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IndyCar Long Beach

Grosjean: “I cannot just go flat out all the time”

Romain Grosjean, who finished as runner-up in the Acura GP of Long Beach, has admitted that he has reined in his exuberance because he’s “trying to go for the championship.”

After a crash in qualifying caused a red flag and meant he lost his fastest laps in the Firestone Fast Six shootout, Grosjean climbed from sixth on the grid to deliver his first podium for the Andretti Autosport-Honda team and the fourth of his 19-race-old IndyCar career.

Grosjean alone among the front-runners was on fresh Firestone alternate compound tires in the final stint, and was running fourth on the penultimate restart on Lap 66 of the 85-lap race. He had to dodge past Marcus Ericsson who crashed his Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda in front of him, and that allowed him to close onto the tail of another Ganassi car, that of reigning champion Alex Palou.

Into Turn 1, he attempted to pass him on the outside on Lap 69, and then made the same maneuver stick the following lap.

Grosjean then started to apply pressure on leader Josef Newgarden, but even following the final restart, he couldn’t quite find a gap in the Penske-Chevrolet driver’s defense.

“You know, you don't have that much option when you're on fresh tires or red versus black on a street course,” said Grosjean. “You know it's going to equalize itself after a while.

“The first [attempt] on Alex, he defended really well on the inside, braked super late, and I think… if I could have pulled that one off, then I would have been fine to get Josef on the next lap. But I did not, so by the time I got to Josef, I didn't have much Push-to-Pass [boost] left and he had really good straight-line speed, so it was just hard to get him…

“I was looking at Turn 11, the hairpin, making a last-lap lunge maybe if I was close enough, but I don't think I was close enough on that lap and Josef was driving well and not making any mistakes. It's not ideal to finish under yellow [Takuma Sato shunted on the penultimate lap] but I don't think the result would have been much different.”

Grosjean said also that he had been “a bit surprised” by someone who had commented that street courses don’t come so naturally to him, adding “I don't think it's quite accurate”.

He clarified: “I think last year every street course, apart from St. Pete, I qualified in the Fast Six, so we were always very fast. We didn't always get the best strategy call or luck last year in the street courses, and the last one in Long Beach was my mistake where I brushed the wall.

“But this year definitely I know I have to drive a little bit differently. I'm trying to go for the championship, and I cannot just go flat out all the time. Like in St. Pete in the race I was struggling a little bit with my front end, so I kind of took it carefully.

“Today here I knew I wanted to go long on the first red [stint], so I was driving around that, but then the car was good and gave me confidence. I still believe there's a couple of things we can do better, but yes, I just think that last year I was unlucky sometimes. I was on for a really good one in Nashville, just the amount of yellow flags we had killed me.

“We were on for a very good one in Detroit and then I had contact with Pagenaud that punctured my tire. That doesn't really happen often.

“Then St. Pete was a bit of a hard one, was my first one. As I say, Long Beach was my fault.”

Grosjean, who drove for Dale Coyne Racing in his rookie season, said the Andretti car is “straightforward to drive. There's one thing I need to improve to make it a touch more to my liking, but I think we've got a very strong baseline and a car that can go super fast.

“It was my fault, I just didn't qualify well. If I had started P2 today, things would have been a little bit easier.”

Grosjean currently lies sixth in the championship with 75 points to leader Newgarden's 118.

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