Romain Grosjean is back in Formula 1. The 25 year old Frenchman will drive alongside Kimi Raikkonen in a deal which has clearly been brokered by French oil company Total, which has also extended its sponsorship of the team for a further two years.
Team owner Gerard Lopez of Genii hinted recently that the team might well change both drivers after a lacklustre 2011 season, which saw Vitaly Petrov criticise the team and Bruno Senna drafted in half way through the year to replace Nick Heidfeld.
Grosjean did a stint in F1 with the Enstone based team during its days of Renault ownership in 2009, after the sacking of Nelson Piquet, but he wasn’t ready for F1 and didn’t hold onto his drive.
Managed by Gravity, which is a Genii group business, Grosjean was the obvious fit alongside Raikkonen this time. He’s fast, has a point to prove and has more experience now, having won the GP2 series.
“I am thrilled to be one of the team’s race drivers in 2012,” said Grosjean. “There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity. To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to Formula 1 will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my level of performance too.
“I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport.
“I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible. Total, which supports me since 2006, and Gravity Sport Management, are first on this list.”
So having gone without a French driver for several years, we now have two – Grosjean and Charles Pic at Marussia.
There had been some rumours emanating from Russia that Petrov might transfer there in exchange for Timo Glock moving to Lotus, but today’s news would appear to scotch that.
Bruno Senna is without a drive again and will be looking around the teams with seats to see if his performances in 2011 have attracted any interest.
Robert Kubica is in rehabilitation from his career threatening arm injury, but it does not look like he will come back to this team, if indeed he does manage to come back to F1.
The next item on the agenda is what happens in the relationship between Genii and Group Lotus. There are two theories doing the rounds at the moment; one has it that Group Lotus is going to complete a buyout of the F1 team, the other is the reverse, with Genii buying Group Lotus from Proton.
A third possibility is that things will stay as they are. As Raikkonen is fond of saying, “We will see.”