Being Called a First Lap Nutcase Was Painful – Romain Grosjean


Romain Grosjean - Haas F1 - Head
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Romain Grosjean has expressed the painful criticism he had for his first lap incidents during the 2012 Formula 1 Season in the latest episode of the Beyond The Grid Podcast.

Grosjean, currently racing with the Haas F1 Team, is commonly known for the opening lap crashes he partaken in during his first full season in F1 with the Lotus F1 Team.

The Frenchman started his F1 career in 2009 as a stand-in for Nelson Piquet Jr. at Renault, who was fired by the team due to the increase tension surrounding the crashgate scandal in 2008. But the Frenchman’s time in that season didn’t lead to a full-time drive with the team. He was replaced by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov for the 2010 season.

Grosjean admitted in the podcast that he wasn’t ready to make the jump into F1 with Renault, opening up about the difficult learning spell with Renault that season.

When presenter Tom Clarkson asked Grosjean what he was lacking when he made his F1 debut in 2009, Grosjean replied with: “A lot of things. F1 is not only about driving. Driving the car is one thing but there’s being on the outside, being aware of what is going on and the games and the media.

“So I came to F1 and people thought I was arrogant, but I was just shy. I was looking not to disturb anything. No one ever told me what to do or not to do and that’s why I wasn’t ready.

“It was a dream start. After the summer break I got the phone call to say I’m in the car for seven grands prix, to get used to F1 before the next season starts and use it as learning. Turns out it wasn’t the case.

“I think it was just the case of wrong place, wrong time. I was next to Fernando, which was amazing, I learned a lot from him. Obviously he was very fast.

“But with all the crashgate story I was part of the furniture that needed a change. I was part of the Flavio Briatore management and even though I owe a lot to Flavio for putting me in, I think it also cost me my first career in F1.”

Grosjean also opened up about how he almost gave up in Motorsport and aim to pursue a career as a chef in 2010.

He and his wife Marion released a cookbook in 2017 together, showcasing variety of dishes and cuisines the pairing make in their home.

The Haas driver said that when he got the call that he didn’t get the Renault seat for 2010, he wanted to give up and head down a different career path.

“It was tough, it was very late as well,” Grosjean added. “Eric Boullier was then in charge of Lotus and I was in contact with Eric and they were telling me if we don’t find anyone you are the obvious choice because you have experience in the team and so on.

“Then on the 31st of January 2010 I got a call from Eric saying they had said Petrov so I was out. I thought ‘that’s it, I’m not racing anymore’ so I am going to become a cook – because that’s part of my passion. I went to a cooking school and I was told I was too old. They said no.”

His return to F1 came in 2012 with Lotus and started off impressively with multiple podium places. But his season was known for multiple first lap crashes with drivers, infamously the crash at the Belgian Grand Prix, where got a race ban.

Grosjean also mentioned the incident he had with then Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber at the Japanese Grand Prix, stating that incident was the crash he takes full responsibility for.

“Spa is Spa. I still believe I’m not 100% responsible for that incident, Lewis could of maybe moved 50cms to the right, but whatever I accepted the penalty and it helped me with my career after that. 

“There was Spa and then there was Suzuka, which to me was my biggest mistake with Mark Webber.

“It was just purely my fault, 100%. I was so focused on not getting the Sauber to overtake me that I crashed into Mark, not even realising he was there. Mark came to me and was about to punch me. He was very angry at me in the hospitality. He said to me ‘we worked the car from Friday morning to make sure we got a good car going for the race and you ruin it at Turn 1.”

“I couldn’t agree more with Mark, saying ‘yes Mark, you’re right. If you want to punch me, punch me.”

Grosjean had received a lot of criticism over the crashes in the past, especially from fans online. He admitted that the criticism from fans and drivers at that time was painful to take.

“When you are in that spot, when all the spotlight is on you and you know you can’t make any move without risking a penalty, then of course take advantage, which is normal, you would always do that,” Grosjean continued.

“If you are playing tennis and your opponent is struggling from the heat or has lost his backhand, you’re going to hammer it. If you’re cycling up a hill and you see the other guy struggling you go for it. We’re competitors – we want to win.

“Dealing with media criticism, fan criticism, happens all the time, especially with Twitter and so on and the amount of abuse you get. Then when you meet people they never say anything, they are always nice to you.

“But having the drivers and Mark calling me the first-lap nutcase, when you’re doing the same job, that was painful.”