Romain Grosjean receives backlash after commenting on Max Verstappen’s Le Mans disconnect

Toby Miles
Ex F1 driver Romain Grosjean wearing sunglasses.

Romain Grosjean wearing sunglasses ahead of the IndyCar action.

Romain Grosjean has moved to defend 2023 Virtual Le Mans organisers after Max Verstappen promised to boycott the event following a spate of disconnections. 

The former Haas F1 driver emerged from the chaos of Sunday’s race celebrating, after the R8G eSports team he owns powered to victory in a Ferrari GTE. Meanwhile, Grosjean himself finished P10 in the LMP classification.

Reading Grosjean’s Twitter feed, you might presume the event had been declared an overall success. The comments, and Verstappen, disagree.

The F1 World Champion’s Team Redline were leading at dawn but opted to retire with less than six hours remaining after a disconnection saw them plummet to 15th. Verstappen and Co’s lost laps were not reinstated and the Dutchman declared “game over.”

A security breach and instability on the servers forced organisers to red-flag the event twice, with multiple leading teams blighted by the same connection issues.

Amid an avalanche of complaints online, Verstappen’s verdict was most damning. F1’s No.1 labelled the race a “clown show”, a “disgrace” and the organisers “incompetent”, having been disconnected at all three of his previous Virtual Le Mans participations.

“This is also the last time ever because what’s the point? You prepare for five months to try and win this Championship, you are leading the Championship, you try to win this race and they handle it like this,” Verstappen ranted. “Honestly, it is a joke.”

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Responding to a Tweet by @_boostedmedia fearing the worst for e-racing’s future in light of the disconnection debacle, Grosjean said: “What about when you have an engine failure or mechanical in real life, isn’t is the same…?”

No, was the resounding reply to Grosjean, who serves as a technical adviser to Motorsport Games.

“If your own computer fails – that’s similar to an engine failure,” Endurance star Brad Philpot explained. “But the server disconnecting you is more like race control having a random shut-off switch built into every car that gets deployed at random.”

Director of Team Redline, who Verstappen represents in the virtual world, responded angrily to Grosjean’s comment, telling RacingNews365: “That, of course, makes no sense at all. In Melbourne (2018), when his team-mate Kevin Magnussen’s wheel came off after a pit stop, his team did everything possible to fix the problem.

“When Grosjean’s Haas then crashed out due to exactly the same mistake a few laps later, they were massively f***ed and the whip goes out in the team to never let it happen again. We all saw this in Drive to Survive.

“So that situation is better compared to a software platform that has not been getting its servers stable for several years. So if Grosjean says that, he better shut up.”

With eSports already fighting to gain credibility in the wider motorsport world, many onlookers saw the 2023 Virtual Le Mans as a step backwards.

Verstappen’s passionate response owes to his commitment to the discipline, continuing to play a key role for Team Redline even on Formula 1 weekends.

The Red Bull driver called on Le Mans organisers to reconsider the event’s host platform and hopes eRacers “follow my lead and we can build something nice somewhere else.”

Grosjean saw it differently, adding in a separate tweet: “Virtual Le Mans is over and I had a lot of fun. Sim racing is super competitive and seeing one of the biggest race in the world being done on sim is awesome. Yes, few bits and pieces to improve, but isn’t that just like everywhere else? Thank you @MSportgames for the event.”