Happy Birthday Romain Grosjean!
Today marks Romain Grosjean’s 35th birthday and we at DIVEBOMB want to wish him all the best by taking a brief look at this time in Formula One.
Written by Aiden Hover, Edited by Hazel Alagappan
Romain’s junior career
Before making the step up to the pinnacle of motorsport, Romain enjoyed much success in the junior categories. In 2005, he would command the French Formula Renault championship, which earned him a place in the Renault driver academy. In 2007, the Frenchman would win the Formula 3 Euro Series driver’s championship before winning the inaugural GP2 Asia championship. Romain would achieve 4th in his first season of GP2 as well as being confirmed as Renault’s test driver for 2008.
This role would allow Romain Grosjean to make his Formula One debut at the European Grand Prix in 2009, where he would finish 15th. He would struggle in his debut half-season with Renault as, out of 7 races, he would retire from 2 and achieve a best finish of 13th in Brazil. Following his poor first stint in Formula One, Renault would replace Romain Grosjean with Vitaly Petrov for the 2010 season, leaving him without a drive.
Fortunately, the Geneva born driver landed a seat in sporting cars with Matech Competition to drive their Ford GT in the GT1 world championship. He would perform well, winning 2 races and finishing second once as well as achieving consistent top 10 results. Midway through the season, however, Romain would leave sporting cars to make his return in GP2 with Dams to replace Jerome D’Ambrosio for the second half of the season. He would return full time in 2011 and would win the championship. During this 2011 season, Grosjean was announced as one of the test drivers for the newly formed Lotus Formula One team and in December, it was announced that he would make his comeback to Formula One to partner Kimi Raikkonen for the 2012 season.
Romain’s time with Lotus
He began his second Formula One stint with a bang as he qualified third for the opening round in Australia. He would unfortunately not finish the race, however, following a collision with Pastor Maldonado. Romain Grosjean would achieve his first podium following a well driven race in Bahrain and would do one better in Canada, finishing second behind Lewis Hamilton. It appeared as though Lotus had built a formidable car for 2012 and Romain was utilising it well to fight at the front. He would run second for much of the Grand Prix in Valencia, but would retire due to a technical fault. In Germany, Romain would become the first French driver to qualify on the front row of the grid since Jean Alesi in 1999 as he qualified second and would go on to finish on the podium yet again. Grosjean was making a name for himself in the world of Formula One and the eyes of the top teams were noticing.
After the summer break, however, Romain would cause a horrendous first corner crash at Spa which would see the elimination of multiple championship contenders in Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Romain would be to blame for this after causing the initial contact with Hamilton and would receive a one race ban. Having supposedly learnt from his mistake, Romain made his return in Japan in a similar way to how he ended his race in Belgium. Mark Webber would label the Frenchman as a ‘first lap nutcase’ as Romain had taken the Australian out following an optimistic move on the first lap of the race. He would be involved in yet another incident in Abu Dhabi as well as in São Paulo.
Prove them wrong
Grosjean would remain at Lotus for 2013, despite his poor end to 2012. Romain returned to form this year achieving an impressive 6 podiums throughout the season. Three of which would come in succession in Korea, Japan, and India with a best season finish being achieved in the USA as he would finish second, narrowly beating out Mark Webber. 2013 wasn’t all great, however, as at Monaco that year, Romain would crash three times just in practice leading to Eric Boulier telling his driver to ‘wake up.’ He would qualify 13th but would end his race after crashing into the rear of Daniel Ricciardo which earned him a 10-place-grid penalty.
Lotus failed to adapt to the overhauled regulations for the 2014 Formula One season and so Romain struggled with a poor car, only achieving 8 points. For 2015, Lotus produced a much better car with the Frenchman achieving consistent points finishes and 1 podium at Spa. This would be his last season with Lotus, however, as it was announced that Romain Grosjean would be joining the new Haas Formula One team for the 2016 season.
A fresh start with Haas
In his first race for his new team, Romain would finish sixth to record Haas F1’s first points. 2016 was truly a season of foundation building as Grosjean set to establish himself as team leader and saw the opportunity to build the team around him as he finished the season with 29 points. Sticking with Haas for 2017, and with a new teammate in Kevin Magnussen, Romain again completed a solid season with 28 points overall.
2018 saw Haas take a crucial step forwards as the car was consistently in the mid-field. Grosjean, however, would be criticised as he often made avoidable mistakes, such as in Azerbaijan, where he would crash out from a points-paying position behind the safety car. Also, in Spain, he would spin on the opening lap and in the process would take out several other drivers as many likened him to his clumsy 2012 self. He showed glimpses of greatness despite this, with a fourth place in Austria. He would finish the year with 37 points.
Beginning of the end
Haas, in 2019, was joined by a controversial new title sponsor in Rich Energy, which saw the car decorated in a black and gold livery, in an echo of Romain’s time at Lotus. 2019 yet again saw Grosjean plagued by reliability issues and poor performance. He didn’t help his case with constant driver errors, including several incidents with his own teammate. This came to the forefront in Britain, where the pair came together on the opening lap causing both to retire. Both cars retiring was bad enough, but matters were made worse as Romain was running an older spec car to help the team understand their issues, but the plan was destroyed with both cars failing to complete the race. It followed an embarrassing crash in practice where Romain had spun in the pitlane. He would finish the season with 8 points.
Romain Grosjean would remain with Haas for 2020 where he would struggle even more. Other than the floundering Williams team, Haas was consistently at the back of the grid. The Frenchman would achieve only one points finish at the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring with a ninth-place finish. It was announced mid-season that Grosjean’s contract would not be renewed with the team and Romain would leave the sport after 2020. His season came to an abrupt end at Bahrain. On the opening lap of the race, Romain came together with the Alpha Tauri of Danil Kvyat. This contact sent the Haas into the barrier at great speed, ripping the chassis into two and igniting the car into a fiery inferno. Romain miraculously climbed out of the car and over the barrier in less than half a minute, despite the 67G impact. This crash saw the end of Romain Grosjean’s Formula One career, for now, as he missed the final two rounds of the championship due to his injuries.
Moving past Formula One
Romain Grosjean, whilst not always the cleanest or fastest driver on track, was well known for being an incredibly humble and thoughtful person. Being a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association since 2017, Romain was thought highly off and respected by his fellow drivers and will be sorely missed from the grid.
For 2021, Romain Grosjean will be making his debut in IndyCar to complete a part-time schedule with Dale Coyne Racing. We at DIVEBOMB, wish him and his family all the best on his future endeavours and a very happy birthday.