Grosjean annoyed by Monaco crash accusations

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Romain Grosjean has admitted that he felt annoyed by the accusations following the crash between himself and Max Verstappen during last Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, believing it to be evident that he was blameless in the incident.

During the closing stages of the race, Verstappen crashed into the back of Grosjean and flew into the barrier at Sainte Devote, sparking a safety car period that ultimately cost Lewis Hamilton victory.

Although the Dutchman was unhurt, he was deemed by the stewards to have caused the accident and handed a five-place grid penalty for next weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Verstappen reacted to this by claiming that Grosjean had caused the accident by brake-testing him, only for Lotus to prove via the data on the Frenchman’s car that he had in fact braked later than the previous lap.

Speaking ahead of the race in Montreal next weekend, Grosjean rejected the idea that he had brake-tested Verstappen and admitted that the suggestion that he had caused the crash was annoying.

“Of course not, what would that possibly achieve?” Grosjean said when asked if he had brake-tested Verstappen.

“In Monaco it’s pretty easy to keep a car behind you, even a car that’s faster than you, by placing your car on the racing line and just focusing on driving your laps. The difficult bit is for the guy trying to get past.

“I didn’t brake early or lift off the throttle earlier on the lap which Verstappen hit me, in fact the data showed I braked five metres later than the lap before!

“The FIA are pretty thorough in their investigations and I don’t know which annoyed me more: being hit and knocked out of the points, or having to go through the inquiry afterwards for something that was clearly not my fault.

“Ultimately, Max caught himself out by driving too aggressively on the wrong circuit to attempt a move like he did and we both felt the consequences. He’ll learn; he’s a very talented driver.”

Grosjean ultimately finished the race down in 11th place as a result of the incident, but remained upbeat thanks to the performance of the E23 Hybrid car.

“Despite not finishing in the points, there are quite a few positives from Monaco,” Grosjean said. “The circuit itself is a good test of how a car behaves in low-speed corners, and the E23 worked well.

“We also were able to employ a good strategy to get back into a point-scoring position after the gearbox penalty meant we started pretty far back on the grid. We also showed that the E23 has pretty strong rear suspension, even when attacked by another car.”

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”