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Sifting through the quotes, Grosjean's Ferrari objective is clear

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Sifting through the quotes, Grosjean's Ferrari objective is clear
Sep 30, 2015, 1:19 PM

The Haas F1 team pulled off a real coup yesterday by announcing Romain Grosjean as its lead driver for its first season in Formula 1 next year.

The Haas F1 team pulled off a real coup yesterday by announcing Romain Grosjean as its lead driver for its first season in Formula 1 next year. The 29 year old Frenchman is at the peak of his career; he has put behind him the rash mistakes of his youth and is now a consistent, mature and very fast driver, who still has the hunger to win.

Many have questioned the wisdom, from Grosjean's point of view, of making this move. After all, the team he is with presently is about to be taken over by one of the world's leading car manufacturers, with a decent chassis baseline from the existing Lotus, which is a top 10 car.

It doesn't take much to work out that Grosjean has his eyes on a Ferrari prize: Kimi Raikkonen's seat after the end of the 2016 season. But will he get it and where will it leave Haas if he does?

The American outfit has hired Grosjean to teach them F1 and to lead from the front. As Gene Haas said yesterday: "Formula One is a tricky business. You have to learn it, and the best way to learn it is to learn it from other people.

"He’s going to be our lead driver and we’re going to depend heavily on him to help us with our strategies with the car, with the racetracks, and just the learning of the whole operations of an F1 team."

Haas made no secret of the fact that he was surprised and delighted to get a driver on his level at this early stage."I’m a little surprised, that we got a driver with the experience that he brings to our team because it’s going to be a real challenge. He’s going to be working a lot harder than he thinks he’s going to be," he joked.

XPB.cc

Haas F1"s team principal, Guenther Steiner, added that they see Grosjean going the distance with them: "We wanted somebody with experience but still hungry to do something, to go with us this long way.

"I mean, I started talks with the management of Romain in Barcelona to see if he’s interested and, you know, we spoke to quite a few drivers, and in the end I spoke also with technical people, what they think about Romain, how he develops a car, because we have got a steep mountain to climb here, new team, all new team members, so we needed somebody who knows what he’s doing."

But what of Grosjean himself? In an interview with Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport, he explained why he left Renault for Haas: "Because at Renault they need at least three years to get back to the top and I'm almost 30. Let's say I have ahead of me a maximum of five or six seasons left in F1. I can't wait any longer and this option could open other opportunities for me."

He also added some detail about the reasons why he believes in Haas' business model: "Haas has a different approach, delaying its start in F1 by a year because they didn't feel ready and doing this agreement with Ferrari, which is a great move. To work with one of the two best teams on the grid should help us to start at a level of good continuity.

"We have their material, we make use of their wind tunnel, which was refurbished three years ago and we can count on their technicians. I think it’s an approach that can be pretty quickly successful"

Interestingly, Grosjean also revealed that as he finds it hard to stay focussed with all the goings on behind the scenes at Lotus, he has employed a psychologist to help him with his race weekend preparation.

Haas will have him signed to a contract of at least three years, one would imagine. But Grosjean's words about not being able to wait long as he is almost 30 and the Haas seat offering other opportunities illustrate what many in the paddock in Singapore with a knowledge of the situation were saying; that he hopes to use this to springboard into Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen

The Scuderia could have taken him for next season, rather than renew Raikkonen, but opted for stability. Teams analyse the data of all the drivers on the grid; not just out of curiosity, but it's part of the Race Strategy planning work. There are different strategy calculations needed for dealing with different drivers in a team.

So, for example, the teams racing against Ferrari at the moment have one strategy for when they are racing against Vettel and another when they race Raikkonen as he is generally around 3/10ths of a second slower, although in certain situations he does match his team mate.

For more on this aspect of Race Strategy planning read This analysis of the calculations around the Vettel/Rosberg battle in Japan.

Grosjean is a known quantity to Ferrari in that sense, but clearly he's hoping that by working closely with engineers from Maranello, by the late summer of 2016 when the team is weighing up what to do about Raikkonen's seat for 2017, he will have done enough to merit consideration.

Sources suggest that Ferrari has three young drivers on its radar; Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Riccardo. The latter is more fully formed than the first two, clearly, but he would also bring some negative baggage in terms of how his former Red Bull team mate, now Ferrari lead driver, Sebastian Vettel might feel about it. Ferrari is blissfully happy with Vettel and has no desire to destabilise that.

Verstappen and Sainz have both impressed Ferrari and it continues to monitor their progress. Ferrari does not tend to take drivers without several years experience. Of course the volatility of the Red Bull/Toro Rosso situation at present, with no competitive engine on offer, makes the situation hard to read over the next two to three years.

Verstappen is unlikely to want to move to Ferrari at the start of his career, but both he and Sainz will be concerned about what the future holds, as Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz threatens to withdraw from the sport. A crunch meeting is taking place this week at which a decision will be made, according to Helmut Marko.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Romain Grosjean Shop Now
Teams Ferrari Shop Now , Haas F1 Team