Romain Grosjean clinched the GP2 title this weekend, following in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg. Now he needs to move back into F1 and it will be very interesting to see what happens.
Grosjean has had an F1 chance before, of course, in 2009 when he was drafted in by Flavio Briatore to replace Nelson Piquet Jr. It was the wrong move at the wring time, he came in with no testing, mid season and up against Fernando Alonso in the other car. He was too young, not prepared and wasn’t physically strong enough.
Now, it’s a different story. He’s regrouped, won the GP2 title at a canter and I’ve been hearing some very impressive data from engineers and tyre engineers recently about his speed and the general level he is on. It sounds like he deserves a second chance.
Watching Bruno Senna come in this weekend to the Renault team and also the ongoing discussions about F1 testing plans in 2012 has put the spotlight onto the whole idea of new blood and change and Grosjean’s name is certainly one that will figure in plans for 2012.
Grosjean was born in Switzerland, but has dual nationality and races on a French licence. There is a big push for a French driver in F1; the FIA president is French and with all its history and investment in the sport it makes no sense for the country not to be represented.
Historically French drivers have come in with support from French companies, particularly Elf. French involvement is a little thin on the ground at the moment, but Total are active in F1 and Renault supplies engines to three teams this year and four next year.
Prior to the LRGP team’s owner Genii Capital getting into business with a leading Brazilian investment firm earlier this month, it looked like Grosjean would be driving the Renault from Singapore onwards. Now Senna has his chance and the team’s intention seems to be to run him for the rest of the season, provided they can win their legal battle after Monza with sacked driver Nick Heidfeld.
The Renault Team has to play a waiting game on Robert Kubica’s fitness and the Sennas and Grosjeans will have to see how this unfolds. Williams and Team Lotus will also be using Renault engines next year so perhaps something might open up there.
“I want to go back to Formula One, of course,” said Grosjean, “But at the moment nothing has been decided. My management, LRGP or the team DAMS have been intelligent because they knew that in 2009 after the third race of the season, I was only thinking about F1. This year, I did not want to make the same mistake so I kept my focus on GP2 exclusively. I have been to the F1 paddock as little as possible to focus here. Now that we are champions, I will have a look at what is going on upstairs, but at the moment, my main concern is to find a good contract for 2012 and nothing else. At least we still have a few months to think about it. Hopefully I can get a good seat in good conditions.”
F1 isn’t well known for giving second chances, but with the opportunities for young drivers to test in F1 so limited, drivers of Grosjean’s experience are a good option.”
Another driver who needs to get into F1 now is Jules Bianchi, who hasn’t performed as expected in his two seasons in GP2. He is also French and is managed by Todt’s son Nicolas. Bianchi is Ferrari’s reserve driver and a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy.