN PICTURES
He’s had his share of ups and downs – and, indeed, upside-downs. Now Romain Grosjean is ready to share a selection of his racing memories in a walk through the Motorsport Images archive
Romain Grosjean casts his eye over some memorable photos
1 Formula 3, Pau, 2006: “LIKE MONACO OR MACAU”
This is my best memory of 2006. I was with Signature in the F3 Euro Series, we had a beautiful car, but the team struggled a little bit: we swapped from Opel to Mercedes engines, I was lacking in experience, and we didn’t get the performance. We joined the British Formula 3 Championship for this race in Pau. I won both the races and it felt good, because we’d been struggling to get results. The Pau Grand Prix is like Monaco or Macau; it’s maybe not quite as famous, but it’s big, and I was very proud to win it.
2 Formula 3, Hockenheim, 2007: EN ROUTE TO F1
Winning the F3 Euro Series with ASM in 2007 was very difficult – there were a lot of drivers who were moving up to Formula 1. Sébastien Buemi was in a different team, then in my team I had Kamui Kobayashi, Tom Dillmann and Nico Hülkenberg. We were each told we needed to be the champion if we wanted to carry on; it was a big fight and it was probably the best year of my racing career. In the team we were pushing each other hard all the time. I remember at Hockenheim going for pole position and getting the fastest time ever set there in an F3 car, then Hülkenberg beating it, so I had to go on pushing and pushing… and eventually I had the last word.
Fred [Vasseur, who was then the team principal of ASM] is a real racer; he knows the best way to speak to drivers, and I still have a very good relationship with him today. He’s very funny and he knows how to get people to work to the very best level they can reach. I think that Guenther Steiner [team principal of Haas] is a lot like that as well.
3 GP2, 2009, Monaco: OFF TO A FLYING START
This was the second GP2 round of 2009, in Monaco. I’d had such an amazing debut: I was first in race one at Barcelona, second in race two and then we went to Monaco and I won again. Then I had a big crash with Andreas Zuber in race two: it was the biggest crash I’ve had to date. Things went a bit downhill from there. There were a few things – I knew I could have a shot at Formula 1 with Renault because Nelson Piquet was in and out, so I didn’t focus as I should on GP2. Nico Hülkenberg was strong… I was still second when I left to go to F1, but I wasn’t in a position of dominance like I had been at the start.
Addax was an interesting team. It was the first time I’d gone into a team where the owner [Alejandro Agag, now Formula E impresario] wasn’t from a racing background. But he was a very good character, always behind you and giving you confidence. Seeing what he’s done with Formula E is very impressive.
4 Formula 1, Valencia, 2009: IN AT THE DEEP END
This is a day I’ll always remember: my first ever F1 grand prix. I got the phone call while I was on holiday. This was the one, finally – they’d called me before, but then called back the next day to say no! I had no preparation, no testing, and then I had to jump in next to Fernando Alonso. I don’t think I did too badly. It was very interesting to look at Fernando and see what he was doing and how I could learn.
I didn’t know much about F1 and all the other things like dealing with media and sponsors. I was shy so people thought I was arrogant. And unfortunately at the end of the year I couldn’t keep my seat – which was tough, but a good life lesson.
5 Formula 1, Interlagos, 2011: BACK IN THE F1 GROOVE
In 2011 I had two practice sessions in F1 with Lotus in Brazil [replacing Vitaly Petrov] and Abu Dhabi [in place of Bruno Senna]. It was hard to go back, because this team had fired me previously, and when a team fires you they think you’re a loser and you go in the cupboard.
But, yeah, I came back in through the window. These practice sessions were very important – there was a lot of pressure and I had to show I knew what was going right or wrong on the car, and that I had the pace and could do a good job. And then it happened! On 8 December I got the phone call saying I had the race seat.
6 Formula 1, Bahrain, 2012: PODIUM TIME!
I got my first F1 podium in Bahrain in 2012. I remember standing on the podium and remembering how when I was a kid watching races on TV, people like Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna would be up there… and now there would be kids watching me on the podium. I was very proud of being there.
Eric Boullier was super-proud afterwards because he had really pushed for me to come back.
7 Formula 1, Spa-francorchamps, 2012: THE ‘FIRST-LAP NUTCASE’
I think in my career it was a positive thing to start working with a psychologist and learn to do things in a different way. The penalty here [a €50,000 fine and a one-race ban] was very harsh. I think Lewis [Hamilton, whose left-front wheel hooked Romain’s right-rear into the air, triggering the shunt] had at least 50cm or a metre on his right to move. I don’t think it was a mistake initially – I thought I had overtaken him, and then obviously not, but then the wheel had come off, all the brake fluid came out, and I had no more brakes. I’m happy nobody was hurt.
I sent a text to Fernando after the race to apologise, and he replied, “Don’t worry, it happens, penalty is harsh, you will come back.”
I got a tough time on social media after that, with a lot of people saying I cost Fernando the championship there. Well, it might not have helped but it wasn’t that. People still come up to me with this photo wanting me to sign it – sorry, I don’t sign it! Guys, please – it was a long time ago; I’ve learned from it, and moved on.
8 Formula 1, Melbourne, 2016: MAKING THE MOVE
Haas came at the right time for me. I was about to turn 30, I’d had a lot of time at Enstone – and it was ten years since I’d started in Renault Driver Development. I figured it would be a great challenge, a great adventure. I thought the whole system behind it [close technical co-operation with Ferrari and the use of listed parts] was very intelligent, a strong way to come into F1.
Obviously it was a risk to change to the unknown. But I’m proud of what we’ve been doing so far. Our third season is going super-well, and this is the kind of experience that has no price. Learning to develop a team from day one has been incredible. We’ve had a lot of laughs, and there’s a lot of trust between us, with Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas. Finishing sixth in the first race with this team [2016 Australian GP] was incredible. We had a bit of luck with the red flag, but then we finished P5 in Bahrain with no help. Then in China we were 18th and 19th on the grid – that was a wake-up call. “Guys, it’s not that easy…”