Q: Romain, it has been a dreadful season for Lotus - can you still see some beauty in it?
Romain Grosjean: No! (laughs) Ha, of course there is, even if this is a season that goes against my nature. I am someone who is not very patient, not somebody who loves losing, not someone who can easily take a tough season as a positive learning process - but I have been working a lot on myself and I think I have learned a lot- probably more than in a good season and an easier year. When you have a difficult car you have to develop new skills. I had to be the leader and couldn’t just walk away when things didn’t work. I had to sit down with the team to find solutions, spending much time at the factory and in the simulator - and all this did help me to be a leader. So yes, I have learned a lot of new things!
Q: Jackie Stewart once called his difficult 1970 season a character building season…
RG: …ha, that is almost too easy a saying! Life is a character building thing - what I am facing this year is a very, very character building year. But you have to swallow it and do the best you can in what you can change and except what you cannot change. When you are very young of course you want to win all the time - now that I am getting a bit older I am taking things a bit more philosophically.
Q: At the end of 2013 Lotus were potential race winners - now the team only has eight points. You must have asked yourself the question over and over again in the course of the season: how could this happen? Did you come to a conclusion?
RG: Lotus were almost race winners. And for the current situation there are probably four key issues: the power unit, the reaction to the new regulations, late building of the car and our reaction to our problems. Mercedes have done an incredible job with their power unit and we haven’t built a good enough car for the new regulations. We have been caught on the back foot. And of course if you can draw on a huge budget it is easier to make changes within a season if things are not going right - so we have to drive 2014 through. The good news is we are getting a Mercedes engine next season - and they know what has to be done with the car. Our engineers start to understand the things that we have not had in our focus this year. Now we have to put all components together for 2015.
Q: How positive was the news that you’d be racing with a Mercedes engine next season?
RG: It is good to know - but it doesn’t make us race winners automatically. But it is good to know the potential of the engine - and to finally know what our deficit is. We’ll take it from there.
Q: Running a different engine in 2015 will also mean there’ll need to be massive changes to the chassis…
RG: …ha, either way we have to modify the car as it is now - from the nose to the rear end - so it doesn’t make any difference! I have seen the car already in the wind tunnel: it is much nicer. It looks like a much better car. I will not say that it is winner - but all of us have high hopes!
Q: You’re speaking very positively about the 2015 Lotus - but will you also be driving it?
RG: I have a contract. I have an option to walk out. It is no secret that I want to be part of a big team - which is Ferrari, McLaren or Mercedes - and some of them haven’t announced their 2015 line-up yet, so there is still hope as I want to join such a team by 2015, latest 2016. I don’t want to leave Lotus on such a low - and I think that next year it will not be so bad to be here. If I stay I am happy to stay as I think we can probably taste champagne again - a few times! But I want to be champion and to achieve that I have to move on.
Q: There have been all sorts of rumours about where Fernando Alonso will race next year - one of which suggests he might move to Lotus for a year to get used to the Mercedes engine. Is that a threat to your position?
RG: No! And have in mind: the silly season is called the silly season for a reason! I am not worried. I know that I will be in Formula One next year. True, Fernando is a key figure in the driver market - but I think that Vettel leaving Red Bull was not in anyone’s mind and that shook things up a bit - even for big names! For me, the only important thing is that I will be in F1 in 2015.
Q: How is your relationship with team mate Pastor Maldonado? He must also feel he’s been falling from grace…
RG: Our relationship is very good. I can imagine that his situation is a bit uncomfortable when seeing what Williams is achieving this year. He is a quick driver and it’s hard to beat him in qualifying. But in the team it is working pretty well - there is no finger pointing. All of us we want to move forward.
Q: You bagged 18 points in Austin last year…
RG: Uuh, yes! (makes the sound of crying…)
Q: …what would you be happy to leave with this time?
RG: Winning the race!
Q: Christmas is still a way away - what’s realistic?
RG: Ok, then I can say that there will not be any miracles from our side. We are still pretty much off the pace. We will try a new nose - and this is maybe the direction we should go for next year. For quite some time we are swapping to next year’s car in the races as the regulations aren’t changing a lot except for the nose. With less testing and wind tunnel time you have to try on the track.
Q: If you could make a wish and change one thing on the Lotus - what would that be?
RG: Ha, I’d go over to Mercedes and snatch a car, paint it black and drive it! (laughs)