Romain Grosjean thought his racing career was over a decade ago. He took up cooking as he was looking to become a chef.
Grosjean made his F1 debut during the 2009 season with Renault. However, they told him at seasons end they wouldn’t bring him back for the full campaign in 2010. That irked him. So, he pursued a path outside of motorsports as a career change.
Grosjean loved cooking and wanted to possibly become a chef. So, off to cooking school he went. Until he did. He didn’t last long. Not because he wasn’t a good cook or anything because he actually is. He’s published cookbooks. It’s because he was too old for the class and they actually told him to leave.
“Well I wasn’t kicked out. I wanted to enter a cooking class after 2009. So early 2010 I was told I was too old,” Grosjean told me from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Day last year. “They didn’t want me so it was okay. So I went back to Formula 1. It worked out well.”
I’d say it did. He raced and made a nice living for 11 more years in F1. Now he’s here in INDYCAR. While being over in the United States, he’s taken up a new hobby – flying.
“I got bored of waiting in the airports so I thought I was going to fly myself and do my pilot’s license,” Grosjean said. “It’s actually something I wanted to do for a long time. It was very complicated in Europe to do the pilot license, to go to the ground school twice a week, and with our life it’s impossible. I decided to tackle it and went through it pretty fast, so having a lot of fun with that.
“Went twice at St. Pete just to land on the start-finish line, and that was pretty cool. The guy, the air traffic control was like, yeah, left on acre five, turn, and then back. I was like, oh, yeah, going over the racetrack, I’ll take it, and I go back to the pit lane I was like, oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true. So it was quite funny.”
This is an endeavor that he’s wanted to do since he was 30. So it’s not been that long in the making. The passion intensified a year ago when he noticed his teammate, Alexander Rossi, was flying his own plane to the races.
“I thought that was pretty cool. I thought, okay, I’ll look into it. Found a school what I could all the theory online,” he continued.
“So actually I started doing the theory in Nashville. That’s when I started getting the first book online, and since then I’ve done my private pilot license, my multiengine license, my instrument flight rating license, and I’ve got 115 hours of flight time, I think.
“Commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger — Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”
Speaking of racing, Grosjean enters his third year in the sport, second on a full-time basis.
Grosjean came over to the United States just wanting to do this INDYCAR gig part-time. He had so much fun in 2021 that he wanted more. Ovals were considered off limits for the former Formula One driver but once he got around it, he had to try it. That led to an opportunity at World Wide Technology Raceway. That in turn led to him wanting to run for a championship and to do this full-time, even including all the ovals in 2022.
Grosjean joined Andretti Autosport and off he went. The thing is, 2022 was drama filled and no where near the expectations that he put on himself as a full time participant.
His stats with Andretti Autosport last season weren’t really all that much different than with Dale Coyne Racing w Rick Ware Racing in 2021. In 13 races during his part time rookie season, Grosjean had 1 pole, 3 podiums, 4 top 5’s 6 top 10’s and 53 laps led. In a full 17 race season in 2022, he had no poles, 1 podium, 3 top 5’s, 7 top 10’s and just 4 laps led.
He’s back though for a second year with Andretti in 2023. How much has he learned over his first couple of years here to help propel him forward during this upcoming season?
“I think we looked at everything,” Grosjean said on Content Day on Wednesday morning. “As I say, it wasn’t one thing, it was a few things together that we could do better, so we’ve tried to tidy everything up. The team has done some great work. I’ve been doing my own work, too, on my side.
“I think also for Olivier and myself it will be easier in year two as a team. Olivier has had the whole winter break to do his stuff, whereas last year we came in and was like almost ready to go.
“Yeah, I’m excited about that. But what I’m excited about the most is that I am genuinely looking forward to jumping back in an INDYCAR, and that’s a feeling I like having, because that means I still love more than anything — well, I love my job a lot and I want to go racing.”
What’s going to be different about this season is the fact that he’s likely going to have a leadership role within the organization. What I mean by that is, Colton Herta is for sure the No. 1 driver at Andretti. He’s made more starts himself (65) than the other three drivers in the camp combined (64). However, Herta is also only 22-years-old. How much can he truly lead?
Grosjean is on equal footing experience wise with his other teammates not named Colton Herta. He has the wisdom and age on his side to lead. However, does he want to?
It’s a completely different mindset for him because all he grew up with overseas was working with one other teammate and over there, you didn’t necessarily “work” with teammates. You competed against them 1-on-1. Information wasn’t shared as well overseas in that aspect as it is here so that was a culture shift for Grosjean when he joined Dale Coyne Racing in 2021.
Still, in 2021, he had just one other teammate like he’s always had. With Andretti last year, he had 3 more at his disposal and it didn’t always go great. He ruffled feathers and the respect level was sometimes low. Now that one driver that didn’t see eye to eye with him is gone, how does the dialogue work with a new teammate in Kyle Kirkwood and the same two of Herta and Devlin DeFrancesco?
“I think it’s going to work well,” Grosjean said. “I think we’ve got a strong lineup again, with Kyle joining in. We know Kyle is a very fast driver, so it’s going to be exciting to have him on board.
“We know what Colton is capable of. I think I’ve got some experience. I’ve got one year of experience with the team. We’ve made some — we’ve worked hard during the winter on my side, but also on Tim’s side. I think last year wasn’t the year that we wanted.
“Everyone has been working really hard and I’m excited. I think everyone that you’re going to see today or you saw yesterday in the room is excited. Everyone thinks that he’s got an amazing win to break, and has done more work than the others, but I don’t know, time will tell, track will tell us, but we feel like we’ve done some good steps.”