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Don’t call it a comeback - Romain Grosjean Q&A 15 Mar 2012

Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 2 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E20.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 2 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 Team signs autographs.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E20.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 2 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 Team with children from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation  in the Paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E20 running aero vis paint on the race wing.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 2 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 Team.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 Team.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012

Returning to Formula One after losing a race drive with a top team is unusual. Returning with a team hotly topped for big things in the coming season is even more unusual. Yet that is what Lotus’s Romain Grosjean has done. After his less-than-ideal experience alongside Fernando Alonso at Renault in 2009, Grosjean didn’t let things get to him and instead went back to the ‘F1 incubator’ that is GP2 and won the series. Now he’s on the F1 grid once more and things seem far less daunting, despite the famous name on his car and another legendary team mate to contend with. The Frenchman spoke exclusively to Formula1.com ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix…

Q: Romain, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said that you had to find your way back into Formula One - and to Enstone. How did you manage that? Can you talk us through these past crucial months…
Romain Grosjean:
Well, I’ve tried to do everything as well as possible - and it worked pretty well. I am so happy to be back. And believe me, the atmosphere is fantastic and I am very proud to be part of the team’s 2012 campaign - and hopefully long past that! (laughs) To be back resulted not only from one crucial moment, but was a sum of many things and missions. But the bottom line was to be as good as possible and show them that I deserve to be on the team’s agenda. Of course, [winning] the GP2 championship helped a lot.

Q: After your Renault experience alongside Fernando Alonso back in 2009, did you feel used?
RG:
Let me tell you this. My only thought is that I am here in 2012 at the first Grand Prix of the season - and that is all that matters. I want to have a future in Formula One and not lament over the past. The future is the only thing that counts for me.

Q: Could it be that your self-confidence suffered a bit back then, given that you never had a real chance?
RG:
Let’s put it this way - I have won all the titles of the series I have been racing before entering F1, so I went back to GP2, winning that title, and now I am back again. (laughs)

Q: You are again teamed up with a big name. Will it be easier this time - and if so what makes you think that?
RG:
Now it is no problem to be teamed up with Kimi [Raikkonen] and I have to say that we have created our own good atmosphere. Kimi and me, we work very well together and I think we definitely can push the team forward and bag some good results this season.

Q: Kimi has been out of an open-wheel car for more or less for two years, but has been a race winner and F1 champion. You on the contrary have had a very intense and successful time in single-seaters in the same period, but have never made it big in F1. Where would you say both of you stand?
RG:
Remember the first test in Jerez? After five laps Kimi was right back there again, so he has lost nothing - I would even say that he is as good as he was, and this is good news for everybody in the team, including me. And, of course, my ideal is that we are racing on the same level.

Q: What do you see in Kimi? And what do you expect him to be? The leader, the pacemaker…
RG:
For me there are 23 drivers to beat on the grid - and that in the end is the goal of all of us. And that is, of course, also my goal - to win races one day. Probably to first score points, finish among the first five - and win races and then win the championship! That’s my plan. (laughs)

Q: Kimi is a somewhat unusual character - he is not called the ‘Iceman’ for nothing. How do you find that side of him?
RG:
Ha, very well. As I said before, there are good vibes in the team and we are working together nicely.

Q: How do you see your role in the team? Are you the ‘second-time rookie’, the comeback kid…
RG:
‘Second-time rookie’ - that sounds funny! To be honest I don’t know right now - the season is just about to start. I bring seven races to the table - probably in a difficult environment - so this weekend is the real start of my Formula One career. So let’s see what Sunday brings for me.

Q: From what we’ve seen at the tests so far - aside from the chassis issue at the first Barcelona test - the Lotus car seems to be a dark horse. Tell us something about its qualities.
RG:
As we say, the car is well born. I don’t think that we will be miles in front of everybody else at the moment, as we all know that there is very strong competition out there - Red Bull Racing and McLaren. But behind these two I expect it to be tight and my guess is that it will be good fun to go for points. The qualities of the car? First and most important, the car is good to drive - and we can trust it. And we can play with it, try different things. It is good to know that if you push a bit to the limit you know how it will react.

Q: How scary was that moment when the team withdrew from that Barcelona test?
RG:
It was no scary moment at all. It probably looked more dramatic from the outside because we knew what was going on. Of course, it looks somewhat spectacular - a team wrapping up and leaving the test prematurely - but it was the right call as we knew that we only could solve the issue in the factory. And we did and we came to the second Barcelona test at full strength again. And there we had some very strong moments.

Q: So would you say that you recovered to the strength Lotus showed at the first Jerez test - where everyone decided the E20 was a car to watch for 2012?
RG:
I don’t think that we are as good at the moment as some people probably dream we are, but we are working very hard to get to that point. Right now I think that we are where we need to be - the car is getting better with every drive and that is a very promising outlook.

Q: So what is your bet for the first four flyaway races? Who will have the upper hand at the end of them - you or Kimi?
RG:
There are 22 other drivers I also have to consider, not only Kimi, so this internal team fight is not my benchmark at the moment. In the long term I want to win races -that is what I want. So I am concentrating on my performance.

Q: You will have to learn some of the tracks…
RG:
But then we will come to tracks this season where all of us have very little to no experience - like India or the new US racetrack - so I don’t think that this will be an issue. I know that I learn tracks very fast…

Q: Have you used the simulator?
RG:
So far not. The simulator will be ready in some months - hopefully before midyear - but I looked at on-board videos. And of course you walk, run and cycle a track once you’re there.

Q: And the usual question: what are your ambitions for this season?
RG:
Let’s start it with the team. The ambition of the team is to finish forth in the constructors’ championship - and we will do everything to achieve that goal. This basically runs along the lines of my ambitions. My personal ambitions depend very much on where we are standing in the pecking order - which we probably will see this weekend or in one week’s time in Malaysia. Maybe we will see the first indications on Saturday after qualifying.

Q: So if you had to predict the grid for Sunday, who would be in front?
RG:
Red Bull and McLaren in front and then either Mercedes, Ferrari or us - but you probably will also have to consider Force India, Sauber and Williams. So this is all pure tea-leaf reading! (laughs)

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