Romain Grosjean says his reception from fans, and the chance to race at the front, have vindicated his move to IndyCar.
The Frenchman has one more race to go in his debut IndyCar campaign, at Long Beach, and has just achieved his third podium finish in 12 attempts so far.
He was third at Laguna Seca in California behind Colton Herta and champion-elect Alex Palou thanks to a storming drive late in the race, in which he worked his way up from seventh position and erased a deficit of nearly 30 seconds to the winner to just 3.7.
The crowd were clearly impressed and chanted Grosjean’s name afterwards – not for the first time this year.
Grosjean had to come out for an encore because the crowd was chanting “Grosjean! Grosjean!” and pronouncing it correctly pic.twitter.com/uspbAb1JaB
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) September 19, 2021
A previous ovation, at Indianapolis, had drawn an emotional response from the 35-year-old, whose Formula 1 career came to an end with his horrifying fireball crash in Bahrain last November.
“When I got the ovation at IMS I almost cried, and I don’t cry very often,” Grosjean told the media after the latest race at Laguna Seca. “What the fans give me back is just incredible.”
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27 passes on track, 15 for position.
Have yourself a day, @RGrosjean.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 19, 2021
In just a dozen IndyCar races, Grosjean has three podiums whereas he notched up 10 in 179 Formula 1 starts.
During his last couple of years with the Haas team, the Swiss-born driver was mainly in the lower midfield at best – and besides the fans’ reception, the chance to be more competitive has validated his switch Stateside.
“I was one of the 20 lucky guys in the world to make it to Formula 1,” said Grosjean. “I had an incredible career. Yes, the last few years were a bit tough and frustrating. I knew how to drive but I couldn’t show anything.
“Definitely coming somewhere where you can fight at the front, where you have an engineer telling you ‘you’re the fastest car on track’, fighting for podiums, it’s definitely a revival.
“I understand a lot of kids want to make it to Formula 1. If it’s to be at the back of the grid every weekend, I think you’re better here.
“It’s the freedom of driving the car the way you like to drive it. You don’t need to look after charging mode, push mode, tyre temperature, tyre window and so on.
“You just go in the car, leave the pit lane, then push every single lap. You play a bit with your bars, but you push, push, push, come in, pit, new tyres.
“The ability to enjoy every single lap we do, enjoy the fact you can be competitive in any team, makes it that, with the atmosphere in the paddock, obviously with the support of the fans, just the whole package I’ve enjoyed a lot.”