Most drivers headed to IndyCar from Europe might not know much about the series, but they know the Indy 500. An event with so much prestige—it's a third of the "triple crown," alongside Le Mans and the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix. Because of this, it might seem surprising for a driver incoming to IndyCar to immediately rule it out of his racing program, but that's exactly what former Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean has done out of respect for his family. His decision was influenced by the horrifying crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix that nearly cost him life, and has now made him exclude speedways from his 2021 contract with Dale Coyne Racing.
Grosjean said he started talking to Coyne before the end of the 2020 F1 season, having announced that Haas F1 wouldn't continue his contract for financial reasons. However, when his horrifying Bahrain Grand Prix crash happened, the distress caused to his family made him re-evaluate whether he was willing to take the risks—or continue racing at all.
Speaking to the press as part of his IndyCar announcement yesterday, Grosjean said that immediately following the crash, the first message he received from his manager said to "forget IndyCar." However, he decided to continue with the contract but to exclude both Texas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis from his program.
"If I was 25 and single or even with no kids, I would be racing ovals, definitely,” said Grosjean in the press conference. “Now it’s also a family choice. And on 29th of November 2020, for two minutes and forty-five seconds, three kids thought they had lost their dad and my wife thought she had lost her husband. The idea of putting them back to that situation, really, I can’t take it.”
He had initially intended to contest all the rounds, despite expressing safety concerns about ovals in the past, after talking to fellow former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson (now driving for Chip Ganassi in IndyCar) and being sold on the series. He said yesterday that he was looking forward to Indy's road and street circuits and that they'd been a major appeal of the move, to him, after evaluating other series.
"I looked at the options that they had and I said 'what I want to do is to go to IndyCar' because I've been watching the races and this series looks super competitive, the car looks fun to drive to see just the old-style [tracks] that I really like."
Grosjean, who now runs his own esports team, said he was looking forward to the opportunity to race in places that he'd first raced in Gran Turismo games two decades ago.
"When you look at Road America, Mid-Ohio, all the street circuits, Laguna Seca - they're part of the circuits that I used to play in video games, 20 years ago. Not good to say that, but 20 years ago," said the 34-year-old French racer.
He said Indy and Texas were absolutely ruled out by his responsibilities to his family, despite possibly running Gateway. “The speedways, at the minute no, but I am not saying 100% no to Gateway. We’ve been speaking with Dale and I’ve said let’s see how the season goes and if we can do some testing on a short track, see how it goes. So it’s not a 100% yes or 100% no. But for now, I just need to look after my family in the speedways.”
It might seem reasonable not to return to racing at all after such a horrible crash, but Grosjean said his family gave their support to him going back. “For the kids and my wife, they understand that I am a racer at heart and that’s what I really love doing and that one day I will I will be done with motorsport but it’s not quite yet and still have the wish to go racing."
“The kids, I got them involved quite a fair bit into the helmet design and choosing the number and so on and they were very happy.”
Grosjean will do his first IndyCar testing on Feb. 22, wearing a helmet designed by his kids for what was supposed to be his final F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi last year. It features a phoenix design, reflecting his miraculous escape from his burning car.
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