Fittingly, Grosjean hits the career GP century mark in #Haastin

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Fittingly, Romain Grosjean’s 100th career Grand Prix start (101st entry) will come at Circuit of The Americas in Austin for the United States Grand Prix.

The Frenchman has never had a chance to race in a home Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours having been knocked off the calendar after 2008, and with Grosjean not stepping up to F1 until 2009, and then returning in 2012.

But in his fifth full-time season and sixth overall, the Frenchman hits the century mark of Grand Prix starts at his team, Haas F1 Team’s, first home race since joining the grid this year.

“When I started in Formula One I thought it’ll just be one race after the other,” Grosjean reflected in the team’s pre-race advance.

“Then here we are at 100 Grands Prix, 10 podium finishes, a few points and lots of good memories, and some a little more difficult.”

That line speaks volumes about the career transformation Grosjean has had over that time.

He entered F1 under less than ideal circumstances with Renault in 2009, as a midseason replacement for the underperforming Nelson Piquet Jr. in a car that was less than ideal.

Come 2012, Grosjean was back full-time after a dominant run to the 2011 GP2 title. But even despite his first couple podiums, way too frequently he was in the headlines for incidents.

After causing the first turn pileup at that year’s Belgian Grand Prix, he received a one-race ban for the following Italian Grand Prix. After another dust-up with Mark Webber in Suzuka, the usually diplomatic but occasionally blustery Australian branded Grosjean a “first-lap nutcase.”

But in 2013, Grosjean was easily the most improved driver on the grid, scoring podiums at a rapid clip and very nearly winning his maiden Grand Prix on a couple occasions. Suzuka, in particular, stood out as an incredible drive despite ending third, as did Austin, where he secured his second career and most recent runner-up position. He ended a thus-far career best seventh in points with 132 points, which was up from eighth and 96 points a year earlier.

Grosjean fought through trying 2014 and 2015 seasons at Lotus but overachieved to score a podium in Belgium last year, site of his past indiscretion. All the while he maintained a largely positive public disposition, particularly in 2015 after losing out on quite a bit of running in first free practice to Jolyon Palmer.

This year, at Haas, Grosjean has blossomed even more as the star that the first-year team needed to spearhead its growth and development over its maiden campaign, along with teammate Esteban Gutierrez.

“The good thing is, I don’t know when I’m going to stop, but I think I’ve still got plenty of room in front of me to keep going and to keep trying to win,” he said. “Definitely 100 Grands Prix is quite something in my lifetime.

“For us, it couldn’t be better. I’m so proud to be part of this team and so proud to be able to bring the cars into Q3 in qualifying and bring points to the team. We’ve been working very hard and everyone is really giving 100 percent. It probably means more for us than other people.”

KANNAPOLIS, NC - SEPTEMBER 29:  (L-R) Gunther Steiner, team principal of Haas F1 Team, Romain Grosjean of France, and Gene Haas, owner of Haas F1 Team, pose for a photo opportunity after Haas F1 Team announced Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
KANNAPOLIS, NC – SEPTEMBER 29: (L-R) Gunther Steiner, team principal of Haas F1 Team, Romain Grosjean of France, and Gene Haas, owner of Haas F1 Team, pose for a photo opportunity after Haas F1 Team announced Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)

Grosjean expanded on what the year at Haas has meant to him during a media session held Tuesday in Charlotte, Haas’ U.S. headquarters.

“I met Gene last September. We spoke for half an hour. We shook hands and the deal was done. I never regret it,” Grosjean said.

“I made a decision joining Haas. I knew it could be good or bad. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can be the first driver to score the first point for a brand new team. Hopefully be on a podium one day wearing the Haas Automation colors. There is never a day where I woke up in the morning thinking I shouldn’t have done it. It’s a wonderful experience even though it is sometimes hard. But it’s great.”

MORE: One of a Kind: Gene Haas’ dream arrival into F1 history (NBC SportsWorld)

The start of the season bore great fruit for Grosjean, the famous sixth place at the team’s debut in Melbourne followed by an even better fifth place outing the next race in Bahrain. An eighth in Russia in the fourth round of the season only served to continue the momentum, with some 22 points achieved and a 75 percent scoring strike rate.

But with only one points score since, a seventh place at Austria in July, the early season results haven’t quite transferred. Brake issues have been the recent culprit, although things seemed to improve in Suzuka after rough outings in Singapore and Malaysia, most notably.

This is not for a lack of effort, but more owing to the reality of being a first-year team needing to learn the ropes at every Grand Prix.

“Yes,” Grosjean replied, without hesitation, when asked if the year was a success. “Coming to the first test with everything ready. Coming to the first race with everything ready and the cars being able to compete.

“Esteban had a crash with Fernando but we managed to score sixth and then the second race we did well. And then of course went through a more difficult time.

“But it wouldn’t have been normal not to go through that tough time and things wouldn’t have gone the normal way. Then we came back up, came back down and now I think we are now on an ascent, especially that we have to prepare for 2017 as well.

“There is a big change of regulation and the team swapped very early on to next year because the idea was to come to Formula One and then do better in year two and do better in year three. To achieve that as we put the bar higher, we needed to get all the resources working on the future project.”

Grosjean’s expectations haven’t changed per race, either. The Frenchman is determined not just to be finishing races, but winning them, or certainly achieving the maximum result possible.

That’s why an 11th in Suzuka was so frustrating – or as Grosjean termed it, “bloody annoying” – after both he and Esteban Gutierrez qualified in the top 10 for Haas in the same race for the first time; he felt it was one of the best races he’d ever driven, but came up empty from a points-scoring standpoint.

“I remember Sunday morning in Australia, I met Gene at breakfast and he told me, ‘Today, just go through Turn 1 and finish the race.’ In my mind, it was, ‘No, we want to finish the race but we want to go for it!’” Grosjean exclaimed.

“All the time, if I’m going to Austin this week, it’s because I want to do the best. I want to win the race. I know this is probably not going to happen because we don’t have the best car.

“If I am a competitor, it is to beat everyone else. I’ve never been to a grand prix thinking, “I’m just going to finish the race.”

“There’s no (expletive) way.”

Additional reporting from NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan in Charlotte. Look for more from Grosjean, Gutierrez and the Haas F1 Team with Nate later this week on

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.