With Romain Grosjean stepping away from Formula 1 last year, potentially for good, a lot of the Frenchman’s former colleagues and contemporaries in the sport have publicly talked about the French-Swiss driver’s ability as a driver.
One of those former colleagues who has spoken out in praise of Grosjean’s abilities is Ayao Komatsu, the chief race engineer at Haas who has had a working relationship with Grosjean that spans over a decade. He was a performance engineer at the Renault F1 Team when Grosjean stepped into the second race seat in 2009 after the acrimonious departure of Nelson Piquet Jr. and subsequently became his race engineer at the Lotus F1 Team in 2012.
Komatsu moved to Haas in 2016, around the same time as Grosjean, and was there throughout the Frenchman’s spell that ended in a fiery crash on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Romain, because he’s so natural and he’s got speed in him, gets there straight away. He doesn’t need many laps to get there,” Komatsu said to The Race recently about Grosjean’s on-track performances. “But once he gets there, Romain tries to find another extra tenth or half a tenth. He then sometimes overdrives and actually doesn’t go quicker, or makes more mistakes.
“Everybody recognises his natural speed… Everybody [also] recognises his lack of consistency and the lack of progress he is able to make because of sometimes the emotional side of things. It’s a shame… Somebody who has got such a natural talent – and not many drivers have such natural speed – not able to accomplish more results.
“He is so talented naturally,” the veteran racing engineer continued “If he could then take a bit more margin or take a step-by-step approach and improve consistency, he would have scored many more points. But I guess it’s difficult because he’s got the ability to push straight away to that level. If you take that away and make him more consistent then maybe his natural speed drops, so maybe you can’t have it both ways.“
Komatsu also put a lot of stress on Grosjean’s longevity in a sport where a lot of people crash out due to poor performance or sheer bad luck years before him.
“Romain has done ten seasons in F1, not many people race that long… with all his problems, you could have said that Romain’s career could have been over five years ago. But, because he’s got such speed and the potential and he produces the result when not many other people can, he survived this long.”
Grosjean has confirmed his 2021 racing plans in recent weeks, with the Frenchman joining the NTT IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing.