Today Romain Grosjean embarks on the next chapter of his racing career, after a decade in Formula 1, he steps into a Dallara Indycar for the first time as he prepares for the 2021 season, but one without ovals.
Grosjean, whose fiery accident on lap one of the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix remains etched in just about everyone’s minds, will be turning laps at Barber Motorsport Park, in Alabama today, during a private test with Dale Coyne Racing along with several other teams and drivers.
The Frenchman will run 13 of the 17 Indycar series rounds, opting to miss the ovals, including the series crown jewel Indianapolis 500, which make up the other four rounds because he refuses to put his family through another death-defying ordeal.
Of his return to the cockpit, Grosjean told CNN: “If I was 25 and single, I would go and do the ovals, that wouldn’t be a problem, but what I cannot accept right now is putting my wife and my kids in the same situation as they were in Bahrain.
“Ovals, we know it’s risky, we know it’s very high speed. And the crashes – even though, touch wood, most of the time drivers are okay – are very impressive. I don’t want them to be again in front of the TV, see a big crash and ask themselves: how is he doing?”
The last time Grosjean sat in a race car was on 29 November 2020, emerging from it in flames that remain scars of the miracle witnessed that night.
This does not deter the 35-year-old Indycar debutant: “Driving on my own won’t be a problem at all. I think the question that I have and can’t answer right now is how is it going to be in the peloton with other drivers, the race starts, and so on.
“Is it going to bring back memories? Is it going to frighten me? But I’m optimistic that it’s going to be alright,” added Grosjean.
Since Ayrton Senna died at Imola in 1994, safety in F1 has taken giant strides, although the sport lost Jules Bianchi as a result of his freak crash during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
During that same period eight Indycar drivers were stolen from us, notably six of the fatalities were on ovals the other two at Laguna Seca (Gonzalo Rodriguez in 1999) and at Toronto street race (Jeff Krosnoff in 1996).
Grosjean, with 179 Grand Prix starts on his CV, will bring his brand of entertainment to the USA’s premier series and add value to the package. We wish him far less prangs and Bonne chance et sois prudent!
— CNN Sport (@cnnsport) February 22, 2021