INDIANAPOLIS — 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. While he currently doesn’t have a contract in place for next year, he told me on Thursday morning that he and Andretti have both spoke about it and they each want to continue their relationship on past this year. He hopes to have a deal done soon.
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 and so far, this year is much better than last. A pair of poles and a pair of runner-up finishes has him fourth in points (-40) entering Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Grosjean was getting comfortable in practice last week, but feels like he’s getting more and more comfortable inside of the car in general here.
“Yeah, it’s getting better,” he told me. “I know a little bit more on what I need from the car. A lot of people told me Year 1 was the easiest. “I think like yeah, two is easier in terms of knowing what’s coming and knowing what to expect and knowing kind of what to do is the car.”
He admits that he didn’t know much about oval racing but now is able to tell his pit stand what he wants in the car instead of being just a passenger.
“I’m starting to cook my own recipe,” he said on if he’s able to convey what he wants in a setup here yet. “I’m starting to know exactly what I want. We all have different feels and different needs in the car. I think I’m getting much better understanding what kind of setup I want to run and what I need personally for the car.”
Grosjean will start 19th on Sunday and is embracing this race as much as any other that he’s ever been a part of.
ou don’t know what you don’t know. Prior to 2021, Romain Grosjean didn’t know much about the Indianapolis 500. Who could blame him? He grew up overseas and his racing path took him towards the Formula One direction.
From a wide-eyed experience in 2021 when he felt during the GMR Grand Prix that he wanted to maybe do this, to testing in October of that year to see if it can be real, to actually doing so a year ago, Grosjean is getting the whole experience and one that has him amazed on just how special this race truly is.
During the media availability last week, Grosjean sported a customary sponsor shirt. However, if you look closer, he also had a Riley Children’s Hospital pin attached too. I asked him about it. He gets it. In two years, he’s already figured Indianapolis out and loves what he’s learned and sees.
“That’s amazing to feel it in the city,” Grosjean told me last Thursday morning in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway victory podium. “They embrace totally. “You know, we can show up at the Brickyard Golf Crossing anytime we want and we have a tee time and people are excited to play with us or let us through the golf course.
“And yeah, you go to Riley and the kids love racing. You’re with them and you go downtown and everyone wishes you good luck and know what’s happening. So I got a super cool experience about the atmosphere here.”
Sounds like Grosjean has caught the Indy bug. Bad news for him, it’s not curable. The only treatment is to come back every May to satisfy that hunger. It’s that special. You talk to anyone out in those massive grandstands and typically everyone of them has a number. That number being how many years that they’ve been coming here and why they’ve brought newcomers back with them.
That’s how you get 325k+ in attendance on race days here and why Grosjean is back this year and would love nothing more than to come back again next year too.
“They’re gonna come back,” Grosjean said on his kids perspective of this place. “I mean, they’re amazed by how many people are here on race day and what was that like.”
Will they see their daddy drinking the milk on May 28?