• Exclusive Romain Grosjean Q&A

Romain's redemption

Chris Medland March 7, 2012

Romain Grosjean spoke to ESPNF1 in Barcelona about the impressive new Lotus, his second chance in Formula One and getting on with his new team-mate

Romain Grosjean was fastest on both days that he was in the car at the final test in Barcelona © Getty Images
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You must enjoy being top on both your final two days of testing; there can't be many better ways of going in to a season can there?
No it's good, it's quite cool. Even if you are not looking especially after performance in testing and it doesn't mean that much. I'm sure the Red Bull and the McLaren will be better than what they are now in Melbourne qualifying but for sure it's good for the team. It was important for everybody to come back stronger after the experience we had last week. The team did a fantastic job to repair the car and to make it reliable and we are all quite happy with the way the testing went. I think that the programme was pretty well done and we're looking forward to the first race.

You mentioned the time lost last week; this is your first full pre-season in Formula One so how much is it going to be to have lost those two days?
There's going to be an impact, for sure there's going to be a little bit. But hopefully the car is quite well born and we didn't need to test too much to make it stable and performing well. So that's a very good thing, and the two days we lost for sure is a loss but it's not as bad as if the car was nowhere after the first few laps on track.

How does it feel knowing that the next time you get in the car will be at the first grand prix weekend of your first full Formula One season?
It's going to be cool. I think it's going to be nice, I've been to Australia for the grand prix in 2009 as a third driver and I really like the atmosphere there. I think the track is quite fun as well and I really want to get there and drive the car and I'll wake up on Sunday and think 'Well, enjoy your day. It's the first grand prix for hopefully a long time and enjoy the day, enjoy the grand prix, have fun and make the best you can'.

What do you think is going to be the difference between the 2009 Romain Grosjean and the current Romain Grosjean?
Well Romain Grosjean is the same but I've got some evolution! I've gained some maturity and even if I'm still the same for sure I'm much more ready for Formula One than I was in 2009. The people around me are much better and I know myself as well much better, so I think all these experiences were very helpful to me and now I'm looking to 2012 and the future.

Does it feel like a shot at redemption for you? An opportunity to almost rebuild your reputation within the sport?
Yeah. At the end it is an opportunity whereas at the beginning it was not really an opportunity; it was really a tough time. But at the end of the story a few people believed in me when I was not at the top and that would be Gravity, Team DAMS - Jean Paul Driot - and Total. Those people have believed in me and made me able to come back to Formula One. They are still here today and I think the human relation is really strong, the trust as well is good and I'm very happy and very proud to have the support of those people around me and to be able to have a real chance in Formula One.

Romain Grosjean dominated GP2 in 2011, winning the title by 35 points © Sutton Images
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Speaking of DAMS, how big a confidence boost was it to you winning last year's GP2 title?
I think it was very good for my confidence, that's for sure. It was very good for the image as well because basically when I went to DAMS the team was trying to find its way and was not where it was able to be. Gravity told me 'OK if you want to come back to Formula One you have to be a team leader and make the job'. They didn't have to tell me to win the championship; I wanted to win the championship and I think it was clear between us even without saying it that it was the aim. But they said 'OK if you are able to bring the team back to the top then it's a good point to jump to Formula One'. The relationship with DAMS was fantastic straight away, we worked really hard, they have been working really hard and they have been very intelligent because sometimes I was quite tough and sometimes they were quite tough with me as well! But that was good, that was the way we needed to work and I was very pleased this week because they were leading the testing in Jerez for GP2 for three days as well! So I gave them a call and said 'That's not bad, not bad, keep going guys!' So yeah, I think it was important for the comeback.

You say sometimes you were tough with DAMS and they were tough with you, Lotus was quite tough and went through three drivers in Vitaly Petrov, Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna last year; does that add pressure to your seat?
Well I know that Formula One is pressure. I know that there is only 24 seats and you have to make the best job you can to keep your seat. If the team is sometimes hard with me, if I don't perform well I'll agree. If I perform well and they tell me that it's good I'll be happy. I think if you are open and you say what you want to say and what is true then it is better for everybody. If your engineers tell you 'You didn't drive very well today' and you agree then say 'Yes, sorry I was having a bad day' or sometimes 'The car today is not good, I'm not happy with the work we did' and the engineers say 'Yes, we agree' then it's perfect. But sometimes when it's good you have to tell your engineers 'Well done, the car was fantastic' and sometimes the engineers should tell you 'Good job, you did a good lap or a good race' and I think if you manage to get this relationship then you're getting much stronger with your team.

Is the pressure on you much higher having an ex-World Champion next to you in the other car?
No it doesn't change much you know, when I will be on the grid in Melbourne my aim will be to beat 23 drivers, not only one. Every competitor who takes part in a competition wants to win it, that's the aim. So the pressure is there but it's just part of the job.

How's it been working with Kimi so far, do you talk much? Or has testing been more focused on your own individual programmes?
Well the problem with testing is that you're never in the car on the same day so it's difficult to compare straight away. But if I have a question he does answer and if he has a question I answer and I think at the moment we are working very well together. As testing is really limited and even at a race you don't have much time to develop the car; if you're working together it goes much better than if everybody works on his own.

Is it important that you get on well too? If you look at Red Bull in 2010 when the drivers didn't seem to get on very well and they almost lost the championship, do you feel you need to have a good relationship with your team-mate?
I think a good relationship is clearly a help, it won't at any point be a disadvantage. So if we managed to do it well and we manage to work quite well together it will be very good for the team and I think that's the objective for both of us.

Romain Grosjean is managed by Eric Boullier's Gravity Sport Management company © Sutton Images
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In your seven races in 2009 you didn't score a point, but surely looking at this car now the target's got to be higher than just scoring your first point hasn't it?
(Laughs) Hopefully! (Laughs) In 2009 it was quite tough to get points with the car we had. OK this car seems quite good but we don't know the truth until we get to Melbourne and have qualifying basically. But clearly the team wants to chase fourth place in the constructors' championship so we'll try to make it and try to fight for it.

What would be a disappointing result for you then in Australia?
Well if someone hits you from behind in the first corner that's really disappointing. But you don't think about bad results and disappointment, the only thing you want to do is your race, you want to do your best and get the best out of the car.

Does it feel like a race-winning car to you? I know you can't judge it against the others but when you're in it do you think 'This will do what I want it to do?'
I think it's too early to say anything. I think Red Bull and McLaren are still ahead of us, they look really strong. But if it can be a podium car then I'll take it.

So do you think that your battle is with Mercedes and Ferrari at the moment?
Well it seems to be, but then maybe Force India is strong as well. We don't know about Toro Rosso and it's always tough to know where you are. But last year we finished fifth in the championship, this year we want to finish fourth so we'll have to beat one of the teams that was in front!

Fourth or first?
Fourth.

Definitely fourth? You don't think first is a realistic target with this car?
Well the target is for 2015 to be world champions so you have to go step-by-step and not try to jump three steps in a row.

And you think you could be world champion with this team?
I hope so!

Chris Medland is assistant editor at ESPNF1

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Chris Medland is assistant editor at ESPNF1 Chris Medland, who in his youth even found the Pacific GPs entertaining, talked his way in to work at the British Grand Prix and was somehow retained for three years. He also worked on the BBC's F1 output prior to becoming assistant editor ahead of the 2011 season