FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 24, 2020 Haas' Romain Grosjean in the paddock ahead of the Grand Prix REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
October 7, 2021
By Steve Keating
(Reuters) – A veteran of 179 Formula One starts, Romain Grosjean was back in class on Wednesday passing his Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program (ROP), setting the 35-year-old Frenchman up for a shot at qualifying for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” next May.
Grosjean, who made the jump to IndyCar this year, had told his family he would not race on the more dangerous ovals after a fiery crash in Bahrain that ended his F1 career.
But after an impressive first season with Dale Coyne Racing, Grosjean last month made the move to IndyCar powerhouse Andretti Autosport with the goal of winning the driver’s title which would mean driving ovals.
“You can’t go in the top ten if you are not doing all races. They do want me fighting for championships, they want me at the front and I feel comfortable with my decision,” said Grosjean. “You need to respect ovals a lot.
“It doesn’t feel fast when everything goes well but for sure if you start losing the rear end you know the wall is there.
“I feel like my level of happiness through my professional life, being able to share that with my family is the risk that we take.”
Grosjean’s rookie IndyCar campaign produced three podium finishes, two on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) road course, and one pole.
He also dipped his toe in the oval waters running at Gateway Grand Prix placing 14th.
IMS, however, is a completely different beast: a massive 2.5 mile (4km) oval that has frightened off many top drivers.
Grosjean’s first run at the Brickyard was an abbreviated one that saw the Frenchman get his DHL Honda running the final of three phases (15 laps at 215 mph plus) when rain cut short the test.
IndyCar officials, however, deemed Grosjean and fellow Indy 500 novice seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had passed their rookie tests even though both were a few laps short of completing the final phase.
Both will have the opportunity to finish their remaining laps during the IMS open test next April.
“It went pretty well, it was a pretty smooth day apart from the weather,” said Grosjean. “The most stressful part was what was my first lap speed going to be and you move from there.
“I had no idea what to expect to get to 205 mph and it went smoothly.
“Eventually when you have to go about 215 mph, that’s where the fun starts.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Christopher Cushing)