Girl Racer caught up with him at the Lotus Originals store on London’s Regent Street to talk about his season so far, and overcoming those troubles from last year…
Q: Congratulations on your third place in Bahrain. You got your first ever podium there in 2012 – what is it about that track that you like?
Romain Grosjean: The temperature, the sun, and the hotel! It’s true that it’s a circuit I quite like – I like to go racing where it’s not too hot and not too humid – and it’s a circuit that seems to suit my driving style. I think as well we’ve got on top of the problem we’ve had since the beginning of the year with my feeling for the car. It could have ended up the same as the first three races of the season, but we worked hard, and it was fun.
Q: Was it a relatively easy race for you?
RG: It was easier than the previous ones! It was a good race, there was some good fighting and overtaking. I had to stop early because I had debris from the McLaren in front of the radiator, and the engine was getting too hot, so I had to come in. That was a difficult situation. But then the car was there, the feeling was back, and I really enjoyed the race. It wasn’t an easy race, because we had to fight for position on track, but it was easier than not being the boss of your car. And I went from 11th on the grid to third.
Q: How close do you think you are to your first win?
RG: You never know – it could be next week, it could be 20 or 30 races. It’s always hard to say when it’s going to happen. The car is working better than in the past, which puts us closer to the win. It needs to be the perfect day, the perfect car, and everything good.
Q: We seem to be seeing a different Romain Grosjean now to the one we saw last year. What’s changed in your mindset?
RG: Lots of things have changed. I’ve been working with the psychologist since last September. I really enjoy the work we do together – I think last year I made some mistakes because sometimes I became too cocky, and really they were just racing incidents. But then it was like they were getting worse and worse and worse. And I was the first one to be penalised in those first lap incidents! But I’ve worked hard, I’ve been better this year, and I’ve scored points in every race so far.
Q: There was a big tussle on track between the McLarens in Bahrain. What’s it like for you when you come up against your teammate on track? Do you approach Kimi differently to other drivers?
RG: It’s a different story with your teammate. At the start of the race in Bahrain I had debris in front of the car, the radiator went hot and I braked – and I was really worried because the car in front of me was Kimi! There was no more brake, and if I crashed, I didn’t want to crash into Kimi. So yeah, when you overtake your teammate you’re a bit more careful. But we’re free to race, and fortunately there have been no big problems so far.
Q: What’s it like for you working with Kimi?
RG: He’s a great teammate – he has a lot of experience in Formula 1. He’s quick, he’s good, and he pushes me hard. The duel between us is pretty good because we push each other close to the limit. But at the same time we have respect inside the team, and everything is open – we can share anything we want, and that makes us stronger.
Q: What would most surprise people about driving an F1 car?
RG: It’s a lot harder than you think! It’s like going into a dishwasher, and running – you reach the first corner and you break, and you think somebody is pushing everything down inside of you.
Q: There’s a lot of debate about the talents of an F1 driver versus how good the car is. How much do you think drivers bring to a team?
RG: You will never see the best driver and the worst team win the championship, and you will never see the worst driver in the best team winning the championship. It’s a combination of both. Even though there’s a lot of technology in the car, you need to make it work as you want it to. Sometimes you see two teammates with the same car, one is flying and the other one is struggling, and it’s just a question of feeling. There’s something that is there for you, and if you don’t find it then it can affect your race. It’s obviously a long relationship, and everything needs to be together to get a good result – and then if it does come together, you get the win.
Q: F1 drivers need to be in pretty good shape, though – what’s a typical gym session like for you?
RG: There is no real typical session, because nothing is close enough to driving a car, other than driving a car! But your cardio vascular needs to be really strong – your heart rate while in the car averages between 155 and 170, and can go as high as 190 depending on how hot it is. That’s the first part. Then reflexes – we play ball games like squash and tennis, and I do a bit of judo as well, that’s pretty good for coordination. Then there are all the core strength exercises, which will save you if you’re in a crash, and work on the neck muscles, which are the worst for the driver in the car.
Q: How important is it for a driver to have a good technical knowledge of the car?
RG: It’s not the knowledge, it’s the experience you have with it. You can have no idea how things are working in the car, but if you have got the feeling for how it works, you can report back how it feels. I work a lot with the engineers to know more about the car. I’m sure there are drivers who don’t care too much about how it works, they just have a good feeling about the car.
Q: Do you spend much time at Enstone with the team?
RG: I don’t live far from Enstone, so I can go there whenever I want. I have a great relationship with the whole team, I feel at home there. Having lunch in the canteen there is like having lunch at home! I quite like to see what things are going on, and see the mechanics.
Q: The next race is Barcelona. Are you looking forward to being back in Europe?
RG: Well, the flight will be less long, so that’s good! We know the season is in three parts – the first part flyaway, the middle part Europe, and then the last part is flyaway again. It’s good to be in Europe as there are a lot of historic tracks here. Every race is worth 25 points, but there are some that you like more than others. By Sarah Ellis